How to add a custom field in AtoM 2.2

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Veronica Lencinas

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Jan 29, 2016, 10:44:47 AM1/29/16
to ICA-AtoM Users
Hi AtoM Community,
we are testing AtoM for an archive of astronomical photographic glass plates. We need some custom fields to support action notes (cleaning, scanning of original plates) and for astronomical data (coordinates, etc.). There are some references in this forum and in the documentation that it is possible to add custom fields, but I can't find any information about it in the User Manual. We use AtoM 2.2 on Debian wheezy.
Thank you very much.

Verónica Lencinas
Observatorio Astronómico de Córdoba

Dan Gillean

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Jan 29, 2016, 3:45:14 PM1/29/16
to ICA-AtoM Users
Hi Verónica,

Thanks for posting in the AtoM user forum.

There is not currently any method via the user interface to add custom fields to a template - this would require contributions from a developer.

However, we highly recommend not adding custom fields to AtoM.  From our experience we believe using custom fields is a risk to the long term maintenance of your descriptive data.  We have done many data migrations to AtoM from legacy systems that allow the addition of custom fields and we've found custom fields are generally:
  1. Inconsistently used.  Because they are not standards-based fields and there is usually no strong guidelines about how to use the custom fields, the fields are used in different ways by different users.   Often a custom field is introduced by one member of an institution, is only used by that member, and then its use is abandoned after that member leaves the institution.
  2. Filled with inconsistent data.  Once again, because there are usually no clear guidelines about what data should go in the field, custom fields often contain inconsistent types of data.  This makes mapping the data to a new descriptive system very difficult.
  3. Difficult to export.  Adding a custom field for AtoM does not add that field to the export templates (EAD XML, DC XML, MODS XML) so unless custom development work is done to allow export of this custom data it is effectively trapped in AtoM. Depending on the nature of your custom field, there may be no good mapping to an existing metadata standard that will allow you to export your data in a way that could be recognized and imported into another system at a future date.
  4. Difficult to maintain. Artefactual, and by extension the AtoM project, is committed to standards-based description and access - AtoM was originally developed with support from the International Council on Archives, and its goal was to make standards-based description and access more easily achievable by small and medium-sized institutions without the resources for a proprietary solution. We remain committed to this vision of the application, and will not be accepting custom modifications of templates in the public project. This means that it will be up to your institution to maintain your custom fields over time - meaning you will likely need to have developers available every time you want to upgrade the application to the newest public release, to resolve conflicts, fix bugs, and successfully re-merge your customizations into your local instance. Many institutions do not have the resources to support this level of ongoing maintenance, which can leave you stuck on a legacy version of the application.

We strongly believe that using open source software and descriptive standards are the best thing you can do for long term continuity of your institutional data.  Your descriptive metadata represents a significant investment of time and effort on the part of your institution. We urge all our AtoM users to protect that investment by making sure you have a plan to get your data out of AtoM if necessary.  We'd love you to use AtoM forever, but the reality is that your institution will probably outlast AtoM. :)

The safest approach is to do some analysis of the existing standards templates, find the best match within an existing standard, and agree to use this field consistently for your purposes locally, within your institution. If you are using the ISAD(G) standard, have you considered using 3.4.4 Physical characteristics and technical requirements ("Indicate any important physical conditions, such as preservation requirements, that affect the use of the unit of description. Note any software and/or hardware required to access the unit of description.")?  It's not a perfect match, but is the closest match we found in the standard.   If this doesn't fit your purposes and you believe that this data should be included in the ISAD(G) standard then we urge you to engage with the ICA to request the inclusion of a field for restoration information in a future revision of the standard.

Our documentation does include a brief outline of how we go about creating new standards templates as plugins here:

This requires a developer to be able to implement, however. If you feel that the existing templates (e.g. ISAD, etc) do not meet your needs, we would encourage you to find an existing recognized descriptive standard that DOES meet your requirements, and consider developing a new standard template plugin for AtoM, instead of modifying an existing one. This keeps the changes more self-contained and isolated, and therefore will make it easier to maintain during subsequent upgrades. If you are implementing a known descriptive standard, then it is likely that others in the community would also find this useful, and that Artefactual would accept a pull request to add this new template to the public release, meaning you would no longer be required to maintain it yourselves.

There are several threads in the user forum where we've offered some initial suggestions on how to proceed with custom plugin development - if you have trouble finding them, let me know and I can share some links. Also, we have recently added some developer documentation for creating new themes - this includes initial notes on how to go about creating and registering a new plugin in AtoM:

And finally, if you are interested in sponsoring the development of a new standards-based template, and would like estimates from Artefactual to perform this work, please feel free to contact me off-list to discuss this possibility further.

Kind regards,


Dan Gillean, MAS, MLIS
AtoM Program Manager
Artefactual Systems, Inc.
604-527-2056
@accesstomemory

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Veronica Lencinas

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Feb 1, 2016, 9:47:59 AM2/1/16
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Dear Dan,
thank you very mucho for the fast answer.
We use the DACS standard and use actually the Marc21 Bibliographic Format (most of us are librarians). You are right about inconsistency in the data and their use. I have worked a lot in data migration from housemade formats to Marc21 and it's very common to have this problem. In our case -and with a librarians mind- we find much of the data to be recorded to be to very verbose. It's very interesting to explore archival practices and try to apply them, but in our case the field you propose, 3.4.4 Physical characteristics and technical requirements, is maped to two DACS fields: 4.2 Physical Access and 4.3 Technical Access, who in turn are maped to three Marc21 fields, one of them (field 340) with a lot of subfields.
While it would be interesting to discuss which approach (verbose or structured data) offers a better service to the user, this is way beyond the scope of this list. In our case we will see what we do, because we love data entry in AtoM much more than our Koha Library System, but we need to record a lot of special data, not only the action note (actually implemented with subfields for the action, date, agent, method and result) but also celestial coordinates, telescope and instrument.
Regards
Verónica Lencinas
Biblioteca
Observatorio Astronómico de Córdoba

Dan Gillean

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Feb 1, 2016, 1:29:37 PM2/1/16
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Hi Verónica,

Thank you for your response, and your kind words about AtoM. Your use case is very fascinating and one worth discussing - I wish you the best of luck in finding a solution that preserves the integrity of your data while giving you the flexibility that you need. Please consider updating us in the future and letting us know how you proceed!

Warm regards,

Dan Gillean, MAS, MLIS
AtoM Program Manager
Artefactual Systems, Inc.
604-527-2056
@accesstomemory

tat...@gmail.com

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Apr 6, 2016, 8:27:38 AM4/6/16
to ICA-AtoM Users
Hi everyone.

I am new to everything here. I've been reading tutorials and watching webinars over YouTube, but I still don't know how to add a date type in the combo list. We have to types of dates, creation and accumulation, and I just want to add and third type we will use for our description, with the same attributes.

Can you help me?

Tatiana Canelhas

Dan Gillean

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Apr 6, 2016, 1:02:32 PM4/6/16
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Hi Tatiana,

I'll have to talk to a developer to get some suggestions for you, but I'm hoping it won't be too hard.

Nearly all terms in AtoM that appear in the drop-down menus are maintained in user-editable taxonomies. The terms for the date event type dropdown are found in Manage > Taxonomies > Event types - you can add new terms here.

However, in some of the templates (such as ISAD, DACS, etc), the dropdowns in the forms have been configured to only display those terms included in the related standard - for example, in the ISAD(G) standard, Creation and Accumulation are the only two terms included in the standard. You'll need to alter this widget so that it draws more terms from the Event types taxonomy.

Note that we don't recommend this - your data will no longer be compliant with the international standard if you do this - and it could affect other modules. For example, you'll want to test what happens to the EAD XML export, and what displays on related actor pages, etc. Note that you can use the term edit page's "Display note" field to add the proper display term when shown on an actor page - for the Creation term, this is entered as "Creator" for example, so linked actors are listed as creators.

I will see if I can get an Artefactual developer to point you in the right direction.

Cheers,



Dan Gillean, MAS, MLIS
AtoM Program Manager
Artefactual Systems, Inc.
604-527-2056
@accesstomemory

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raddao...@gmail.com

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Apr 6, 2016, 1:33:48 PM4/6/16
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Hi Tatiana,

If you still want to add another type, you will need to change the following function in your code (for the ISAD template):


Change it for the following one, modifying the 'Term nane' value for the actual event type name you want to add:

  public static function eventTypes()
  {
    $criteria = new Criteria;
    $criteria->addJoin(QubitTerm::ID, QubitTermI18n::ID);
    $criteria->add(QubitTermI18n::NAME, 'Term name');
    $extraType = QubitTerm::getOne($criteria);

    return array(QubitTerm::getById(QubitTerm::CREATION_ID),
      QubitTerm::getById(QubitTerm::ACCUMULATION_ID), $extraType);
  }

You may need to clear the Symnofy cache after that, executing the following command place in the AtoM folder:

  php symfony cc

Best regards.
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