Questions about starting into AtoM

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Kody Whitt

Jul 12, 2020, 2:06:11 AM7/12/20
to AtoM Users
Hi All,

I have been tasked with cataloging and and arranging a archival collection of about 4,000-5,000 items. This consist of everything from vital records to photos to audio/visual items, to artifacts. We currently have a subscription to PastPerfect which I have not been a fan of. So I am looking at other avenues and AToM is one of them. Now I am a library guy not a server guy so I had some questions I was hoping the community could shed some light on.

1) We were having our IT dept setting up a Virtual server for PastPerfect before COVID happened. From my understanding AToM needs to run on a server. Would a virtual server work. What exactly would our IT guys have to do to make it work. Please explain it like I'm 5

2) The collection is a historical research collection.  Essentially what we want is to have a OPAC where patrons can search the entire collection and also have access to any digitized resources such as uploaded PDFs, Videos, or Photos. Would AToM be a good way to accomplish this

3) I am not a professional Archivist. I have no training I just have to do this as part of my library job. So I know nothing about archive standards or what some of these fields in the demo even are. How hard is in for a non Archivist to learn AToM.

4) How hard is it to maintain a back up of the AToM server? My big concern is if we go with AToM we are managing the server our selves. So if anything goes wrong we could easily lose the collection. So I would want to implement a rigorous backup procedure 

Thanks for the assistance all!

Karl Goetz

Jul 12, 2020, 7:17:22 PM7/12/20
to AtoM Users
Hi Kody,

For 1:
Yes, a virtual server will absolutely work.

Please point your dept. to the requirements which will explain what the minimum specs are; noting that Windows and Mac are not fully supported for the server.

Note. The following information is intended to provide a starting point for setting up your system. It provides specifications for an “all-in-one” deployment, with all of the services (i.e. nginx, Percona server, ES, memcached) installed in a single virtual machine.
The steps required can be found on a different page - - and there are also 3rd party install wrappers available.
Warning. The following instructions assume that the Nginx package is creating the directory /usr/share/nginx and that is the location where we are going to place the AtoM sources. However, we have been told this location may be different in certain environments (e.g. /var/www) or you may opt for a different location.If that is the case, please make sure that you update the configuration ...
Note that version 2.6 is due soon; perhaps give it a week before asking them to install.

For 3:
Atom is geared for use by proper archivists. There are some things you can do to make the UI less confusing to you and me but you may clash with a proper archivist in future 🙂.
Other list members will probably have a (better, more suited) opinion here, but if your requirements can be described using Dublin Core I suggest considering that instead instead of the ISAD input templates.
Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, Version 1.1 (DC)¶ On this page you will find: Link to downloadable CSV template using ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description Description of fields used when entering or importing archival descriptions using DC in a CSV file or entering the data manually.

For 4:
No harder than any other web software; the difficulty will depend entirely on how the existing backup system works at your institution.


PS. I have no particular input for item 2.

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Lalie Lapleni

Jul 13, 2020, 6:15:14 AM7/13/20
Do we have accessible archives managed with Atom we can visit and see?  Thanks

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Rosalie Ndejuru

Dan Gillean

Jul 13, 2020, 11:34:26 AM7/13/20
to ICA-AtoM Users
Hi Kody, 

Welcome to the AtoM community! In case it might answer some of your more high-level questions, I'm sharing a link to a previous thread that includes a number of resources, including an attached introductory training sheet that will walk you through some of the basic uses of AtoM. It also includes links to slides, example sites, and a general PDF information sheet on AtoM hosted on the Artefactual website. You'll find the thread with all of this here: 
You might also find my responses to this other new user helpful as well:
I think that Karl has given you excellent answers, so I won't repeat them in great detail. I will emphasize a couple points, such as: 
In terms of question 2: AtoM is rather different than a library OPAC, but that is mainly because archival materials are different than library resources. However, everything you describe is possible with AtoM. AtoM is intended to act as both the internal staff edit interface, and a public facing access catalogue. I suggest that you look at some of the resources in the first thread I linked above, check out our public demo site, and explore some of the AtoM sites being used in production from our example AtoM users list. 

Rosalie, this will hopefully answer your question about AtoM sites being used that you can explore: 
As for 3: some of the labels and options in the AtoM user interface may be a bit confusing at first if you are not familiar with archival theory and terminology. However, a few mitigating points that might make it easier: 

First, each section in the documentation includes introductory text that should give you an overview of the entity being described, and mention any related archival concepts and/or standards. For example, see the documentation page for archival descriptions: 
I would also suggest that you take a look at the links in the Overview section of the User Manual, as they will help orient you. Additionally, the AtoM documentation includes a comprehensive glossary of terms - every time you see an orange link in the docs, that is a glossary term you can open up for reference, if you are unsure what a term means. The materials linked in the first general thread I included above should also help orient you. 

Finally, AtoM's user interface is quite customizable without development, so as you familiarize yourself, you can also customize the settings, labels, and menu node names used to make it easier to navigate for both yourself and your end users. See some of the links in the Administer section of the User Manual for more information. 

If, after all this, you still find yourself with specific questions that you can't easily find an answer to, feel free to post them here, and we'll do our best to help out! 


Dan Gillean, MAS, MLIS
AtoM Program Manager
Artefactual Systems, Inc.
he / him

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