OSSArcFlow: Modeling and Synchronizing OSS Workflows. Photo of Disk Imager in black and white.



Investigating, Synchronizing, and Modeling a Range of Archival Workflows for Born-Digital Content

Quick Links to Project Deliverables

  1. Digital Dossiers (All Partners)
  2. As-Is Workflows (All Partners)
  3. Recorded In-Person Partner Meeting Sessions (YouTube)
  4. Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows
  5. Video Learning Modules (YouTube)
  6. OSSArcFlow Resource Release Webinar (YouTube)
  7. SAA Electronic Records Section’s bloggERS series on OSSArcFlow


The Educopia Institute, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science (UNC SILS), LYRASIS, and Artefactual, Inc., are investigating, synchronizing, and modeling a range of workflows to increase the capacity of libraries and archives to curate born digital content. These archival workflows will incorporate three leading open source software (OSS) platforms—BitCurator, Archivematica, and ArchivesSpace—and the project will be designed to generate findings that can be generalizable to settings that are using other platforms and applications.

This project will significantly impact curation practices by increasing our understanding of how institutions of different sizes and types may engage in OSS tool integration and workflow development. Our findings will be used to support a broad range of libraries and archives actively collecting and curating digital content. The knowledge gained by working with multiple institutions of different types and sizes will also broaden field-wide understanding of curation approaches and priorities, and how those impact the use of tools and capabilities in Archivematica, ArchivesSpace, and BitCurator. We expect the empirical findings about institutional needs, as well as formal workflow models, to contribute to digital curation research literature.

Project Outputs

1. Digital Dossiers (published January 2018, design updated May 2020)

Ahead of the partner meeting on December 4-5, 2017, project partners created digital dossiers outlining the form, function, and future of digital curation at their home institutions.

2. Born Digital Archiving Workflows (published June 2018)

In the fall of 2017, the project team worked with partners at each institution to mockup a visual representation of their current workflow activities. Representing a “snapshot in time,” these documents show how a diverse group of institutions are using OSS tools in their workflows to curate born-digital content. They also provide an essential starting point for synthesizing and comparing both the gaps and overlaps that currently exist between common OSS tools and environments.

3. Partner Meeting Sessions (December 4-5, 2017, UNC Chapel Hill)

In this convening, partners shared their current workflows, discussed pain points, and prepared for the next phase of the project.

  • Opening remarks
    Christopher “Cal” Lee (co-PI, UNC SILS) describes the purpose of the OssArcFlow project and introduces the partners and the panels.
  • Panel 1
    (Joshua Hogan, Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library; Megan Rohleder, Kansas Historical Society; Michael Olson, Stanford University)

    • What are some of the broader organizational conventions and policies that have shaped your current workflow and are actively shaping your digital curation goals?
    • What are some of the challenges facing institutions with well-tooled digitization programs as they grow to include born-digital materials into their digital curation workflows?
    • What are some of the localized (department or unit) policies and conventions embedded in well-worn workflows that have to be modified or addressed to achieve your digital curation goals?
  • Panel 2
    (Jonathan Crabtree, Odum Institute; Matthew Farrell, Duke University; Nick Krabbenhoft, New York Public Library; Rebecca Russell, Woodson Research Center, Rice University)

    • What are the challenges with using models, standards, “best practices” and tools in a common toolbox within your organization?
    • Do you use models to create a common language across departments?
    • Where do current standards, models and “best practices” guides fall short for digital curation activities?
  • Panel 3, Part One and Part Two
    (Paul Kelly, D.C. Public Library; Don Mennerich, New York University; Kari Smith, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Shaun Trujilo, Mt. Holyoke College)

    • What are specific pieces of metadata (like IDs) or artifacts from one system that are used or intersect with other systems in your digital curation workflows?
    • How are objects packaged as they move from one system to another?
    • Do junctions in your workflow correspond to handoffs between departments?

4. Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows (published June 2020)

The purpose of the Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows  is to encourage and assist collecting institutions of all shapes, sizes, and types to begin documenting their born-digital workflows.The Guide begins by documenting and describing the steps that are commonly included in digital curation workflows, from acquisition to access and preservation. It then provides a process map and detailed guidance to help you produce your own born-digital workflows documentation in both visual and descriptive formats. Finally, the Guide provides a set of use cases for this visual and descriptive documentation, illustrating with case studies and examples how you can use it to help your institution improve its born-digital archiving practices over time.

5. Video Learning Modules (published June 2020)

These three learning modules are intended to supplement the Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows and increase its usability. Each module maps to a section of the Guide and provides high-level guidance on how to create and use born-digital workflow documentation. The modules were created and recorded by Hannah Wang and Colin Post.

6. OSSArcFlow Resource Release Webinar (July 14, 2020)

To celebrate the release of the Guide to Documenting Born-Digital Archival Workflows, Educopia hosted a webinar on July 14, 2020 that brought together OSSArcFlow partners, Educopia staff, and authors of the Guide and training modules to discuss lessons learned from the project and future directions for born-digital archival workflows. 

Full Set of Deliverables:

  1. Document 12 OSS workflows and integrations between three leading OSS digital curation tools: BitCurator, ArchivesSpace, and Archivematica;
  2. Develop specific methods and scripts that facilitate the flexible synchronization of archival OSS systems by project partners;
  3. Produce training modules that will promote the use of the OSS workflow documentation and scripts;
  4. Publish an “Implementation Guide” to help institutions of many types as they implement digital curation
    and preservation tools and workflows in their own environments.