The goal of the project was to design, develop, and implement in the AGI an automated data system capable of integrated management of the most common functions of a historical archive. The system was intended to offer solutions to the access/conservation dichotomy that is a central concern for any archive.
The goal of producing the automated data system was to be met through a series of more limited objectives, which can be divided into two major stages. The first, extending from 1986 through 1992, involved design, development, massive data entry, and system installation. The second, beginning in 1993, was the phase of actual operation, staff training, consolidation, solution of obsolescence problems, and progress toward new standards.
Stage I: Objectives 1986-1992
- To design and develop the system according to the Archivo’s needs, using the latest technologies in databases and digital imaging.
- To undertake massive data entry, so that by 1992 the AGI would have in use not only a system but also abundant information, including both the descriptive information necessary for document location and the digital images.
- To retrospectively convert descriptive information derived from the AGI’s inventories, catalogs, and indices. Such conversion also had to incorporate the more detailed descriptions that were compiled for the documents to be digitized.
- To scan for digital images 10 percent of the AGI’s holdings, about eight million pages.
- To implement the system once it was developed and put it into service.
- To introduce some parts of the system into other archives, specifically the user-management module, which became the first byproduct for use elsewhere.
In 1992, the initial objectives were met, the system was installed at the AGI, and a new phase of consolidation, expansion, and updating was begun. Although a two-year extension of the agreement among the sponsors made it possible to continue and improve upon what had already been done, the AGI’s objectives changed. It now had the job of assuming direct operation of the system : integrating the system into daily operations, training staff and bringing on technicians, finding new sources of financial support, and preparing strategies for equipment update and data migration. This was to be done independently, without the external oversight of the sponsors.
Stage II: Objectives 1993-present
- To make the system operational in the AGI, integrating the daily routines and functions, including reference service, Reading Room management, and documents service. The new tasks of digitization and entry of textual data would also be part of the daily work, along with other common duties such as restoration and microfilming.
- To become independent of external support from the institutions collaborating in the project, and to obtain the necessary resources and make changes in staffing, such as bringing in qualified new personnel and retraining existing staff.
- To review and solve problems caused by rapid technological obsolescence, taking the steps needed to adapt the system to new computer advances.
- To progress toward more open and standard formulas (some of which did not exist at system startup), so that the future exchange of data and the migration to new generations of hardware and software would be easier.
- To address the lack of backup copies of optical disks. This problem had been put aside until inexpensive, effective alternatives appeared in the market.
- To continue and, if possible, expand the work of generating descriptive information and digital images of documents.
- To begin to locate the system within the current framework of communication networks. When the project was started, the possibility of remote access was analyzed, but use of the Internet was still very limited.
The following sections provide detail on the system and subsystems that were developed to serve the AGI.