[Archivesspace_Users_Group] ArchivesSpace and OCLC's CONTENTdm

Angela Kroeger akroeger at unomaha.edu
Thu Oct 16 17:33:23 EDT 2014

Francis asked, "What is the difference between ArchivesSpace and OCLC's CONTENTdm?"

I'm a new user of ArchivesSpace, and my use of CONTENTdm is limited to having created about 15 records, so I may not be the best person to answer this. But here goes . . .

I think they are very different tools and I would use them for different jobs. Depending on what your institution wants to do, you might actually need both.

ArchivesSpace is designed to handle hierarchical relationships, so it is very good for showing a collection with series, subseries, boxes, folders, and individual items all described to whatever level of detail is needed.

CONTENTdm seems to have a very flat structure to me. It might be difficult (maybe not impossible) to show the hierarchical relationships between the different pieces of a compound object.

ArchivesSpace follows EAD metadata structure and DACS content rules. CONTENTdm follows Dublin Core metadata structure.

For archival finding aids, I would want to use ArchivesSpace, and I wouldn't even consider CONTENTdm. ArchivesSpace is great for finding aids describing organizational records, personal papers, and similar mixed collections, especially if these collections have not yet been fully digitized. ArchivesSpace can also track accessions, events, preservation actions and other "staff side" things. To my knowledge, CONTENTdm can't really do that.

But if I wanted to create a digital library of images without any particular hierarchy, then CONTENTdm might be a good choice. If I wanted to be able to include my digital library within a larger digital library like DPLA or some other regional federated digital library, then I would definitely choose CONTENTdm.

tl;dr version: ArchivesSpace for finding aids, but CONTENTdm for digital libraries of images.

Keep in mind my limited experience with these two tools. I hope others jump in with better answers.

Angela Kroeger
akroeger at unomaha.edu
Archives and Special Collections Associate
Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library
University of Nebraska at Omaha
(402) 554-4159
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