[Archivesspace_Users_Group] archival object vs. instance?

Callahan, Maureen maureen.callahan at yale.edu
Fri May 15 13:55:50 EDT 2015

Hi Matt,

I would encourage you to think about encoding differently.

An archival object is similar to what’s considered a unit of description in DACS and a component in EAD. “Level” is an attribute that tells you something about that unit of description — it is associated with levels of granularity in recordkeeping, and has NOTHING to do with boxes and folders. Setting level=‘box’ or level=‘folder’ would be an error, and an unfortunate conflation of groups of records and the physical wrappers that contain them. Please don’t do this.

When you create an archival object, you’re creating a description of evidence from the past, regardless of its physicality. This is why you can associate a digital OR physical instance of it. Indeed, the same archival object may be just digital, physical across different instances, or digital and physical. I like that ArchivesSpace has separated description from instantiation.


On May 15, 2015, at 12:18 PM, Matthew J Gorzalski <mGorzalski at lib.siu.edu<mailto:mGorzalski at lib.siu.edu>> wrote:

This is difficult to explain in an email but here it goes…

I’m having trouble understanding the relationship between archival object and “instance” as it pertains to creating a finding aid content list.  The confusion stems from my familiarity with Archon’s straightforward parent-child relationship hierarchy, which uses established arrangement terminology.  Depending on the collection, creating a series, box, folder, etc. is simply a matter of selecting that option in Archon’s Level/Container menu and adjusting the parent-child relationships from there.

In ASpace, as I understand it, I first need to create an archival object and select the level of description.  If it is just a box list, I select “file” for box, title the box, and make the Component Unique Identifier “Box 1.”  But then I need to go to the “instance” menu and here is where I actually designate the container type as box, but I’m really just called in Box 1 for a second time in a different menu.  This seems redundant to me, because in the “archival object” data I’ve already called it Box 1 and given it a title.  Perhaps the interface could be simplified if the Archival Object, Instance, and Date menus were redesigned/merged so that you can create your archival object and designate the container type, titles, and dates right up front instead of having to scroll to the bottom for “instance.”  Container type, container title, and dates are the most important fields and the other menus like extent, agents, subjects etc. are added value but not critical in a box/folder list.

University Archivist


mgorzalski at lib.siu.edu<mailto:mgorzalski at lib.siu.edu>
P: 618/453-2225
F: 618/453-3440

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