ArchivesCanada upgrade

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This page documents the development project that led to the creation of the AtoM 2.0 release, via work undertaken with the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) to launch a second-generation version of ArchivesCanada, the Canadian national portal for discovering archival resources. Currently, the initial release of the new ArchivesCanada portal, using AtoM, is expected to launch in late 2015.

Project Background is the national gateway to archival resources found in over 800 repositories across Canada. is maintained by the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) using the technical assistance and database provided by Library Archives Canada (LAC). In late 2015, an upgraded ARCHIVESCANADA.CA site will be launched using AtoM 2.3 and Artefactual Systems hosting services.

MemoryBC and after

Beginning in 2007, the CCA and LAC began exploring requirements and options for a second generation technical platform to run In 2009, the Archives Association of British Columbia migrated its BCAUL portal to ICA-AtoM and rebranded it as

Other provincial and territorial associations have since migrated their portals to AtoM including:

Artefactual Systems

AtoM software development is led by Vancouver-based Artefactual Systems on behalf of the International Council on Archives and a growing community of international implementers (see our Users list for examples). There are no license fees to install and customize the AGPLv3 licensed software. Artefactual believes strongly in sharing practical techniques and the responsibilities/benefits of ongoing maintenance and development of a common technical platform (see for example AABC Data Migration Toolkit).

AtoM for

Over the past few years, LAC and CCA continued to collaborate and fund AtoM feasibility projects with the intention to evalute ICA-AtoM's suitability for use in a multi-level, RAD-compliant, highly-scalable new database release. An independent technical audit commissioned by the National Archives of France (2011) concluded that ICA-AtoM is a "high-quality" archival web application that is suitable for the small to medium-sized deployments for which it was originally designed (i.e., 100,000 records, 10 concurrent users).

In early 2011, LAC contracted Artefactual Systems to perform scalability testing on ICA-AtoM using data from the LAC catalogue (see LAC ICA-AtoM Scalability Testing project). As expected, this project revealed performance limitations in the ICA-AtoM v1.1 search index and data model abstraction layer when managing millions of records.

Additional analysis provided Artefactual Systems with a roadmap for upgrades to be implemented over iterative ICA-AtoM and AtoM releases, the first of which (optimizing the data model abstraction layer) was addressed in the ICA-AtoM v1.2 release in November 2011.

The ArchivesCanada upgrade project, via support from the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA), is funding the next phase of scalability improvements, including an upgrade to the search index for better scalability, and a new look and feel via the "Dominion" theme included in the AtoM 2.0 release. The primary goal is to support scalability to millions of records, via an improved index discovery layer, search and browse enhancement including faceted search results, and a mobile-friendly interface.

Development improvements related to this project began in the ICA-AtoM 1.3 release, with a significant amount of the changes introduced in the AtoM 2.0.0 release, based on some of the discoveries made during the LAC ICA-AtoM Scalability Testing project. Based on encountered technical challenges, evolving project requirements, and new feature requests from the CCA, further enhancements related to the ArchivesCanada development project have also been included in:

  • Release 2.1 (multilingual usability enhancements)
  • Release 2.3 (Archival institution search and browse enhancements)

Initial project planning

This section includes documentation from 2011-2012, which describes the initial project goals and planning process, including a review of search and advanced functionality on other related sites, usability research, and early 2011 wireframes for the initial design.

2012 Wireframes

This section includes a gallery of wireframes prepared in 2012 as part of the project analysis and planning phase - many of which lead to the redesign of features included in the v2.0.0 and subsequent AtoM releases.

Project timeline

This section includes an outline of the project as it has evolved over the course of its development and implementation.

Public communications

This section includes links or transcriptions of user forum discussions, announcements, and other public communications related to the ArchivesCanada project.

Project outcomes and reflections

This section offers a summary of the outcomes of the project, reflections on successes and challenges encountered, and issues for future consideration.