BCAUL Pilot project: Overview

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This is historical documentation that refers to the migration of the British Columbia Archival Union Catalogue (BCAUL) maintained by the AABC to the beta 1.0 version of ICA-AtoM, in 2008 and 2009. This page was first created in September of 2008, and its content was last updated on March 6, 2009. Its contents were migrated to the new AtoM wiki on July 3, 2015: no changes have been made to the original content, though some formatting may have been changed for greater readability, to fix the structural hierarchy of sub-pages, or to account for differences in styles between the two wikis. Dead external links may also have been removed. Otherwise, the content itself has not been altered.


The overall goal of the project is to test ICA-AtoM as a replacement platform for the current system used to host the British Columbia Archival Union List (BCAUL). BCAUL is maintained by the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC) and provides access to descriptions of records held at 180 publicly-accessible archives in BC.


The AABC undertook initial planning for BCAUL in 1991. It launched the first database in 1993, hosted by the UBC Library and accessible via telnet. In 1996 an http version was developed and made available over the web via the UBC Library server. The AABC established its own web server in 1998-99 and migrated BCAUL to integrate it with the Association's other web resources. Around the same time the AABC began working with the Archives Society of Alberta (ASA) to establish the Canadian North West Archival Network (CaNWAN), using the AABC system to provide integrated access to descriptions of records held by archival institutions in BC and Alberta. By 2000, CaNWAN had expanded to include the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. In 2001 both BCAUL and CaNWAN were redesigned to better support archives, researchers, as well as the transfer of data from BCAUL / CaNWAN to the new national database, Archives Canada. This is the current version of BCAUL. It is a custom-built application and was developed by the Vancouver-based ACT/Cinemage Group under the direction of the AABC's BC Archival Network Coordinator and the AABC Internet Committee.

British Columbia Archival Union List homepage


ICA-AtoM is an application designed to work in either a local setting (single repository) or in a union-list environment (multi-repository). ICA-AtoM can bring new functionality to BCAUL, including:

  • Multi-level description from the fonds to item level.
  • Uploading of images and other digital objects, linked to the associated archival descriptions.
  • Easy methods for exchanging data (both import from institutions to BCAUL and export from BCAUL to Archives Canada), including OAI-compliant metadata harvesting.
  • Multi-lingual interfaces and support for translation of descriptions into multiple languages.

The pilot project will migrate the existing data from the current BCAUL to an ICA-AtoM application hosted by the lead developers (New Westminster-based Artefactual Systems Inc.). It will test the functionality and performance of ICA-AtoM in the context of large volumes of data, as well as its ability to manage import / export from individual institutions and direct data-entry by participating BCAUL institutions that do not have their own archival description software.

ICA-AtoM is based on the International Council on Archives' descriptive standards (ISAD(G), ISAAR, ISDIAH) which will need to be adapted to the Canadian context and especially to the Rules for Archival Description (RAD). ICA-AtoM is a new technology still in its beta phase of development (version 1.0 beta). The BCAUL pilot project, accordingly, represents an opportunity both for the AABC to determine whether ICA-AtoM can be a suitable platform for BCAUL; and for the developers of ICA-AtoM to identify issues, bottlenecks, bugs in the beta version and the system requirements that need to be implemented in the first stable release of the software (1.1) scheduled for October 2009.


The project begins in August 2008 with standards analysis and design planning. RAD templates will be added to ICA-AtoM in October and testing will begin November. The pilot project will report on findings by March 31, 2009.

Note that during this period the current BCAUL will continue in operation in its present form. Also note that from October 2008 beta-testing of ICA-AtoM will be ongoing independent of the BCAUL project, with some 20 institutions world-wide participating as beta-testers.


The BCAUL pilot project represents a collaboration of a number of partners.

Artefactual Systems Inc (ART)

  • Lead developers of ICA-AtoM / Qubit Metadata Toolkit.
  • Hosting pilot BCAUL/ICA-AtoM.
  • Adapting ICA-AtoM for use in RAD environment.
  • Migrating existing data from current BCAUL platform to pilot ICA-AtoM application.

Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC)

  • Organization responsible for administering and maintaining BCAUL.
  • Assisting in migration of test data from current current BCAUL platform.
  • Testing ICA-AtoM functionality.
  • Liaising, communicating and developing training for the BC archival community.

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

  • SFU Library: installing and hosting an SFU ICA-AtoM application.
  • SFU Archives: uploading descriptions from its in-house database to SFU ICA-AtoM as public interface to its archival holdings; then uploading from SFU ICA-AtoM to BCAUL; the Archives will also fund some of the analysis and design work involved in adapting ICA-AtoM to a RAD context.
  • SFU Gallery: digitizing some of its holdings and exhibition materials, using SFU ICA-AtoM as web public interface.

University of Victoria Archives (UVic)

  • Directly entering UVic archival descriptions into BCAUL ICA-AtoM.

Canadian Council on Archives (CCA)

  • Organization responsible for administering the ArchivesCanada.ca portal
  • Facilitating communication between the provincial/territorial councils
  • Monitoring pilot with view to apply findings to ArchivesCanada.ca upgrade

Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

  • Organization that hosts and provides technical support for ArchivesCanada.ca
  • Contributing developer time to add OAI harvesting functionality to ICA-AtoM (to be used as a data aggregation option in any ArchivesCanada.ca deployment of ICA-AtoM)