The ASA Newsletter
Raising CAIN in Alberta
"Causing great commotion or trouble" ¹ in Alberta will not be easy, as the archival institutions in this province have eagerly risen to the challenge. New computer equipment to manage, new software to learn, rules and standards and many questions to be asked and answered, and still the CAIN project maintains a happy level of excitement. In my project management experience, it is around about now when people start to groan realizing the potential for disruption, the changes that threaten the status quo and the extra work that is imminent. But the CAIN project, or the building of the automated access system for Alberta archives, continues to gather momentum.
Perhaps it is because archivists are so forward thinking! Welcoming technology with all of its uncertainties! Or because we have so much extra time to tinker around with new ideas! I think not. The enthusiasm for the project is more likely a recognition of an excellent idea and a desire to be up front and on top of changes. This and the fact that the ANA Database, the Archives Network of Alberta, has given us all a glimpse in to the future, an idea as to how this is going to work.
In September of this year, Alberta will have a database, an automated access system for archival holdings that, in time, will be a part of the Canadian Archival Information Network [CAIN] The new database will be accessible to all through the Internet. Archivists in Alberta will have special access to it through secured passwords in order to add descriptions or scanned images, or make changes. The rest of world will find the database on our new web-page at www.archivesalberta.org. The web-page looks exactly the same but now resides on our new server at Knight Enterprises in Calgary. Knight Enterprises will host the server for a period of three years after which the hosting responsibility may be changed. They will be providing a hundred mega-byte link to the database which will make the up-loading of scanned images possible. The link to the database will be added to the web-page once the database is up and running.
The database will be run on Cinemage TM TM software. Cinemage TM is a web-based collection management system that will be run on the server in Calgary and maintained by the ACT Cinemage TM Group in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Cinemage TM system will be installed and configured on a Linux TM platform. This will include a media server that will give the database audio, video and image capabilities. Jon Nightingale from the ACT Cinemage TM Group will design the interfaces based on the current ANA database. Jon will be assisted by Bill Purver. Bill is a graduate of the Master of Archival Studies program at the
University of British Columbia and has worked over the last ten years with the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC) in developing the BC Archival Union List and other BC Archival Information Network web resources. In 1998, Bill established an integrated access model for descriptions of records on the BCAUL and ANA, which was later expanded to include descriptions from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories through the Canadian North West Archival Network (CaNWAN). Bill has also been active in the development of the Canadian Archival Information Network, serving on the CAIN Implementation Planning Committee and the CAIN Implementation Working Group. He is presently a member of the CAIN Technical Committee, and continues to work as the BC Archival Network Service Coordinator for the Archives Association of British Columbia.
The Cinemage TM software will be loaded onto the server next month, March 2002. In all likelihood there will be further development of the Cinemage TM system after its initial appearance on the server. The system will not be available immediately but is scheduled to be launched in September 2002. The Cinemage TM contract is currently in its second draft and is being examined by ASA legal council, Neil Watson.
The ASA CAIN survey, conducted in the summer of 2001, provided a list of CAIN related needs for each archival institution. Many institutions needed computer equipment for scanning purposes or internet access, many others needed help in converting descriptions to RAD compliant fonds-level descriptions. For the technical end of it we have enlisted the help of Dave Kampel of Knight Enterprises. Dave has been phoning the various institutions to talk to the technical support departments (where applicable) or otherwise to confirm the type of equipment needed. The point here is to make sure that the computer equipment purchased matches that already in place and supported by the Information Technology [IT] departments of larger institutions. For cost saving purposes, we would like to make a bulk-purchase where possible however we need to be sure that whatever we purchase will be accepted by supporting institutions. For the smaller institutions that are not supported by IT departments, Dave has been confirming the items listed match the requirements of the project. The list is now complete and the equipment will be purchased and distributed in March 2002. Knight Enterprises will be delivering and installing the equipment as well.
As for software, we are purchasing Cinemage TM and nothing else until we see what exactly this software is capable of doing. Adobe Photoshop Elements TMwill be provided where necessary for scanning. The full Adobe Photoshop TM suite will not be purchased as it will not be a necessary requirement of the project.
With regards to the Conversion of Records to RAD and Digitization, grants will continue to be offered to institutions to hire contract archivists to complete these projects. Negotiations are also underway to bring students from the Archival Studies program at the University of Manitoba to Alberta to help in this area. The students of the Master's Program in Archival Studies are required to complete an internship period in an archival institution prior to graduating. The internship period falls after all necessary course work has been completed. If all goes well the students will work under contract completing conversion projects or digitization projects at archives throughout the Province. Dr. Tom Nesmith and Dr. Terry Cook of the University of Manitoba are currently looking into the matter. University of Manitoba students may be available this coming summer.
March of 2002 will mark the end of a productive year. With the technical architecture in place and the software under development, we will be well on our way. Training sessions will be planned for the Cinemage TM software, RAD workshops and digitization. As we enter the next phases the project will take on a new focus; the preparation of material to enter into the database and more importantly, the setting of standards to ensure that archival principles are recognized and maintained.
1 Collins Pocket Dictionary of the English Language. Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1981
CAIN Project Manager