Archon webinar

Last Thursday, a bunch of local archivists gathered around the table in the APS conference room for a webinar. “Archon™…making it work for you!” was, perhaps, a somewhat giddy title. But it did provide a solid overview of Archon. There were frequent, sensibly-placed pauses in the PowerPointy core of the presentation, which allowed for live demonstrations* and Q&A (by phone and chat). It was a pretty broad subject, with a broad audience: some folks were already using Archon and had specific questions, others were simply aware of its existence. (I’ve never used it, but I’ve read the documentation, so I felt like I had a decent feel for it going in.) As a result, the presentation was neither fish nor fowl, but there was still enough protein that I’m glad I was there.

My main question—which the presenters weren’t able to answer—was how the Archon and AT projects are going to merge. There’s not much recent info available on the Archon, AT, or ArchivesSpace pages, and I am curious. I should put in more than thirty seconds of research; or perhaps there simply won’t be a lot of public information until after the Roundtable at SAA.

AT and Archon have a very different feel, and I wonder which is going to be inherited by AS. My experience with AT reminds me of forms in Access: a serviceable enough GUI screwed onto the back end, but still feeling heavy. The sort of thing where an IT department is expected or desired (emphasized by the nature of the documentation, which has an “ask your administrator” feeling). Archon feels more lightweight; there were, in fact, comparisons to WordPress during the webinar. The lack of ODBC support also feeds into the impression of Archon being targeted more for the small shop. I’m not sure if that’s actually an accurate representation of the user base; the repository lists are obviously incomplete.

The webinar spurred this type of discussion after the fact, which admittedly wandered over the border into Modern Jackass territory. It also gave me more of an appreciation for the incestuous nature of the archives profession; it’s one thing to be told that in general, it’s another to hear of everybody jumping the same way, technologically speaking, because they’re working from the same information pool. I have learned in general that it really is important to understand how people think, their priorities and winning conditions. Not in a Machiavellian sense of figuring out office politics but because it helps you decide if you want to be in that office in the first place.

* Which ran a bit slower than expected/desired on the part of the presenters (Christopher Prom and Scott Schwartz). I have a fair bit of sympathy. No matter how carefully you vet your examples beforehand, that always happens on presentation day.

Oracle’s expensive. If your archives department is part of an organization that uses it already, that’s one thing. But it certainly wouldn’t be the solution of choice for your average cash-strapped non-profit institution.