Is there a cheap digital archive solution for a non-profit?
December 2, 2009 9:37 AM   Subscribe

What's a good system for a non-profit to set-up and manage a digital archive of somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 text, pictures, sound and video items? It needs to be accessible by multiple people at the same time and be easily searchable.

So basically I sometimes work for a neat little non-profit cultural organisation that has its roots in a relatively unique historical building. That building is approaching it's centenary, and we've got a teeny bit of funding to do some heritage work. Part of this work is making an archive of materials related to the history of our institution. This would be overseen by the heritage officer, who is a smart cookie but not super au-fait with complicated IT stuff. Information would be input by her and a team of volunteers. We have pretty much no money and we don't want it to be high-maintenance, as it's mostly an internal archive.

The heritage officer has asked me, as the defacto computer person, to look into how we should do this. We could get a very cheap copy of Access through CTXchange and use that, but I'm hesitant to wrap up what's meant to be a long-term archive in proprietary technology. I also have no idea how to get started with it, and it seems very unfriendly at first poke.

My first thought was to create an SQL/XML/something else open database and somehow convince someone to write an HTML/PHP front end. That would let multiple people connect to the site and input data at once. We could then plug in some sort of search program to do comprehensive searches. The main problem I have is that editing fields seems inaccessible for the heritage officer and her volunteers. I'd also want the locations of the media to be linked from the front-end, and pictures to be embedded and visible.

Right now we've got four PCs hooked into a Windows 2008 server. I'm supremely unsure about what to do from here. Options would be to do an IIS server and host a database on the server, or just have it on our file server portion of the 2008 server.

Any ideas would be welcome, especially something pre-built!
posted by Magnakai to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're looking for a content management system. There are many out there, so you can probably find one that will meet your needs without having to roll your own.
posted by jingzuo at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2009

Oh, it very much does, doesn't it? Does anyone know of one that would fit our needs? I'm sure Wordpress can be beaten into shape, but I'd really appreciate something more immediately suited to archival.
posted by Magnakai at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2009

Have you looked at using something like Google Apps for Non-Profits or similar on-line tools? There's hardly ever any reason to host things like this on your own servers these days, and at the scale you're operating at, hardly ever any reason to pay much either.
posted by effbot at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2009

Honestly, I would buy the actual google appliance and dump all your contents there. Google will be able to parse through all the historical texts, and can search the sounds and video if the file names are descriptive enough.
posted by unexpected at 10:28 AM on December 2, 2009

Omeka is a super easy cms/web publishing platform.
posted by gyusan at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2009

I don't have any direct experience with this, but I'm an archivist and have heard "D-Space" batted around quite a bit, by others. I think that it would suit your needs quite well, although I can make no claims as to how easy it is to install and use.

Here's the description from their "about D-Space page"

DSpace is the software of choice for academic, non-profit, and commercial organizations building open digital repositories. It is free and easy to install "out of the box" and completely customizable to fit the needs of any organization.

DSpace preserves and enables easy and open access to all types of digital content including text, images, moving images, mpegs and data sets. And with an ever-growing community of developers, committed to continuously expanding and improving the software, each DSpace installation benefits from the next.

posted by kaybdc at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at CollectiveAccess (formerly known as OpenCollection)? I haven't tried it but it seems like it could suit your needs. It's open-source and completely web-based.
posted by estherbester at 10:56 AM on December 2, 2009

Great suggestions guys! I'll look further into each of those CMSs. Thanks!
posted by Magnakai at 4:57 AM on December 4, 2009

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