Wiki-based archival description and storage/Storage

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This page explains how to store physical and digitally-created archive items in a wiki system of archiving. It assumes you have a functioning wiki set up, and does not go into detail about how to describe items.

The rough workflow for a single item is as follows:

  1. its access level is determined;
  2. it's digitized (for physical items) or converted to a long-term preservation format (for digital-born items);
  3. the description is added to the appropriate wiki (with an identifier being assigned); and
  4. the files are uploaded to the wiki.
  5. In addition, for physical items:
    1. the item is stored in an appropriate folder, box, or other container of the correct access level;
    2. an identifier (URI) from the wiki is stored with the physical item.

Access control

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The first aspect to consider is access control, which is simply a matter of defining who can view or edit what parts of the collection. A separate wiki is used for each group of people to which access needs to be granted, and the physical storage system follows the same groups and nomenclature. The smallest number of groups (and wikis) is used, for example a common configuration is to have three access groups (and therefore three wikis): one completely open to the general international public; a second for members and associates of the organisation; and a third closed wiki that is only accessible to staff and other trusted people. Items can be moved between wikis as required.

The physical storage system follows the same division of access control, so that whole folders or boxes are

Physical storage

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Physical items are stored in accession order in their boxes and folders. This results in the smallest amount of handling of the items and avoids the need to re-order the storage system as new items are accessioned. All items are accessible via their on-wiki itentifiers and other metadata.


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Physical items are photographed or scanned or in other ways reduced to a digital representation. This includes documentation of the original ordering and storage of the items.

Flat-bed scanning

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A flatbed scanner is required for digitizing flat documents, photographs, negatives, glass plates, plans, maps, etc.

An A4-sized scanner suitable for many requirements, especially photos and documents. Foolscap and other larger documents will require an A3 scanner, but larger sheets are often much larger and will require specialty equipment often out of the reach of smaller organisations.

Scanners with a backlight are required for film and negative scanning.

The minimum features of a scanner are:

  • A4 size
  • higher than 700 ppi for prints, and higher than 2700 for negatives and slides.

All should be scanned to TIFF or PNG format at at least 600 ppi with a colour depth of 24 bit.


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A page is created for each item on its wiki, where all metadata is recorded — including the box or folder identifier. Some items will have just a single page; some will comprise multiple files (e.g. the front and back of a photograph if there's an inscription on the back) and so will have a page for each of these and an index page where the metadata is stored.

The item's page is printed and stored alongside the item. This print contains the full URL of the item, to serve as a unique identifier.


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Wikis, like all digital information systems, must be backed up. How to do that is outside the scope of this wikibook, but in addition to regular backups it is recommended that archival dumps of the wikis' pages kept (and public ones uploaded to the Internet Archive, along with the digital files of the wiki).