Getting Started

CollectiveAccess is open-source collections management and presentation software designed for museums, archives, and special collections also increasingly used by libraries, corporations and non-profits. It is designed to handle large, heterogeneous collections that have complex cataloguing requirements and require support for a variety of metadata standards and media formats. The software is freely available under the open source GNU Public License, meaning it’s not only free to download and use but that users are encouraged to share and distribute code.

CollectiveAccess is a web-based suite of applications providing a framework for cataloging and discovery. The two main components of CollectiveAccess are Providence, a "back-end" cataloging interface, and Pawtucket, a "front-end" publication and discovery platform. Both components are available on Github or can be downloaded from the downloads page. A Quickstart package is also available, which will allow you to create a quick test system locally on your machine, without the need to install it on a webserver. This is designed to help you explore the software and its features, but isn’t recommended for regular use. When you are ready to install your CollectiveAccess system on a web host (or local server with a web environment), be sure to check out the list of System Requirements. Installation instructions are also available on the Wiki.

CollectiveAccess is a fully configurable software, so you will need to tell it what metadata fields you require for your project when you install it. If you are starting a new system, check out the Configuration Library for metadata schemas that are freely available for download. You can also choose from archive and library standards that come pre-installed with Providence. All metadata profiles used in Providence are written using XML, and it is easy to create your own by following the guide to Installation Profiles. You can always change your metadata configuration later by using the software’s intuitive UI tools or by installing a partial profile. However, if you are embarking on a large cataloging project, it is generally advised to determine most of your metadata needs at the start of a project in order to prevent the need for recataloguing later on.

Once Providence is installed, you can use a variety of tools to import any existing data you might have. This includes batch uploading media through the media importer, creating import scripts, or using the batch editor to edit metadata for a set of shell records all at once.

Additional configuration options include setting up Advanced Search fields, Browse categories, and Access Roles for your users. Access restrictions can be configured for individual or groups of logins on the field, record, or record type level. If you wish to extend your installation of Providence, you may do so by enabling plugins, or writing your own.

If you would like to create a read-only interface for your archive, whether for a public website or for internal users on your network, you can do so by installing Pawtucket. Pawtucket is a browseable front-end that allows you to search and browse items in your collection that you have made accessible through Providence. Pawtucket respects any access restrictions you have set in Providence, and can be password protected for additional security.

The default Pawtucket theme is a plain bootstrap-based design that you can customize to your liking as you would any other open source web tool. Check out our theming guide for help implementing your institution’s design. You can also configure custom Advanced Search forms, tools to solicit User Contributions (croudsourcing), and Browse options. As with Providence, you can extend Pawtucket by writing plugins, or enabling any of the plugins that come pre-installed with the software, such as Finding Aids. To see what others have done with Pawtucket, check out our Featured Projects page!