ArchivesSpace is an archives information management system for describing, managing and providing access to both physical and digital archival holdings. It represents a merger of two earlier tools: the Archivist's Toolkit, for managing the back-end archival catalogue, and Archon, for providing a Web front-end for both staff and end users. It is aimed at archives and libraries with archival collections.


The development of ArchivesSpace was initiated by New York University, the University of California San Diego, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The development work itself was subcontracted to Hudson Molonglo. Since May 2012 it has been a programme of the library and cultural heritage network LYRASIS.

Licensing and cost

The software itself is free to download and use, and the code is released under the Educational Community Licence version 2.0. Membership of the ArchivesSpace community is by annual subscription; members have access to detailed user documentation, professional and peer support, and data migration assistance, as well as a voice in the governance and future development of the application.

Development activity

Version 1.1.0 was released on 20 October 2014. Further development is supported financially by membership fees, as well as community code contributions.

Platform and interoperability

The system requires Java 6 or higher, but is otherwise platform indepedent. It has been tested on Windows (XP, 7, 8), Mac OSX and Linux (Red Hat, Ubuntu). It uses an embedded database (Apache Derby) by default, but in production an external MySQL database is recommended. A RESTful API is provided but public documentation of it was not available at the time of writing.

Functional notes

ArchivesSpace aims to provide support for the whole archival workflow, including accessioning, arrangement and description, location management, authority control for names and subjects, metadata management for digital objects, resource discovery and access, and deaccessioning.

A review and set of tutorials from July 2014 (when version 1.0.9 was current) illustrates some of the tasks that can be accomplished with the application, and highlights some possible issues.

Documentation and user support

A limited amount of user documentation is available publicly from the GitHub repository, and as tooltips when using the application. ArchivesSpace members have access to more detailed documentation, a help desk, community forums, video tutorials and other training resources.


Interaction with the system is via a graphical Web interface.

Expertise required

Deploying a test instance is simple: running a single shell script or batch file will launch a local Web server hosting the application. Deploying a production instance is somewhat more involved as it requires setting up links to MySQL and, on Windows, configuring a servlet container such as Jetty or Tomcat.

As the application is written 'by archivists for archivists', knowledge of archival workflows is assumed.

Standards compliance

The application supports a variety of metadata standards, including Encoded Archival Description (EAD), MARC, MODS, Dublin Core and VRA Core, as well as data structures like XML, JSON and CSV.

Influence and takeup

The ArchivesSpace community has over 180 members, the overwhelming majority of which are based in the US.

Last reviewed: 
18 November, 2014