Technical Overview

SFU Archives' digital repository is built around two open-source technologies: Archivematica for digital preservation and AtoM (Access-to-Memory) for access.


Archivematica is an open-source software application developed by Artefactual Systems Inc. Archivematica transforms digital objects transferred to the repository into OAIS-compliant Submission Information Packages (SIPs) and processes them through a series of micro-services provided by Archivematica scripts and a suite of integrated, open-source tools bundled in the Archivematica system. Micro-services uncompress all zipped files, assign unique IDs and checksums to each object, run virus checks, extract and record technical metadata, identify file formats, and normalize files (make copies) to preservation and access formats based on rules codified in the Archives' Format Policy Registry (FRR).

At the end of the micro-services "pipeline," Archivematica produces two OAIS-compliant outputs. The Archival Information Package (AIP) contains the original object, plus a copy normalized to the preservation format, plus all the associated metadata wrapped together as a single object using the METS, PREMIS, and BagIt standards. The AIP is sent to archival storage for long-term preservation. In addition, Archivematica outputs a Dissemination Information Package (DIP), containing an access copy plus minimal descriptive metadata. Archivematica sends the DIP to the repository's access system, SFU AtoM, for further description by an archivist, following which it can be made available for public access.


SFU AtoM is the public access component of the Archives' digital repository and runs on AtoM (Access to Memory), an open-source, web-based application for archival cataloguing that integrates with Archivematica and allows digital materials to be directly linked to their archival descriptions.

SFU AtoM implements the Canadian descriptive standard, the Rules for Archival Description (RAD), and it is shared by both SFU Archives and SFU Library's Special Collections and Rare Books division to provide a single portal for researchers to search the archival holdings of both repositories. SFU AtoM includes descriptions of both paper and analog holdings that can only be accessed in Archives or Special Collections reading rooms, as well as providing copies (when available) of digitized materials and access copies of born-digital records processed through the Archivematica preservation system.

Page last updated: May 15, 2017

What is an archival digital repository?

The Archives' digital repository implements the functional requirements of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS), an ISO standard and reference model. The project is guided by Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) best-practices and professional standards to ensure the long-term accessibility, usability, and authenticity of digital archival records, a vital resource for administrative continuity and planning, legal compliance, and historical research.