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Archives Central & Islandora, a next-generation digital asset management solution

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Archives Central and Catalyst collaborate to migrate and preserve over 220,000 items


Archives Central operates both a physical storage facility in Feilding, and an online database of metadata and digital records including photos, maps, and plans on behalf of a consortium of councils in the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand known as Manawatū-Whanganui Local Authority Shared Services Limited (MWLASS).


Archives Central were limited by the Kete system: it had served them well for over 10 years, but had not attracted a sufficient community to stay current with expectations of modern digital collection management.


After reviewing options, Archives Central chose to replace Kete with Islandora 8. The decision was based on the need to track both physical items (photographs, plans, maps) as well as born-digital items such as digital photographs.

The move encompassed over 220,000 records including ~7,000 images and 600 PDF documents.

Islandora 8 is a next-generation digital asset management solution able to store any digital file. This Islandora based solution integrates multiple open source components including the Drupal content management system, Fedora Commons repository, Solr text search and numerous micro-services for image processing, video and audio transcoding.

  • 220,000 Records migrated
  • 7,000 Images
  • 600 PDF Documents

Migration of data

The migration from Kete was performed using Drupal's extensive migration framework that offers an Extract-Transform-Load toolchain to move data into Drupal from a variety of sources.

A part of the migration extended the data model to include other entities beyond Records in Contexts (RiC) such as Accessions, Locations and Containers.

Accessions are not included in the existing RiC model, but we were able to reuse many of the same fields defined for Records and Record Sets including Name, Identifier, Structure and more. We also added custom fields to suit Archive Central’s workflow.

The team also took this opportunity to improve data quality by identifying and correcting some spelling errors, improving consistency of phrasing, and reducing duplication of fields across entities.


Islandora incorporates the popular Apache Solr search engine, offering powerful search capability which includes field and full-text search, facets, sorting and stemming.

Islandora is able to extract text from PDFs and even perform optical character recognition on typed documents.


The design is intended to be simple to navigate, uncluttered, and to emphasise the content wherever possible.

The system includes an in-browser viewer for PDF documents giving a more visually appealing and immediately useful display of documents.

Also, for high-resolution scans of aerial photographs or plans the system displays smoothly zoomable images.

Hosting and support

The solution is fully hosted in the Catalyst Cloud. Catalyst systems administrators created multiple environments for development and testing, and to monitor and maintain the systems. Site usage is tracked via Catalyst's local instance of Matomo analytics.

This solution provides a platform to meet immediate archiving and discovery needs while having the flexibility to accommodate rapid changes to archival practice and the increasing prevalence of born-digital material.

Screenshot of map on archives site


A solution able to store any digital file

The move encompassed over 220,000 records including ~7,000 images and 600 PDF documents.

Historical image collage of New Zealand imagery


Enhanced search and viewing capabilities

The system has an in-browser viewer for PDFs, making document display more visually appealing and immediately useful. For high-resolution scans of aerial photographs or plans the system displays smoothly zoomable images.

Catalyst IT were a breeze to work with throughout the project, from the discovery phase to digital repository launch. The team are extremely knowledgeable and [...] communicate efficiently, even when discussing specialist archival subject matter.

Evan Greensides, Senior Archivist at Central Archives