The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives

Background

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or “Joint”) is the largest humanitarian Jewish organization in the world, which was established to help Jewish communities around the world.
The JDC Archives has been documenting the activities of the Joint worldwide including that in Israel, from the foundation of the JDC in 1914 to the present. The Archives holds tens of thousands of files received in the offices of the Joint around the world, several million documents and a collection of more than 100,000 photos and movies. It includes photo albums, a database of names, videos and audio files, annual reports and publications of the Joint, as well as books and other publications.

The organization’s archives in Jerusalem and New York are working together, allowing access to the archival collections, and serve researchers from around the world.

The Need

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee sought for an archive management system, with the aim of exposing the materials on the Internet, both meta-data and scanned files. The organization wanted to compute the main archive in New York as well as the one in Jerusalem, both on the same platform, in order to manage the entire databases in a centralized way and thus to allow maximal and easy access  to all the information of the organization in one site. The main goal was to find a system that will enable a professional management and provide an advanced solution in accordance with standards of the field and the professional functionality required.

The Solution

IDEA Arc is a dynamic and integrative system for managing archives, and making the information stored in them accessible to the public. The system includes unique archival features such as automated inheritance of data of records from different collections, hierarchal linking among the various levels of the administrative structure of the archive, the management of the accession book and more. The system supports the international standards accepted in the archival world (ISAD G, EAD,ISAAR) And thus enables advanced data sharing between archives and communication between different systems, forming the basis for integration with collective catalogs and international portals.

Implementation

The project that started in 2008 included the computing of the Joint’s archives in New York and in Jerusalem on one central system. It included the construction of hierarchal trees according to the various logical levels of the archive, the transition to working according to the ISAD.G standard, a comprehensive digitization process and the exposure of the materials on the web in two search infrastructures.
The digitization process included all archival collections, containing more than a million documents, tens of thousands of files and a wide range of material types. It was carried out in cooperation with an external scanning company in Asia. During the scanning process, a primary cataloging of the data has already been performed by the scanning company, depending on the information fields, set forth in the characterizing phase. After the scanning, the pictures and documents were transferred in digital format, and the textual data in the EAD format, to the archive, for the absorption into the IDEA Arc system. The integration process included the creation of new items, linking them to their hierarchical structure, metadata absorption, distribution files in the correct folder on the client’s network and the linking to the matching information items in the system. Afterwards, the records were cataloged thoroughly and professionally by members of the Joint Distribution Committee. The introduction of the materials on the internet was carried out gradually, after the initial digitization stage.
Today, the internet catalog of the JDC archive displays the organization’s archival materials, including photographs collections, names and textual documents and files databases. The displaying of the names database of refugees and immigrants on the internet was implemented by using the API interface of IDEA. The additional databases were exposed through the standard IDEA WEB interface.
Displaying the catalog on the internet, and the exposure of the unique collections to the general public, was the final milestone of JDC Archive computing project.

The Benefit

Using IDEA Arc system of Idea Information Systems allows the JDC Archive to manage the information gathered in all its international branches on one common database, including the search capabilities on all branches together and/or separately. It allows complex searches using linguistic functions for searching full texts within textual documents and/or attached files.
The organization’s online catalog can now display materials (meta-data and scanned files) from the 40’s of the last century to the present, dealing with the names of refugees and immigrants to whom JDC helped After World War II, including documents, photos and additional information about them. Thus, both internal and external users of the organization can now enjoy fast and easy access to most of the archival materials from anywhere in the world and anytime.
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The Technology

IDEA ALM, IDEA Internet module, IDEA API (Web Services), IIS Web Server, MS Sql Server, DTSearch.

“IDEA Arc has enabled us to integrate the work of two separate archival teams, in New York and Jerusalem, into one coherent system and to make our digital text and photo collections publicly accessible and fully searchable”
Jeffrey Edelstein, Digitization Project Manager, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives

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