We’ve put together answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about ArchivesSpace.
Please contact us at ArchivesSpaceHome@lyrasis.org if you have questions not answered here or elsewhere on the website.

General Questions

According to the Open Source Definition advanced by the Open Source Initiative, the term “Open Source” designates software licensed to be freely available and re-distributable in its original version or in derivative versions. Its source code must be freely available, as well as its compiled form. While the Open Source Software (OSS) movement indicates a method of distribution, and often methods for contribution and attribution, it does not suggest particular business models for sustaining an OSS project. Unsurprisingly, many OSS projects have implemented different strategies for sustaining themselves. These strategies include dual licensing, membership/user fees, consulting contracts, and fees for services and derivative products, such as documentation, user manuals, and training. Some of these strategies are apparent in MySQL, JasperSoft, Hibernate, and several other OSS products utilized by Archon, Archivists’ Toolkit, and ArchivesSpace.
Community-supported software refers to a development philosophy associated with many open-source software projects. The hallmark characteristic of this development philosophy is that all members of an OSS project’s community are embraced as potential contributors to the development, testing, and maintenance of the software. Community-supported software empowers users, under the assumption that increased user participation in the development and maintenance of software will make the software more responsive to user needs, reduce bugs in the software, and increase overall quality and security of the software. Other characteristics of community-supported software include early and frequent releases of the software, a modular framework to support parallel development efforts, and an appropriate decision-making process that strongly involves the user community (either at the individual level or by representation)—all of which are predicated on the presence of a committed user community.


ArchivesSpace is open-source software that will require ongoing maintenance and development into the future. To underpin the sustainability of the ArchivesSpace application and community, an essential aspect of ArchivesSpace required by the funders and by any good practice, the ArchivesSpace project partners were required to find a feasible financial support model. Based on a report commissioned from Ithaka (now Ithaka S+R) and surveys of the archival community by Lisa Spiro and the ArchivesSpace planning grant team, the ArchivesSpace project team developed a membership model that provides funding for and governance of the software. The organizational home model was identified as a mechanism to provide staffing and fiscal accountability for the ongoing ArchivesSpace program. The individual organizational membership fees – based on a tiered JSTOR model for academic organizations and an adapted Artstor model for non-academic organizations – are designed to provide sole financial support for the staffing and organizational infrastructure required to sustain the operational activities of the ArchivesSpace program.
The money received from ArchivesSpace membership fees supports the ArchivesSpace endeavor, which includes staff and operational expenses associated with sustaining the ArchivesSpace application, governance work, related travel, and other costs. This funding supports the small staff (a dedicated Program Manager, Technical Lead, and Community Engagement Coordinator, as well as various supporting functions); project operational expenses, such as testing and development servers; travel expenses for staff members to be present at a variety of conferences (national, regional, and local), as well as board meetings; hardware and software expenses; the development of training; refinement of migration tools; and day-to-day operational expenses. While foundation funding supported the development of ArchivesSpace, actual ongoing operations and support must be self-funded.
There is an ArchivesSpace membership agreement. The principal points of the agreement articulate what a member can expect of ArchivesSpace membership, as well as the responsibilities of ArchivesSpace members (community contributions, fiduciary responsibility to pay membership, etc.). It also articulates the current structure for governance and points to the program’s bylaws.
Many of the responses to the questions in this FAQ provide talking points and will be helpful in putting together a pitch for ArchivesSpace membership. Though we cannot make your case for you, the ArchivesSpace team is happy to answer questions and provide guidance about talking to administrators about the benefits of membership.

Membership Models and Fees

The membership model is based on individual institution membership for both funding and governance participation. The individual institution model encourages organizations using the application to join the ArchivesSpace community and participate in the ongoing collaborative development and support of the application that is necessary for the application’s persistence and thus critical to the using community. Participation occurs in the form of governance groups, member-based discussion lists, collaborative code contribution, meetings at relevant conferences, etc. As added benefits, members have access to technical and user support, a comprehensive and detailed user manual, and video tutorials for the application.
The ArchivesSpace membership model determines membership categories based on several factors. Because ArchivesSpace is an application that supports both staff and public access to archival collections, the membership model considers the overall organizational budget, rather than a department budget or number of FTE of archives staff as one factor in determining membership categories. Additionally, the existing JSTOR/ Artstor models, being leveraged, take many factors into consideration well beyond organizational budget.
The ArchivesSpace Team considered a broad range of sustainability models and carefully reviewed all the recommendations of our consultant studies. We examined the leading models used by cultural heritage organizations and in higher education, and we evaluated them against the archival community needs and fabric, which unlike many other communities, varies greatly in size and type. We also conducted surveys to test the reception and appropriateness of various models with the archival community, and we sought advice on a comprehensive range of options along with their pros and cons. This effort and analysis took place over an 18-month period and left few stones unturned.
The published model was chosen for two main reasons: (1) the pricing is intended to be flexible so that any archives can contribute to the ArchivesSpace sustainability effort, regardless of type or size; and (2) a membership model is the most equitable way to obtain the revenues necessary to ensure the continued development and maintenance of the software over time.
The membership model and pricing has remained consistent since its implementation in 2013. In the future, details related to the membership model and structure could be changed by the ArchivesSpace Governance Board, keeping in mind that any changes must continue to fully fund the staff and activities supporting the ongoing use of, access to, and development of the ArchivesSpace application.
The current annual fee levels for ArchivesSpace membership are listed on our membership page.
For academic institutions, membership is defined at the level of the entire entity, not just the size of the archives and/or library staff, because it is a widely recognized model used for academic institutions (and was recommended by one of the consulting reports). Therefore, the JSTOR categories were adopted as determinants for ArchivesSpace membership. JSTOR categories take several factors into consideration including organizational size, budget, and potential users of a resource.
“Medium” would be appropriate if the academic institution’s JSTOR category is Medium.
JSTOR and Artstor assign community colleges to different categories. A college would need to know their JSTOR/Artstor classification and match it against the size of community college in order to determine which ArchivesSpace membership category is correct.
Typically your library’s acquisitions librarian or other person responsible for licensing electronic resources can tell you. You may also check with your Head of Collections, Assistant/Associate Dean, University Librarian, or other person responsible for administration of the library and its budget.
The current fee structure is designed at the institutional level in part because ArchivesSpace is designed to provide access to collections to all organizational users, not just staff. It integrates the necessary, internal archival management functions with a public interface to those collections and, as with other systems, is an investment for the entire organization.
Most academic organizations, public libraries, and museums will have an existing JSTOR or Artstor category and these carry over as the organization’s ArchivesSpace membership level. For organizations that do not subscribe to either service, we have developed a formula based on FTE of the organization. Information on current levels and fees is available on our membership page.
We consider FTE for the entire organization, not just the archives or library unit. Membership is based on the size of the organization as a whole because the entire organization and its researchers benefit from the use of the application. That said, you may exclude security and housekeeping personnel from your count for these purposes.
We strive to apply the membership levels fairly and consistently for all organizations and have found the measures chosen work well in most cases. ArchivesSpace will entertain “challenges” to membership categories assigned to organizations outside of the JSTOR or Artstor schemes, but cannot guarantee that the determination will change.
The ArchivesSpace organizational home activity is completely separate from any kind of hosting service offered by LYRASIS (or any other Registered Service Provider). The organizational home activities and its staff are dedicated to the support and development of the community and application. Contact one of our Registered Service Providers to receive a quote or more information about hosting and other services.
As a community-based project, we hope that all members will want to contribute to the ArchivesSpace community, conversations, or coding, depending upon individual capability. There are no additional benefits currently planned for ArchivesSpace contributors.
ArchivesSpace is a completely separate member-based entity from LYRASIS. LYRASIS functions as the ArchivesSpace organizational home, which means that LYRASIS provides the organizational, administrative and accounting support and infrastructure for ArchivesSpace. LYRASIS membership is not required to be a member of ArchivesSpace, and there are no discounts for existing LYRASIS members. Each membership is independent of the other.
We recognize the need for a healthy ecosystem of service providers and also recognize the traditional role that consortia have played in offering Archivists’ Toolkit services, including aggregation of finding aids. However, ArchivesSpace membership is at the individual institution level; consortial memberships are not available. Instead, in recognition of a desire by consortia to offer ArchivesSpace services to their members, the ArchivesSpace program offers Registered Service Provider relationships to consortia. ArchivesSpace Registered Service Providers are able to offer ArchivesSpace hosted services, training, enhanced or personalized documentation and allowed to carry the ArchivesSpace logo, etc. to their community. Consortia may also build add-on services such as aggregation services which are not currently coded within the ArchivesSpace application. In exchange, they pay an annual fee to contribute to the overall financial sustainability of ArchivesSpace because it is recognized that many of the consortia members opting to receive service through their consortia will not become full members of ArchivesSpace. To offset the anticipated financial loss, Registered Service Providers are charged an annual fee of $15,000. This number can be substantially reduced if a certain percentage of the consortia members receiving service also become full members of ArchivesSpace. In the best scenario, this could potentially reduce the annual Registered Service Provider fees to $5,000.
Registered Service Providers have access to most of the same benefits that full members have with the exception of governance representation. Recognizing that Registered Service Providers have strong interest in the ongoing technical developments to the application, Registered Service Providers are eligible to serve on the Technical Advisory Council, as well as its subcommittees such as the Code Contributors group and others. Registered Service Providers are not eligible to serve on the Governance Board or the User Advisory Council.
They can be and may be by Registered Service Providers, or by anyone since the software is open source. These kinds of separate services are not part of the membership model.


The ArchivesSpace governance groups are designed to represent the diversity of ArchivesSpace members. Each group has representational spots reserved for members from each of the member categories. Appointment to the governance groups is designed to ensure representation of the various segments of the archives community, including large and small repositories, and repositories that are academic, government, corporate, etc. Representation from all these segments in the governance groups ensures that all segments have a voice and the opportunity to participate in ArchivesSpace development.
There are not “at-large” seats to represent users who are not members.
Members in good standing are members who have paid their membership fees. There are no other requirements to be a member in good standing, though active participation in the ArchivesSpace community is strongly encouraged.
The ArchivesSpace Governance Board represents the ArchivesSpace community, with membership of the Board comprising representatives of ArchivesSpace member categories. The Governance Board has ultimate authority for the maintenance, development, and sustainability of the ArchivesSpace application. ArchivesSpace member representatives who have fiduciary responsibilities at their organization (directors, assistant/associate directors) are eligible for nomination and election. The Governance Board has several important tasks that include:
  • Ensure that the ArchivesSpace application meets the needs of the greatest number of ArchivesSpace members;
  • Control the fiscal accounts of the ArchivesSpace program, including advising on fundraising activities and contracted development
  • Oversee the Organizational Home in its provision of services;
  • Oversee the User Advisory and Technical Advisory Councils
An explanation of the current governance model is here. Membership on the three governance boards was restricted to Charter members for the first year of operation, June 2013-July 2014. Beginning July 2014, General members could begin serving on the boards, and Registered Service Providers could begin serving on the Technical Advisory Council. (Registered Service Provider is the membership type for consortia, or organizations or agencies representing a group of institutions.) The benefits and costs for Charter Members, General Members, and Registered Service Providers are presented in the table located at the beginning of the “Membership Services” section below.
The Technical Advisory Council has several distinct tasks, including:
  • Provide overall technical guidance and liaise with the Core Committers group as needed.
  • In collaboration with the Users Advisory Council, receive, suggest, discuss, and vote on ideas for software enhancements and priorities.
  • Identify integration points for ArchivesSpace with other systems (digital asset management systems, patron and request management systems, etc.).
  • Provide guidance to users on existing migration pathways and identify new pathways as needed.
  • Provide ongoing updates to the technical documentation.
  • In collaboration with the Users Advisory Council, conduct user testing of the application prior to releases.
This work complements and augments the day-to-day work of the ArchivesSpace developers hired by LYRASIS. The Technical Lead participates in all the tasks identified for the Technical Advisory Council, as well as serves as an ex officio member of the Council. S/he writes and contribute some code for the application, though this person is not expected to be the sole coder for ArchivesSpace. The ArchivesSpace developers have responsibility for compiling and packaging all new releases and posting them to GitHub. The contribution of code is anticipated to come from many sources, including ArchivesSpace members and non-members. Because code contribution is a separate activity of the Technical Advisory Council, not all code contributors need be Technical Advisory Council members.
The membership categories, prices, and services are based on copious research and deliberations. No changes to these are expected in the near-term future; in the longer term, ArchivesSpace sustainability is the responsibility of the Board. Any changes necessary to sustain the community, application, and support development needs would be discussed and approved by the Governance Board. Request for changes may come from the User Advisory or Technical Advisory councils or the general membership.
The overarching governance will be provided by the ArchivesSpace Governance Board. A community forum could emerge, but it will not have governing powers for the ArchivesSpace program.
As of August 2020, ArchivesSpace is more than 400 members strong. The vigorous response of the archival community has enabled the program to extend its support and activities beyond what was provided for by the original project plan. When there are surplus funds in a given year, the Governance Board allocates them to address additional priorities as needed. Past surplus funds have gone to hire additional developers, engage a third party design firm specializing in user experience and interaction design to provide assessment, project management, and design services in support of enhancing the public interface, extending migration services, creating a Community Outreach Manager position to enhance communication with members, and hosting in person meetings for members.
LYRASIS and ArchivesSpace are non-profit enterprises. Revenues generated from membership fees are directly applied to improving the application and supporting the community that uses it.
Yes, the Project Partners (NYU, UCSD, and UIUC) were all dues paying Charter Members at the outset of the ArchivesSpace collaborative. Like other ArchivesSpace members, the partners pay dues annually. However, unlike other members, the partners will each have one seat on the Governance Board for a period of five years from the beginning of the ArchivesSpace collaborative. This privilege reflects the responsibility of each partner for the success of the ArchivesSpace collaborative, as well as their commitment to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for sustaining the ArchivesSpace application after the end of the funded project phase.

Membership Services and User Resources

Services/Benefits Charter Members General Members Registered Service Providers Non-Members
Ability to participate in
ArchivesSpace governance groups
All groups; exclusive right
in year 1
(July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014)
All groups;
beginning July 1, 2014
Technical Advisory Council -
Access to ArchivesSpace
application and all updates
yes yes yes yes
Access to technical documentation yes yes yes yes
Access to User Manual components
  • User manual
  • Contextual help
  • Tooltips
  • Video tutorials
  • User manual
  • Contextual help
  • Tooltips
  • Video tutorials
  • User manual
  • Contextual help
  • Tooltips
  • Video tutorials
  • Tooltips
Access to ArchivesSpace-
maintained listservs
yes yes yes no
Access to technical and user support
(email, phone support)
yes yes yes no
There are two main types of documentation for ArchivesSpace: User instruction in the form of manuals and video tutorials and technical documentation supporting developers.
  • User instruction components: “Tool tips”: cues to indicate how to complete a given ArchivesSpace field are included in the open-source software package and available to everyone. User instruction, in the form of online contextual help, application user manual, and video tutorials is restricted to members.
  • Developer/technical documentation about the ArchivesSpace application and source code is open and available on GitHub.
Our Getting Started page contains a number of resources to assist those new to using ArchivesSpace or in need of a refresher.
Technical support is a benefit of membership to ArchivesSpace. To request technical support, follow the instructions here.
There is no limit on the number of requests a member organization may make for assistance. There are, however, limits to the complexity of issues that can be addressed. For example, membership does not include hosting, customization, data migration, or intensive data repair. We can provide you with strong guidance in these areas, but we can’t undertake the solutions themselves for you. If your issue requires assistance beyond what is possible through membership, we will alert you to this and suggest alternatives. Support for local installations and migration may come from direct email, phone call, a post to the member-based list, or through a support ticketing system. More information on how to obtain member support is available on our Technical Support page.
If customization in this context means the development of new features, then members can make suggestions and recommendations to the User Advisory Council and the Technical Advisory Council to initiate new development. If by customization you mean branding a public interface, adding additional functionality, etc., we expect to have a list of known developers who will be able to assist with these services.
ArchivesSpace typically contracts with organizations to host training sessions for a fee. The host organization provides the space, determines who to invite and what (if anything) to charge, and registers participants. ArchivesSpace members receive some concessions on fees and priority in scheduling. More information about training and scheduled training sessions is available here. Please contact Jessica Crouch at jessica.crouch@lyrasis.org if you are interested in learning more.
The ArchivesSpace Help Center is available to members of ArchivesSpace. In the Help Center, users will find the ArchivesSpace user manual and user tutorial videos. More information on the ArchivesSpace Help Center and how to access it can be found here.
Access to both the ArchivesSpace User Group Listserv and Small Archives Group Listserv is available to ArchivesSpace members. Complete the forms linked above to request access to either listserv.
ArchivesSpace holds forums throughout the year for ArchivesSpace users to connect and learn from one another. These forums include our Annual and Regional in person member forums, our open Online Forum and our Forum in a Box community developed forums. The program and agenda for these forums are developed by working groups made up of ArchivesSpace community members. Whether in-person or online, all of our forums have the same goal: bringing ArchivesSpace users together to learn from one another and share information with the community. Learn about upcoming forums or review resources from past forums here.
All ArchivesSpace recordings, including our webinars, demos and past forum presentations are available on our YouTube channel.

Other Membership Questions

Institutions that enroll as ArchivesSpace members outside of the July 1-June 30 membership term receive a prorated fee for the first membership term and then are invoiced for the full annual fee when the membership renews on July 1. Proration is on a monthly basis.
No, ArchivesSpace membership is at the institutional level only.
A list of current members, organized by membership level and type, is available on our website. If you would like information on ArchivesSpace institutions in a particular geographic area or of a particular type, please contact us at ArchivesSpaceHome@lyrasis.org.
ArchivesSpace is free to download and use. There are links to download and install the software from Github under the "ArchivesSpace Application" menu on our website. For testing purposes, you can install the application on a standalone machine (even something as simple as a laptop) or a basic server that meets the system requirements indicated in the documentation on the Github site. If you’d prefer not to install anything, we also provide a sandbox, with links available here. The sandbox is updated and cleared out regularly, and anyone can see the data that is put into it. It should not be used as a production tool or for sensitive data.
An ArchivesSpace Educational Program Membership is a fee-free category of membership intended to support the use of ArchivesSpace in archives and library education programs. More information is available on our website. If an Educational Program Membership is not of interest, the ArchivesSpace application is still free to use and download and may be used without support services from the ArchivesSpace program.
If your academic program is an ArchivesSpace Educational Program Member, contact your school’s coordinator to get access. (ArchivesSpace staff can point you to the correct person if you don’t know.) If your school is not a member, encourage them to become one. If your academic program is not interested in becoming an ArchivesSpace Educational Program member, the ArchivesSpace application is still free to use and download and may be used without support services from the ArchivesSpace program.

ArchivesSpace Application

The technical documentation for the software is publicly available on Github.
A list of system requirements is included in the technical documentation on Github.
The ArchivesSpace application needs to be installed on a server, either maintained by your organization or by another organization with whom you contract to host it for you. Depending on how you choose to configure ArchivesSpace, the data itself could be stored on a local server or in the cloud.
The amount of server space ArchivesSpace requires is dependent on many factors, including the number of repositories, the size and number of your collections, and whether you use the entire ArchivesSpace application or only certain modules.
ArchivesSpace is not a digital asset or document management system and cannot manage digital files or digitization workflows. The digital objects module can be used to describe digital objects and link to digital files stored elsewhere. The metadata created can be exported to other systems as MODS, METS, or Dublin Core or made publicly accessible through the built-in public interface, though the viewers in the public interface are more limited in their functionality than those of a digital asset management system or digital repository.
The ArchivesSpace API documentation is available here.
A series of migration tools and data maps are available to all users here.