The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is pleased to announce SCOPE, a free and open-source access interface for digital material — now available for download on GitHub.

SCOPE was developed by the CCA and Artefactual Inc. so that researchers can access born-digital collection material directly (avoiding lengthy reference workflows). It is a browser-based interface for access to digital archives. It creates a simplified workflow by which to provide access to digital material. After a collection is processed, access copies are sent from Archivematica to SCOPE, which then uses a metadata file to display folder-level and file-level information. It then gives researchers the ability to search this metadata and download collection material directly to local workstations by clicking on a link. Such researchers can take advantage of file-level metadata to enable multi-level searching. The following looks at SCOPE’s origins and development.

The Montreal Cultural Development Grant, awarded by the City of Montreal and the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications, financed the project.

Image (below): A screenshot of SCOPE’s homepage with sample CCA digital archives data using scopeadmin for access.
Source: Canadian Center for Architecture.

Breitwieser_cca interface

Beginning in 2012, the CCA began a curatorial project called Archaeology of the Digital, which examined how the introduction of digital technologies affected architecture and architectural practice from the late-1980s to present. As part of this project, the CCA acquired twenty-five fonds with a significant born-digital component, made up of an estimated five terabytes of born-digital archival material. An acquisition of this size required the CCA to reevaluate its born-digital preservation strategies so that it could provide meaningful long-term access to the born-digital architectural materials in its care.

Preservation was the starting point for ensuring access to these materials. Archivists processed the material and ingested it into Archivematica, a digital preservation system built by Artefactual. Archivematica enacts a number of preservation services, including identifying files and generating related metadata, and packaging this information into a METS file (an XML document encoded with key metadata) stored with the objects.

Despite the fact that Archivematica allowed the CCA to describe and preserve digital files in a granular way, we found that providing researchers meaningful access to the files and their descriptions remained difficult. Workflows for providing access to born-digital archival material were very time-consuming. Traditional finding aids were no longer able to adequately answer quantitative or cross-collection research questions that were common with these types of material.

Image: A screenshot of a cross-collection search, showing AutoCAD files from across a sample set of CCA’s archives sorted by date. Source: Canadian Center for Architecture.

SCOPE is being actively developed. Recently added features in 2019 include integration with Archivematica storage, automated upload of DIPs, and filtering and faceting of search results. In order to continue to enhance the experience of researchers who work with born-digital material, the CCA and Artefactual are seeking feedback and feature requests to continue developing this open-source initiative. 


Stefana Breitwieser
Digital Archivist, Canadian Centre for Architecture


Canadian Centre for Architecture. (2019, 16 April). SCOPE: An access interface for DIPs from Archivematica. Retrieved from