Getting Started with Arca

This is a living resource that captures the collected research, experience and recommendations of Arca participants, coordinators and governance bodies as we implement Arca repositories. It will serve as a resource for other sites joining the Arca Collaborative Digital Repository.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Arca?

  2. Key Contacts & Links

  3. Responsibilities of Arca Participants

  4. Getting Ready to Join Arca

  5. Steps to Setting Up Your Arca Repository

  6. Arca Troubleshooting & Support

  7. More Resources

I. What is Arca?

Arca is a collaborative digital repository, initiated to support the the goal of supporting access to a wealth of digital assets. Foundational to the creation of the BC Digital Library, Arca is a collaborative initiative that puts the development and implementation of a digital repository within reach for every institution, at a reasonable cost, and in a supported environment. 

Arca is built on Islandora, a Canadian-developed open-source platform currently in use at over 100 public and private institutions worldwide. This robust, standards-based, provincially shared platform provides institutions with open-access repositories for research, theses, and any other digital assets they wish to make available to the wider community.

Arca is made possible by a partnership between the British Columbia Electronic Library Network (BC ELN) and its partner libraries, and Charlottetown, PEI-based software firm discoverygarden, initiated with seed funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education.

II. Key Contacts & Links

Support questions should be directed to the Arca Admin Centre.  For other questions, please contact:

Sunni Nishimura
Manager (Communications, Governance, Support)

Brandon Weigel
Coordinator (Implementation and Technical Support)

General information about Arca can be found on the BC ELN Arca Project webpages.

Arca (BC Collaborative Repository - search across all Arca sites):

Links to Individual Institution Sites


III. Benefits & Responsibilities for Arca Participants

Benefits and responsibilities for  BC ELN Arca participants can be found on the BC ELN website.

Benefits and responsibilities for non-BC ELN Arca participants can be found on the BC ELN website.


IV. Getting Ready to Join Arca

There are 2 main steps to prepare to join Arca: Preparing and Planning for your institutional repository; and Completing the Arca Participant Needs Assessment Survey.

  1. Preparing and Planning

The following best practices are drawn from the RSP Checklist:

A. Define purpose, scope and goals of your repository

  • Have you outlined and documented the purpose and drivers for institutional repository establishment in your institution?
  • Have you defined your vision and initial goals?
  • Have you decided how to position your institutional repository within your wider information environment?
  • What is the target content of the repository?

B. Understand your institutional context

  • Considering the type of content your institutional repository will contain have you consulted your institutional community to explore their current practice and method of dealing with these materials?
  • Do any of your Departments already have a repository or other digital stores of publications? How will you manage duplication, transfer of resources and metadata, and, perhaps, the closure of the Departmental repository?
  • Does your institution have an information management strategy?
  • Have you done a risk assessment?

C. Identify your local support team

  • Have you identified and briefed your project champion - a senior member of staff who will support your institutional repository project?
  • Have you established an institutionally representative working group?
  • Have you identified extant skills and personnel within the institution to call upon for advice and input? And have you let them know what you are planning?
  • Have you defined roles and responsibilities for your institutional repository development?

D. Resourcing

  • Have you made financial arrangements to support institutional repository work in the short/medium/long term?

E. Reporting Back

  • What sort of statistics and management reports will you want from your institutional repository?


2.  Complete Arca Participant Needs Assessment questionnaire

Download and fill out the Arca Participant Needs Assessment, and return to the Arca Admin Centre.


V. Steps to Setting Up Your Arca Repository

Following are the basic steps you need to set up your Arca repository, in roughly logical order.

  1. Contact the Arca Admin Centre to initiate the process of joining Arca.

Provide the following details:

  • When you would like to join
  • When you would ideally like to have content in your repository by
  • Who the key contact your institution will be for the implementation process

The Arca Admin Centre will provide details about the Arca Service Support Fee which each participant pays on a yearly basis, and any applicable storage costs.

The Arca Admin Centre will contact the vendor to set-up your Islandora repository and provide you with your URL and user access.


  1. Establish Local Staffing

Each Arca institution will need to establish local staffing; responsibilities may include the following set-up and on-going activities.

Local staff responsibilities during the set-up phase include:

  • local set-up of your institution’s Islandora instance, in consultation with the Arca Admin Centre and discoverygarden;
  • development of local repository policies (sample policies below);
  • local customisation as needed of Arca defaults for workflows, ingest forms, roles and permissions, searching and display;
  • development of local branding and website placement;
  • development and delivery of local training and advocacy materials (some basic training and advocacy materials will be provided by the Arca Admin Centre).

On-going local staff responsibilities will include:

  • content recruitment and mediation (see RSP best practices);
  • local training and advocacy;
  • maintenance of local policies and workflows;
  • communication and consultation with the Arca Admin Centre for troubleshooting and technical support.
  1. Develop Local Policies

Local vs. Arca

Wherever possible, repository policies will be established at the local institution level, not the Arca/consortial level. Some provincial considerations to keep in mind as you develop your local policies and procedures:

  • Content types - all standard content types are supported by the Islandora platform (.pdf, .doc, .txt, .rtf, .jpg, .tiff, .mov, .wav, etc.), however the Arca Admin Centre may only be able to provide limited support for more unusual file types.
  • Storage - For 2018/19, each participating Arca site receives 150 GB of storage with their Service Support Fee. Additional storage can be purchased at $0.40/GB annually.


Arca Submission Agreement Template

The Arca Advisory Committee has created a Submission Agreement Template which may be used by Arca sites. Individuals who wish to submit content to a repository must agree to some form of submission agreement, whether it is the institution's local agreement or the Arca agreement.

  • Arca participating sites are welcome to use the Arca Template Submission Agreement as the basis for their own submission agreements.
  • If this template is not used, we ask that you include “the Arca collaborative digital repository” as one of the repositories included in the local submission agreement.


Developing Local Policies

The OpenDOAR Policy Tool is a simple tool designed to help repository administrators to formulate and/or present their repository's policies. It provides a series of checkboxes and pick lists for all the key policy options.

Each institution should establish and post their own local policies in the following areas:

  • Metadata Policy - for information describing items in the repository.
    • Access to metadata; Re-use of metadata
  • Data Policy - for full-text and other full data items.
    • Access to full items; Re-use of full items
  • Content Policy - for types of document and dataset held.
    • Repository type; Type of material held; Principal languages
  • Submission Policy - concerning depositors, quality and copyright.
    • Eligible depositors; Deposition rules; Moderation; Content quality control; Publishers' and funders' embargos; Copyright policy
  • Preservation Policy
    • Retention period; Functional preservation; File preservation;
  • Withdrawal policy
    • Withdrawn items; Version control; Closure policy

Some sample repository policies:


More information about repository policies:

4. Register for Arca Training

Once the Arca Admin Centre has provided you with access to your Islandora repository, contact the Arca Admin Centre to set up training for your institution’s repository staff.

5.  Develop Local Workflows

The following documents will be useful for developing your local workflows (please note these are living documents and subject to change):

  • Arca Metadata Guidelines - Arca uses the MODS metadata schema. These guidelines provide information about the MODS elements and how they are mapped to Dublin Core.
  • Arca Ingest Manual - Provides instructions for ingesting objects using the ingest forms developed to date for Arca. More Arca ingest forms will be customised and documented as the project grows.
  • Arca Content Models - Describes the main Islandora content models that are supported now; this list will expand as the project grows.
  • Configuring Arca Search/Facet Display

Once your institution is familiar with the Arca defaults for workflows and metadata, you can begin to determine any customisations needed to meet your institution’s needs. The Arca Admin Centre can help you determine which customisations are feasible and/or fall within the scope of the BC ELN contract.

6.  Local Branding & Visibility

Each participating institution receives a Drupal front-end for their repository, themed with the default Arca theme.  Each institution can then choose to customise within that Arca theme things like background and sidebar colours, the logo etc. using the Appearance tab in their own Drupal front-end.  

Most early adopters have chosen to develop a name for their repository, a logo and a tagline.  Explore what other Arca sites have done here: List of Participating Sites

Arca minimum branding requirements - The default Arca footer content must be displayed on each participating site to link it back to the main Arca site.  

If further customisation is desired, sites with Drupal experts are welcome to make changes themselves, or to contract with discoverygarden individually. Customisations outside the scope of the Arca theme may impact future updates and may fall outside the scope of the BC ELN contract with discoverygarden - please consult with the Arca Admin Centre.

All Arca sites are optimised for search engines visibility.  The Arca Admin Centre will ensure that Arca repositories are registered with OAI harvesters.

7.  Staff Training and Advocacy

The Arca Admin Centre has made basic training materials available on the Arca Support site.

Some Arca advocacy tools have been developed for customisation and use by participating institutions:


VI. Arca Troubleshooting & Support

The Arca Admin Centre works closely with discoverygarden to provide participating sites with troubleshooting and support. 

To report an issue, ask a question or make a suggestion about Arca, please contact the Arca Admin Centre. We will contact discoverygarden on your behalf.

You are encouraged to consult Islandora 7.x-1.5 community-built documentation, bearing in mind that the Arca installation may have some features not reflected in the community documentation.

You are also encouraged to participate in the thriving Islandora user community, where questions can often be answered by Islandora experts very quickly.


VII. More Resources

JISC Digital Repositories Infokit

Repositories Support Project