What is ICA-AtoM?

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Please note that ICA-AtoM is no longer actively supported by Artefactual Systems.
Visit https://www.accesstomemory.org for information about AtoM, the currently supported version.

Main Page > User manual > Overview > What is ICA-AtoM?

ICA-AtoM stands for "International Council on Archives - Access to Memory". It is a web-based, open source application for standards based archival description in a multilingual, multi-repository environment.

Technical overview

System architecture

ICA-AtoM comprises:

HTML pages served to a web browser from a web server. Apache is used in development but ICA-AtoM is also compatible with IIS.

A database on a database server. MySQL is used in development but ICA-AtoM uses a database abstraction layer and is therefore also compatible with Postgres, SQLite, SQLServer, Oracle, etc.

PHP software code that manages requests and responses between the web clients, the application logic, and the application content stored in the database.

The symfony framework that organizes the component parts using object orientation and best practice web design patterns.

The Qubit Open Information Management Toolkit, developed by the ICA-AtoM project and customized to make the ICA-AtoM application.


All user interactions with the system (add, view, search, edit, and delete actions) take place through a web browser. Users access HTML pages on the web server; clicking a button or link triggers a PHP script that sends a command to the database and returns the output as HTML back to the user's browser.

Open source

ICA-AtoM is built with open source tools (Apache, MySQL, PHP, symfony) rather than proprietary software. The underlying Qubit Toolkit code developed by the ICA-AtoM project is itself open source, with the source code freely available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit (under the A-GPL version 3 license). Therefore there is no cost to download any of the software required to run the ICA-AtoM application.


ICA-AtoM is built around International Council on Archives (ICA) descriptive standards:

  • General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD) - 2nd edition, 1999
  • International Standard Archival Authority Record (Corporate bodies, Persons, Families) (ISAAR) - 2nd edition, 2003
  • International Standard For Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings (ISDIAH) - 1st edition, March 2008
  • International Standard For Describing Functions (ISDF) - 1st edition, May 2007

ICA-AtoM supports Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) - W3C Recommendation 18 August 2009.

ICA-AtoM is designed to be flexible enough for adaptation to other descriptive standards; see descriptive standards.


All user interface elements and database content can be translated into multiple languages. The current version of ICA-AtoM (1.3) supports the following languages:

    • Arabic
    • Dutch
    • English
    • Farsi
    • French
    • German
    • Greek
    • Icelandic
    • Italian
    • Japanese
    • Korean
    • Polish
    • Portuguese
    • Slovenian
    • Spanish


ICA-AtoM can be used by a single institution for its own descriptions or it can be set up as a multi-repository "union list" accepting descriptions from any number of contributing institutions.

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