ICA-AtoM started as a collaborative project with the aim to provide the international archival community with a free, open-source software application to manage archival descriptions in accordance with ICA standards. The goal was to provide an easy-to-use, multi-lingual application that was fully web-based and will allow institutions to make their archival collections available online.
AtoM was initially developed as a follow up to the CITRA (Conférence Internationale de la Table ronde des Archives) in Cape Town in 2003 (International archives meeting on the topic of archives and human rights) and was an initiative of the ICA Working Group on Archives and Human Rights. The idea was to provide a platform in which information on archives documenting human rights violations all over the world could be made available through the Internet.
UNESCO supported this idea and gave the first funding through the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP) and the Information Society Division of UNESCO's Communication and Information Sector.
The AtoM concept attracted soon considerable interest among professionals and was therefore extended to target the needs of all small and middle-sized archival services for archival description. The UNESCO Archives became one of the pilot institutions for the development of AtoM in October 2008 and took part in discussions on development requirements for AtoM in the user group and in the Steering Committee. Descriptions of UNESCO’s archival holdings at a general level were posted online in June 2009.