C.F.W. Coker Award: "In Her Own Right" Project

The “In Her Own Right” project, conducted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, Inc. (PACSCL), is the 2022 recipient of the C.F.W. Coker Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.

The “In Her Own Right” project, completed in 2021, involved twenty-four partner institutions digitizing and describing manuscript and print materials from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries leading up to the ratification of national women’s suffrage in 1920. The project included creating minimum metadata guidelines to support discovery while accommodating individual repositories’ systems and local practices. The metadata is set up so that if one institution contributes expanded metadata, other institutions may reuse or draw upon metadata for their contributions. Metadata can also be used through an API endpoint and via the Open Archives Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The “In Her Own Right” website hosting this metadata includes digitized primary sources, contextualizing essays, and digital exhibits about the history of women working for their and others’ rights leading up to suffrage in Philadelphia and beyond, and resources for K–12 students and teachers, including primary source sets. In addition to topically uniting a range of archival materials from disparate institutions, the project engaged more than 100 volunteers at metadata enhancement events.

This project is a notable example of innovative development in archival description. The website allows users to explore and learn about archival sources from several repositories, which was particularly beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic when on-site access was limited. The project also serves as a model for other consortial projects wanting to develop metadata minimums that still allow for richer metadata when an institution has the resources to provide it.

Partner institutions involved in the “In Her Own Right” project include the African American Museum in Philadelphia; Alice Paul Institute; The Athenaeum of Philadelphia; Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; Bryn Mawr College; Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Chester County Archives and Record Services; Chester County History Center; College of Physicians of Philadelphia; Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center; German Society of Pennsylvania; Germantown Historical Society; Haverford College; Heritage Center of the Union League of Philadelphia; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Library Company of Philadelphia; Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; National Archives at Philadelphia; Presbyterian Historical Society; Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library; Swarthmore College Peace Collection; Temple University Libraries; United Lutheran Seminary; and the University of Delaware.

Established in 1984, the award honors SAA Fellow C.F.W. Coker.