2013 Description Expo

2013 Description Expo

By Kira Dietz


ArchiveGrid, OCLC Research

Now freely available from OCLC Research as a tool for discovering and exploring archival and special collections materials, ArchiveGrid includes nearly two million collection descriptions from libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies.   Try it out at http://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/.   OCLC Research also uses ArchiveGrid as a "sandbox" for investigations and experiments with this interesting metadata aggregation, pursuing questions about automated enrichment of metadata, classification, and discovery.

Recent investigations include:

  • EAD tag analysis:  This comprehensive study helped the ArchiveGrid team better understand how the EAD  has been applied, as we analyzed roughly 120,000 EAD finding aids from a wide range of sources.  Results of this analysis are expected to be published later in 2013.
  • TopicWeb: Prototype collaborative search system created as a possible way to foster collaboration among archivists and improve discovery of important and related collections. TopicWeb was designed to help teams of archivists explore the ArchiveGrid database, identify collections related to a shared topic, and determine which collections are most relevant to that topic.  The ArchiveGrid team is evaluating reactions from focus groups to see how this idea might be further developed.
  • ArchiveGrid Search widget:  Embed in web pages to help researchers initiate a quick search of ArchiveGrid. http://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/about/#widget
  • Topic pages: A new feature meant to serve as access points into ArchiveGrid by highlighting collections around specific topics. Visitors can find links to the nine topic pages on the ArchiveGrid home page, and learn about which collections contain related materials, see images, and read Wikipedia data about that topic.http://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/topics/

Explore ArchiveGrid at http://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/.


The Cross-Search and Context Utility: Contextualizing Digital Content and Associated Encoded Archival Description Finding Aid Metadata in the Northwest

The Cross-Search and Context Utility (XCU) is a project in progress at the Orbis Cascade Alliance’s Northwest Digital Archives with a public launch scheduled for September 2013. This project brings together digitized unique content and detailed metadata from associated archival and manuscript collections at archives in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The XCU creates access to digitized objects in the context of the collections to which they are related, solving a key problem in the presentation and usability of digital content and associated metadata and better meeting the needs of the program’s identified user groups.

 While great advances are being made in the discoverability of widely replicated content (especially through commercial entities that harvest and aggregate metadata from various systems), unique materials remain difficult to find and even more difficult to understand in context. In order to present a greater variety of relevant results, discovery systems must aim to move beyond prioritized lists of data and metadata. Studies demonstrate that users are confused by the ways that cultural heritage materials are presented online. The XCU is a resource for cultural heritage organizations whose collections have digitized content and metadata but no means of searching those collections in a manner consistent with the needs of the user.

The XCU is funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Partner institutions in this effort with the University of Oregon Libraries and the Orbis Cascade Alliance are Lewis & Clark College, Oregon State University, Pacific University, Seattle Municipal Archives, Western Washington University, Washington State University, and the University of Montana.

For additional information, contact:  Jodi Allison-Bunnell, Program Manager - Northwest Digital Archives, Orbis Cascade Alliance, 2288 Oakmont Way, Eugene OR 97401; 406.829.6528; jodiab@orbiscascade.org


Descriptive "Shortcuts" on the Online Archive of California

At the Online Archive of California (OAC), we work with a range of repositories and, accordingly, a range of challenges involved with creating and publishing EAD finding aids. While there are tools such as the Archivists' Toolkit that have made it increasingly easier to generate EAD files, there are still some cases where creating EAD files still remains a barrier -- or is not necessarily the most cost-effective option.

Accordingly, we've been experimenting with providing contributors easy alternatives to publishing finding aids in OAC.


Last year, we created a simple web form called RecordEXPRESS. Contributors can quickly create standardized collection-level EAD records (complying with DACS' "Single-level optimum" recommendations), and subsequently preview and publish the records with the push of a button. Development of RecordEXPRESS was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funding, administered by CLIR as part of its Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program. The open-source code for the product is available on GitHub.

PDF support

But wait… there’s more.  In the past year we've built out RecordEXPRESS to support attaching PDF documents to the resulting record. This is handy in cases where repositories have legacy finding aids that have not been encoded in EAD, or detailed inventories that are in other formats such as Word.  Any embedded text within the PDFs is indexed within the OAC, so users can seamlessly search across all of these file types.

For an example finding aid created through RecordEXPRESS with an attached PDF inventory, see here

We're now working on a project that will soon enable contributors to add supplemental PDFs to any existing EAD finding aid in OAC, or new ones created through other tools.  We look forward to having this infrastructure in place in the coming months.


Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing in the University of California Libraries

Like many other repositories throughout the US, special collections and archives units within the University of California (UC) Libraries system are grappling with physical and born-digital backlogs.  Based on an initial assessment of UC holdings, over 71,600 linear feet of materials are unprocessed.  In response to this, the UC Libraries has been undertaking a systemwide approach to promote access to their holdings and make them available more quickly and efficiently.  

One outcome is the "Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing in the University of California Libraries" available at http://tinyurl com/uc-processing-guidelines.  These Guidelines were developed by a team of 10 individuals from 6 UC campuses as an implementation and refinement of "More Product, Less Process."   The Guidelines provide a framework for analyzing the condition and value of archival collections, and then determining an appropriate processing level and rate. The Guidelines suggest appropriate amounts of work for arrangement, description, preservation, and appraisal for five levels of effort, including specific suggestions for various kinds of material such as photographic and audio-visual materials.  The Guidelines also address accessioning practices, reference practices, and processing plans to help repositories more successfully implement efficient processing practices. 

These Guidelines may be useful for any archival repository.


Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names

Within these documents are numerous accounts that collectively help tell the stories of African Americans who have lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia for three centuries. The Virginia Historical Society's first effort to improve access to these records came in 1995 with publication of our Guide to African American Manuscripts. A second edition appeared in 2002, and the online version is continually updated. We then envisioned a database of the names of all the enslaved Virginians that appear in our unpublished documents.

Thanks to a generous grant from Dominion Resources and the Dominion Foundation in 2011, the VHS launched Unknown No Longer with 1,500 names.  The database seeks to lift from the obscurity of unpublished historical records as much biographical detail as remains of the enslaved Virginians named in those documents. In some cases there may only be a name on a list; in others more details survive, including family relationships, occupations, and life dates.

Unknown No Longer does not contain names that may appear in published sources at the VHS or in unpublished sources located in repositories other than the VHS. On the other hand, those whose names appear in the database need not have lived their lives solely in Virginia, for our collections contain plantation records, for example, kept by Virginians who moved to other states, taking their enslaved work force with them as they sought new opportunities elsewhere.

It will take years to scour the millions of documents likely to contain the names of the enslaved. Unknown No Longer currently has more than 10,000 names. We hope and expect to increase the slave name database as we strive to give the dignity of identity to those who contributed to Virginia's history and culture.
URL - http://unknownnolonger.vahistorical.org/

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