With BLC funding secured and a search for a techical consultant underway, BLC archival partners (University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, The State Library of Massachusetts’ Special Collections, and Boston College’s John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections) met and started formulating the project in January 2015. The group determined that we would employ a ‘big tent’ approach to collection building, and invited non-BLC institutions to join as non-fiscal partners. The Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University, the Boston City Archives, and WGBH) were added later that spring. We announced the project, including our arguments for collection creation in a Blog Post.
SCOPING AND SCANNING
A full list of collections that were contributed to the collection is here, including partners added later in the project. My initial idea for the project was to start in 1954 and end in 1974 when the court order was implemented. This is what we intended to focus on at Northeastern. The group agreed to stretch that date range into the 1980s and 1990s for two main reasons. Pragmatically, many institutions had strengths in that time period. Philosophically, students and teachers doing the day-to-day work of integration was equally as challenging as getting to an integration decision. Once the project was scoped, we determined that each institution would have the ability and freedom to contribute the most relevant items based on their collection strengths.
BUILDING via SUBJECT HEADING
The group determined that metadata would be the glue that would bind our collections together in Digital Commonwealth/DPLA. More on the decisions on this topic are reflected in this Blog Post written by Jessica Sedgwick. We considered a non-LCSH option that could mark records that were part of a BLC-specific project, but ultimately decided to use the single subject heading “Segregation in education — Massachusetts — Boston — History” as a determinant of participation. Our reasoning was twofold; one subject heading is a very low bar for participation, and it would also allow the collection to grow easily if other additional collections decided to participate. This “everyone can participate” decision risks significant duplication and will most certainly invite unevenness and irrelevant items– a DPLA participant might tag something with ‘our’ subject heading that we might not consider ‘significant’ or even relevant or even deployed mistakenly. A counter argument is that if we wanted to create a static, even, balanced collection we could have followed the blueprints of the many self-contained e-collections on varying subjects. DPLA describes searching in its collections as like “drinking from the fire hose,” overwhelming, but offering the kind of varied perspectives and collection strengths that a curated collection can’t.
SCANNING and METADATA
The group shared internal scanning policies and procedures. Some institutions provided folder-level metadata, others item-level. Participants used several different metadata standards, including Dublin Core and METS. Scanning standards (dpi, color/greyscale, sizing) varied. As this variety is also reflected in Digital Commonwealth/DPLA, we determined that we would also apply a low bar/high participation policy to our scanning and metadata standards. Thus, we did not require or suggest any kind of standard metadata, scanning standards or levels of description.
In May of 2015 Northeastern hired Sociology PhD candidate Meghan Doran (formerly of BBDP) and UMass Boston Public History MA student Corrinne Bermon (who worked on UMB’s Omeka site) to work on selecting, scanning, and providing basic metadata for items. Corrinne describes going through the collection in this Blog Post.
The group also talked about putting together an external personography that collated non-LCNAF name authorities in list form. However, recent scholarship has described and problematized library and archival technical structure structure (and LCNAF) for its inability to understand relationships between people, organizations, and families. A new standard has been emerging to address that, EAC-CPF. In the summer/fall of 2016, graduate student Elizabeth (Betts) Coup initiated a pilot instance instance for our collections as an internship. Eventually the goal is to incorporate that information into our Northeastern and our partners’ descriptive practices. Betts’ blog post about her project is here.