This is the rough outline of a presentation I gave at a recent staff meeting, lightly edited and linked. I am in awe of how quickly my team was able to identify and prepare these projects, and how our part-time staff have just plugged away at these logs and lists for so many months. My team are a hard-working, resilient, and brilliant bunch.
We have a full complement of activities in the University Archives and Special Collections. Hopefully you’ve all seen the teaching with archives Molly, Regina, and other R+I colleagues have been putting together, and have been highlighted in the last CATLR newsletter as “something they are currently reading”. We continue to provide reference services, work on blogs, oral history transcription editing projects, remote classes, webinars, and upgrading our CERES sites.
But today I’d like to highlight some of the back-end work that COVID has given us the opportunity to work on:
Lists and Logs.
Most very very large collections need to have some kind of list, log, or indexing system to make them usable to the originating organization. Our 3 outsized collections, FayFoto, The Globe, and the Phoenix are no exception (although the quality of them vary widely). We are spending our work from home time developing strategies to upgrade those logs.
[NB. Embarrassingly, I did neglect to call out the work Gina Nortonsmith is doing with her massive Civil Rights and Restorative Justice spreadsheet work, but she will be given another time to shine in a staff meeting]
Information about the collection and acquisition is here:
- 80 years of commercial photography business
- 7.5 million negatives
- Index is contained in 29 log books, from 1968-1999, 310 pages each, mostly handwritten
Example of a log book:
Part-time staff are hand-transcribing these logs, which will ultimately become an index to the ‘who, what, where’ of what was going on in Boston over those years.
Boston Globe box list
The Globe collection did come in with a subject log, one that is easily follow-able.
And when packing the collection, Daniel developed a list of the boxes that make them much more easily retrievable. And created this wonderful finding aid: https://archivesspace.library.northeastern.edu/repositories/2/resources/984
However, we only know what folder sits at the beginning of the box and at the end. After retrieving the same 25 Kennedy boxes a few times, we started box listing all of the Globe clippings boxes we retrieve.
In addition to the folder list, staff included disambiguation based on the subjects of the clippings file, determining which John Buchannan is an Escaped convict, a lynn machinist, or a professor at Penn.
102 boxes later, we have a list, but it needs some editing before we are able to load it into archivesspace.
Phoenix crowdsourced pilot
The Phoenix is one of our more heavily used teaching collections. But apart from browsing, there really isn’t a way to easily delve into the articles of the phoenix unless you knew what you were looking for.
However, the Phoenix did produce two typed card file indices to its paper. These indices have been scanned, OCRed and made available online here:
Filed by year, each author index usually includes >1000 cards.
Because we are so busy working on FayFoto, we have started exploring the idea of a crowdsourced project. Let me know if you’d like to be a volunteer tester of the zooniverse instance we have started to put together.