Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chess by telegraph, Quaker golfers, and Philadelphia numismatists...

Is this the answer to a Carnac riddle?* Possibly, but it's also a sampling of the subjects of collections you might uncover when searching our database of unprocessed and underprocessed collections. These are the results of a search for collections related to the PACSCL-designated theme "Leisure activities" (full results can be viewed here), but there are plenty more waiting to be found. Our database currently features 1,000 collections from eight repositories, and more collections and institutions will be added regularly.

This database is the first step of many toward improving physical and intellectual access to the collections surveyed for this project. It's also our small contribution to the increasing push in the archives and special collections community to provide researchers with information about our collections -- both processed and unprocessed -- in a timely fashion.

There are a number of other interesting approaches to providing information on unprocessed collections. For example, Yale University’s Beinecke Library has a searchable database of uncataloged acquisitions online, and its blogs often highlight particular collections from this queue.

The American Heritage Center, under the leadership of Mark Greene of "More Product, Less Process" fame, undertook a massive reevaluation of its holdings (the majority of which were unprocessed) and created MARC records in OCLC’s WorldCat for all the collections it decided to retain (you can read a press release about this project at here).

Princeton University's Mudd Manuscript Library provides multiple access points for both unprocessed and processed collections; within the last eighteen months, the staff have created collection-level MARC records for every previously uncataloged archival collection in its holdings, then used the freeware program MarcEdit to convert them to collection-level EAD finding aids that are web discoverable, like this one. The catalog records go into Princeton’s online catalog and Worldcat, and the finding aids are contributed to Princeton’s own EAD website and OCLC’s ArchiveGrid.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly, our very own University of Delaware provides preliminary descriptions of many of its unprocessed collections and lists them on its manuscript collections web page (see one for landscape architect Armistead W. Browning Jr. here). It's a simple, but effective, way of calling researchers' attention to these collections' existence.

Telling the world about our unprocessed collections is certainly not without its challenges, but our researchers will certainly benefit from it, and I’m confident that we will too.

* Yes, I know this is an incredibly dated reference, but even more than 15 years after Johnny Carson vacated the airwaves, there’s still no more recognizable trope for linking seemingly unrelated items!

No comments: