Expedition group seated, enjoying Victrola, Third Asiatic Expedition, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Hidden Connections

Expeditionary Field Work at the American Museum of Natural History

The Archives at the American Museum of Natural History Library has begun work on its second Hidden Collections project, funded by CLIR, the Council for Library and Information Resources.  The first CLIR project resulted in 1342 records for archival collections in the Library and, in conjunction with a risk assessment project funded at the same time by IMLS, another 1815 records were created for the archives in the Science Departments using the same process.  The result:  a total of 3157 collections, an estimated extent of nearly 25,000 linear feet, described over a 20 month period, at least on a minimal level, mapped to MARC and EAD as well as 21 fully developed finding aids.

The aim of the new three year project is to make it easier for researchers to find materials related to Museum expeditions, including the objects and specimens in the collections alongside the supporting archival documentation. We hope to accomplish this by integrating and linking name authorities for personal and expedition names across the institution.  This integration will form the basis of a cyberinfrastructure to manage the ongoing data and their digital surrogates as the information grows and changes over time.

Similar to the approach of creating minimal EAD records for the collections accomplished with the first round of funding, this project is creating and gathering minimal EAC-CPF records, by gathering and refining controlled name vocabularies that exist in different AMNH departments.  The Library will be working closely with members of the Scientific staff in charge of collections to discover how KE EMu, the collection management system used by most of the scientific departments can manage archival records. We will also be continuing discussions with Yale’s Peabody Museum, another CLIR recipient, who have successfully used KE EMu to create finding aids.

A functional analysis is being developed to compare KE EMu with other systems as possibilities for a Content Management System including the AMNH Library DSpace repository.  Since the Library is already using Archivists’ Toolkit the project staff is also closely monitoring the development of ArchiveSpace.  The other project deliverable is to produce 150 fully developed finding aids, a process that will be aided by repurposing biographical and historical notes for relevant collections.

A big part of this project will be to identify a number of questions to be resolved, for example, where the master record will reside and how other iterations might be updated on an automatic basis, and the nature and depth of a biographical/historical note made to be shared through the EAC-CPF standard.

The AMNH is eagerly anticipating the development of Linked Open Data applications and tools and has been in conversation with a recently organized consortium to develop a linked data network based on New York City History, with the plan that when those tools are available, our data will be “linkable.”

 

Hidden Collections

The Archives Project at the American Museum of Natural History

In 2010, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) received two grants to catalog and collect risk assessment data for library and archive collections under the Museum’s Science divisions.  The projects were funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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