(under construction)

Lindsay Macmillan, Routeen book index, Species examined, Southern New Hebrides, 1935-6, p. 44-45

Lindsay Macmillan, Routeen book index, Species examined, Southern New Hebrides, 1935-6, p. 44-45

The Field Book Project at the American Museum of Natural History

 

Expanding access to documentary material from expeditionary field work at AMNH.

 

At AMNH we are pleased to have begun providing digital access to the range of field notes contained in the Museum collection.  Through generous funding in 2015-2016 from the Leon Levy Foundation we were able to develop a workflow and template for MARC-standard catalog records. This resulted in the addition of over 100 item-level and parent collection records to the AMNH Library Catalog.  Currently we are part of the 2016-2018 multi-institutional Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Field Notes Project, which has given us the opportunity to both create a working guideline for the digitization of field books in general as well as scan and make available the records described by the previous grant.  This grant has provided us with the unique privilege to collaborate in the development of a collection which connects content among 9 partner institutions.

It is hoped that the increased accessibility of this data will aid and help inspire further research.  We have strived to scale the steps in order to make this a continuing project in the AMNH Library’s toolkit.

field book life cycle

Rollo H. Beck, Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck, p. 256.

Rollo H. Beck, Whitney South Sea Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History. Extracts from the journal of Rollo H. Beck, p. 256.

Description

The primary goal of the Field book project is to increase access to and understanding of these one-of-a-kind sources.  The design was structured to make the records easily translate across multiple descriptive standards, including DACS, MARC and EAC-CPF.  This would encourage discoverability through a variety of platforms and aggregators, allowing users from a wealth of research starting points to access the material.  A holistic approach to description was thus taken: besides catalog records, EAD finding aids and EAC-CPF entity records were created.  It is important to note that much of the field note material is housed in the individual institutional Science Departments, to be near to their related specimen collections.  In these cases, description of the field books and related material is a particularly critical and challenging step in providing provenance, context and transparency.

Because we intended to eventually digitize and share this material through BHL, we needed a MARC language record.  Of equal importance, we needed MARC records to adapt within our existing Library Catalog structure.  We created associated records at both collection (parent) and item (child) level.  We also wanted to optimize the utility of the records for both internal staff and outside researchers.  Our Field Book cataloging template is therefore a work in progress.  It has changed over time with feedback and will continue to be updated to meet our needs.

 

 

 

Richard Archbold, Richard Archbolds journal : First Archbold Expedition to New Guinea January 12, 1933 to May 8, 1934, page [58].

Richard Archbold, Richard Archbolds journal : First Archbold Expedition to New Guinea January 12, 1933 to May 8, 1934, page [58].

Digitization

Digitization of the field book material gives us a means to both protect the original notes by reducing handling as well as share them with a wider audience.  Early challenges in this stage of the project were largely technological.  We planned in-house digitization using two different scanning systems: the Internet Archive Tabletop Scribe and the Bookeye v.4 book scanners.  Investigating the details of the two system functionalities to determine the benefits or limitations for each was critical.  More importantly, we worked to create guidelines and digitization workflows that would accommodate both systems and provide the most seamless process and product, regardless of which scanner was used.

Another challenge was in associating the multiple repositories and platforms that would would harvest and display the books.  After initial upload and storage in Internet Archive, they would be pulled by BHL, and ultimately DPLA.  Additionally, our item level catalog records in both our AMNH Library Catalog and Worldcat were going to link to the digital formats and would be aggregated into ArchiveGrid.  Lastly, we knew we would soon be implementing ArchiveSpace at AMNH and would be integrating these as formats to those records.  We therefore needed a firm understanding of the relationship between these and the resulting link paths.  Additionally, an analysis of metadata capture and display by these systems was done in order to understand the differences across platforms in order to fully see how researchers can best use these options.

Because we were working within the structure of a collaborative grant, the needs and work of the sister institutions was a key factor and we benefitted from regular communication.

  • Visualizations: Early crude attempts to visualize the information flow and linkages
  • Metadata Crosswalk: Because we were creating records that would be picked up by a myriad of aggregators we created a useful crosswalk to address pros and cons and differences in metadata capture across these platforms.
  • Field book scanning guidelines: This covers the general workflow, scanning processes for both the Scribe and Bookeye systems, physical metadata application and export, as well as post-uploading procedures. It can be compartmentalized for task and is applicable to AMNH Library book scanning in general as well as field books.

General resources

BHL Field Notes Project page: describes the CLIR BHL Field notes digitization grant in detail.

BHL wiki: the Documentation section is particularly useful for Biodiversity Heritage Library contributors

BHL Field notes project: BHL collection related to the CLIR BHL Field Notes grant

Internet Archive AMNH field notes collection: IA collection specifically related to the AMNH field books.

 

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