Currently viewing the tag: "Authority Names"

Today, I concentrated on authority work and data clean-up within the Excel spreadsheet and Access database David and I have created for the Invertebrate Zoology archive.

Perhaps the easiest columns to work with in the Excel spreadsheet were the Creator and Date fields. For these, I performed searches in the AMNH OPAC and the LOC Authorities website and referred to DACS for formatting questions.

The Title field proved a little trickier since several of the collections could be given the same name according to the rules in DACS. For example, David and I created a record for the files from Willis J. Gertsch’s career. However, another collection of Gertsch’s work from after his retirement was discovered a few weeks later. Since the earlier collection was processed, we decided to create a new record for the post-career materials. Since neither collection has a particular form that is dominant, both records are titled the Willis John Gertsch papers. This seemed odd to me, though, since I had assumed each record would receive a unique name. However, Becca spoke to Mai and Greg and it was decided the Date and Summary fields would help guide users to the correct collection, as is currently the practice. (For example, if you perform an author search for Roy Chapman Andrews in the OPAC, several collections titled “Papers” will appear in the results.)

Today we continued processing all of S. Byron Stone’s many many MANY slides!! Since an Internet search of him returned very little our best guess is that Stone was a world traveler who donated his travel photographs to the museum. He was extremely well travelled and explored some fascinating locations including Isreal, Japan, Thailand, South America and many more. thoughout the 1960’s. We came across a Body Building Competition in Japan that was a welcome change from the never ending slides of street markets and landscapes.

Stone’s images captured a specific time and place in the world when noticeable changes still existed between different countries. One of the souvenirs included in the slide collections were souvenir slides, created at the time to be bought by tourists for their slide shows at home. We’ve noticed these slides in a few of the travel collections of different people and have noted that every time they are present, the quality of the slide has deteriorated in color faster than the slides included in the collection. We somehow doubt that any country is creating souvenir slides today.

There were some problems with sloppy labeling present in Stone’s collection and also in the mysterious Clyde Fisher collection. More on the mystery later. In the case of the Fisher collection, many of the labels were marked directly on the mount in ink, which could off-gas. In the case of the Stone collection, we came across a rather sloppy and extreme case of labeling gone wrong when we found a slide covered in what looked like red crayon.

And on to our mystery of the day: how does a man take extensive photos of his travels over 20 years after his death? That is the question that the wonder of authority records will solve, when we clear up the reason why a Clyde Fisher who died in 1949 was labelled the creator of slides taken in the late 60s and early 70s. Hooray for authority records!

As always, thanks for visiting the slide collection with us and we will see you all next week!

Beginning our day with the second round of “Risk Assessment,” we swiftly moved our way back through all of the collections we had processed so far. In general, the slides are all in very good condition and rarely show any signs of preservation concerns. The most significant “risk” from these collections is dissociation by lacking any type of identification (other than the label on the outside of the box), thereby rendering them not-so-useful for research purposes.

With half of the day ahead of us, we moved onto a little spreadsheet data clean up and authority work. Here’s a little elaboration on one authority file we updated…Box 208 is labeled “G. Ekholm Collection, Mayan Photographs, 35 mm color slides, 44 images.” This “G. Ekholm” is actually the late Dr. Gordon F. Ekholm, curator emeritus here at the museum. Earning his master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from Harvard, Dr. Ekholm was an expert in the field of pre-Columbian archaeology of Mesoamerica. Many of his studies focused on parallels between southern and eastern Asian cultures and the Mayan civilization. An author search retrieved 17 records from the AMNH research library OPAC, including several books, numerous co-authored publications, and a few films. He served as an AMNH staff member for several decades.

But back to the collection…there are 44 slides, many of which are glass mounted, and all of which contain detailed captions, but no dates. The most eye-catching part of the collection concerns a “Volador Pole.” This group of photographs was taken during an expedition to Mexico, which focuses on a ceremonial ritual called the “Danza de los Volodares,” or “Dance of the Flyers.” Think of it as a merry-go-round for very brave adults. It consists of 5 dancers who climb a 30-meter pole, four of whom launch themselves from the top, tied by their feet with ropes, and swing around in circles, while the fifth remains at the top to play a flute and pray. According to myth, the ritual exists to ask the gods for a reprieve from severe drought. In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized this ceremony with the Intangible Cultural Heritage distinction. For those interested further, a video clip can be accessed here.

Our day began with verifying authority data in the creator field of our photographic slides inventory spreadsheet. On that account, we substantiated and/or edited about 100 records, which got us pretty much up to speed on all the collections we’ve described thus far. Some names were not found in the library’s OPAC or Library of Congress, so we’ll have to deal with those later.

The issue that arose in today’s processing concerned the authority file of one photographer, ambiguously labeled on 9 boxes as “Fisher.” Someone had previously credited an influential photographer on the spreadsheet, by the name of Clyde Fisher, who has turned up in many other print and slide collections. The tricky part is, the slides were dated circa the 1960s and 1970s, while the authority record of Clyde Fisher indicates a death date of 1949…so something doesn’t add up. None of the slides were numbered, none were labeled, and they numbered literally in the thousands. Regarding whom to credit, we’re still unsure. But one thing is certain; he was genius at capturing human emotions.

We’re not sure what these people are smiling about, but we’re happy to be working our way through all of these remarkable slide collections…

Today I cleaned up the Department of Mammalogy data collected as part of Phase One of the project. I focused on creators and/or contributors and looked up the name authority file. Who doesn’t love the Subject Added Fields? A collection of Department of Mammalogy staff photographs provided a fine opportunity to look up all those names we’ve become so familiar with (although they seem less familiar when you read the authority file name): Allen, J. A. (Joel Asaph), 1838-1921; Anderson, Sydney, 1927-; Anthony, H. E. (Harold Elmer), 1890-1970; Archbold, Richard; Brass, L. J. (Leonard J.); Carter, T. Donald (Thomas Donald), 1893-1972; Chapman, Frank M. (Frank Michler), 1864-1945; Gregory, William K. (William King), 1876-1970; Hartman, Frank Alexander, 1883-1971; Hill, John Edwards; Lang, Herbert, 1879-1957; Koopman, Karl F.; Lawrence, Marie A.; Morden, William J. (William James), 1886-1958; Musser, Guy G.; Raven, Henry Cushier, 1889-1944; Sommer, Helmut G.; Tate, G. H. H. (George Henry Hamilton), 1894-1953; Van Deusen, Hobart M.; Van Gelder, Richard George, 1928-1994. That is one “Who’s Who” of the Department of Mammalogy!

We also received a request for materials related to the Crocker Land Expedition.Haven’t heard of Crocker Land near Greenland? That’s because there is no Crocker Land.A fine mystery we learned about (for a quick read, check this out).A look at the Photographic Print collection catalog I’ve been working on gave me some clues: there are some expedition photographs, as well as prints from the two attempts to bring back the explorers.Talking with Michael, the other Mammalogy intern, we were able to find another potential source. Although neither of us had seen the name of the expedition in our Phase One work, we looked at the finding aid for the Department of Mammalogy correspondence and there it was: there is a file for Robert Peary, the expedition leader and Greenland specimen collector. Should be an interesting read.

As a shelf shifting project is currently underway, our efforts today were geared more toward detailing the accuracy of the data for collections we had previously cataloged. In particular, we went through the dates, titles, and names to make sure that they were compliant with DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard). One detail we learned is that abbreviations should be avoided, e.g., spell out circa and approximately, rather than ca. or approx.

Another area of focus was verifying authority records for creators. While some were easily found in the AMNH OPAC or the Library of Congress authorities, many could not be verified or even found at all. For example, no additional data could be found for Oscar Byron, a photographer responsible for a number of collections of travel photography from around the world. Verification or not, he took this sweet photo (no pun intended) of a mountain of sugar in Barbados, which was the most remarkable discovery today.

Today was our first day working with the Departmental Records. We toured the collection to get a sense of the types (and quantity) of materials that we will be working with. After an introduction to using the database, we went through a few of the collections – cleaning up the existing data and adding new information as we saw fit. We did find some discrepancies in the dates recorded both in the database and on the boxes so it was good that we double checked the dates of the collection items.

We found conference agendas, most of which were in bound volumes, which may be related to other manuscript records in the future as they are from the time when Henry Fairfield Osborn was president of the museum. Moving forward, we think that collections DR002-DR004 could be combined and possibly consolidated as we noticed some duplicate volumes.

The biggest issue that we faced today was the question of what is the best course of action if we notice discrepancies with dates. We are also thinking about what to do with the duplicate bound volumes found in the Conference collections if the materials are eventually merged.