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Do you use Android or Apple for your electronic ecosystem? When upgrading to a smart phone, I had a difficult time choosing which environment to virtually live in. I own a Mac, but use an IBM at work. I love the design and utility of Apple products, but use my Google account as if it were my personal assistant. My thinking was: If I am going to invest my time and money in this electronic world, I want to make sure what I get makes sense with all the other electronic stuff that I use on a daily basis, so that it’s useful and productive instead of time-consuming and frustrating. I’m an Android … I mean, I own an Android (a couple, actually). But the decision wasn’t obvious or easy to come by. Mainly because neither would have been a bad choice. (Sorry, Windows, you never made the running).
This is similar to the way we felt here at the AMNH Library about ArchivesSpace and AtoM. The two are solidly comparable content management systems for archives, but different flavors. In testing, they both met our basic requirements for creating, managing, and publishing finding aids; they just handled them differently. In terms of cost-efficiency, both are open-source applications freely available to use, but support and/or customization have a price tag. We preferred the look and feel of AtoM over ArchivesSpace, but ASpace was easier to navigate and made sense to those of us who were already familiar with Archivists’ Toolkit. AtoM was developed by Artefactual Systems (also behind Archivematica and Binder); ArchivesSpace boasts a large U.S. membership base whose many charter members include the Smithsonian, Yale, Harvard, and NYPL. Are you following me on this see-saw?
Well, the devil is in the details, as they say. And as the Metadata Analyst on this project, I was very eager to investigate the details behind the details. We chose ArchivesSpace for those who wish to skip the rest.
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While interning in the Anthropology Division under the supervision of Ms. Kristen Mable, Registrar for Archives & Loans, I had the opportunity to work with some very interesting collections, the first being the Papers of Junius Bouton Bird, 1907-1982, regarding his research in North America. Bird, a careful excavator and pioneer in the use of radiocarbon dating and textile studies was best known for his South American research. He became the Curator of South American archaeology at the American Museum in 1957. Bird sailed to the Arctic several times, becoming an expert sailor while doing archaeological research work in areas such as: Eastern Greenland, Hopedale, Labrador, Cape York and Southampton Island, to name a few. Artifacts from Bird’s excavations in Labrador and Southampton Island can be found in the AMNH Anthropology Division’s collections.
As I explored the field reports, correspondence and photographs in this collection, I came across an interesting photograph of an artifact known as the “spindle whorl”, found at the L’Anse aux Meadows Norse Vikings settlement ruins on the Northern coast of Newfoundland. This site was first discovered by Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian adventurer and writer, in 1960 by following a hunch and an ancient map. This site, found to be almost a millennium old, was believed to be the place where Vikings landed in North America about 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The “spindle whorl” artifact was in fact, a yarn spinner, about 1000 years old, which proved that the Viking settlers included women, who performed household tasks. Bird did conservation work at the site from 1961 to 1964 and also gave a lecture on the Norse. His notes and slides from the lecture can be found in this collection as well.
This collection also includes archaeological sites in the United States, such as mastodon sites in Hackensack, New Jersey and the Kunatah rock shelter in upstate New York, among others. Also included here are Bird’s papers on his research work in Honduras and Okinawa, Japan. Junius Bird died in New York in 1982, leaving behind plentiful evidence of his illustrious archaeological research work for future generations of people, researchers, students and interns, such as myself, to re-discover. I feel privileged to have worked on this exciting collection and grateful for this unique opportunity.
Today is my last day in the AMNH Library and Archives. I’ve worked on a number of projects under the CLIR and IMLS grants since February and am truly amazed at the new skills I’ve developed in the process. Together with Claire, Becca and Iris, I’ve risk assessed the contents of a department (including everything from administrative files and library books to accession records and field notebooks), created an original finding aid, learned a good deal about a major donor to the museum, and mastered the difficult process of converting container lists into XML code to be imported into Archivists’ Toolkit.
Each of these tasks certainly had their challenges. My most recent work with AT has at times seemed like what Iris called “a slow and tedious process” in one of her latest blog posts. Thankfully, though, no problem was ever too large to overcome and help was always available when I needed it. I’m proud to say I was part of a museum-wide risk assessment effort, personally sorted through amazing primary source materials and imported four (!!) finding aids into AT (Iris and Oxygen XML Editor were especially invaluable to this last task).
It’s been an incredibly exciting and educational experience interning for these two grant-funded projects. It’s even more gratifying to know that the small piece I contributed over seven months is part of a greater whole that will aid the AMNH and all of its present and future researchers. I wish everyone still working on the project the best of luck. I look forward to celebrating its conclusion and to assisting with new projects in the future!
Allow me to be blunt – there is no efficient way to import finding aids created and saved as Microsoft Word documents into Archivists’ Toolkit without the painstaking exercise of copying and pasting lines of data into individual database cells. For the past eighteen months, we have been writing finding aids for the archival collections in the Library thanks to the CLIR grant. Twenty one finding aids have been completed and reviewed. The final Word documents, once approved, are entered into the Toolkit, as mentioned, by copying and pasting data. It can be a slow and tedious process, especially when dealing with numerous subject headings and name entities. Entering lengthy container lists is even more dreary – dates must be input into multiple cells, a simple box and folder enumeration containing only two numbers is seven clicks from completion. Not the best use of anyone’s time. Not to mention the probability for error! When your eyes are glazed over from transferring data piece-meal for hours, a “7” could easily look like a “1”.
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In December 2011, the AMNH Research Library hosted the first of three site visits being conducted by the CLIR postdoctoral fellowship team continuing their research into scholarly engagement in cataloging hidden collections. With a focus on natural history collections, we are in the company of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, also 2010 CLIR recipients for the Cataloging Hidden Collections grant. The multi-year study investigates the roles scholars play when interacting with librarians and archivists. You can see some of their findings here.
Our guests for the day were postdocs Lori Jahnke, Timothy Stinson, Elizabeth Waraksa, joined by two members from CLIR, Alice Bishop and Amy Lucko. The study team gave a presentation of their research methodology and findings so far. Tom, Barbara, Becca, and I shared our project objectives, gave a tour of the Research Library and were fortunate enough to visit Ruth O’Leary in the Vertebrate Paleontology Archives (as well as sneak a peek into the Anthropology and Ornithology archives!).
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Today is our last day in the Paleontology archives. We started the morning with another tour with Bob Evander, checking out hidden collections among the specimens. We also came across this awesome giant sloth!
We’ve finished wrapping up all the loose ends for Phase 1 and 2 and have labeled all the collections. At some point, the hidden collections will have to be included but we took pictures of all the locations so that can be finished at a later point. Also the new collections that we created will need to be added to the finding aid. VPA collection numbers also need to be integrated into the existing finding aid. During our risk assessment, we did a basic overview of the map collection, but it’s clear that additional work on this collection would be helpful to the department, there are about 3,000 maps. The intention is for it the maps to be an ongoing project. We also have one collection of totally unprocessed material which we did a basic catalog record for, eventually it will hopefully be processed.
We really enjoyed our summer here at the museum and feel that we have learned a lot about how an archives works, creating new collections, and conducting risk assessment.
Today we got off to a bit of a late start here in Departmental Records as we attended a wonderful lecture given by Stephen C. Quinn for the AMNH staff this morning. Mr. Quinn recently retraced Carl Akeley’s 1926 expedition to the eastern Congo basin in Africa with the hope of locating the exact site depicted in the museum’s mountain gorilla diorama. This expedition served to raise awareness of the continued plight of the endangered mountain gorillas and show how the environment has changed over time. Mr. Quinn shared videos and photographs from his expedition, his field sketches and the final painting of the diorama scene as it appears today were quite amazing to see. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the museum’s history and be reminded about the important work that continues to be done here at AMNH. Here is a link to an article providing more information about Mr. Quinn and the expedition:
Our day in the archive was quite efficient and we were able to get through many collections. The materials that we are working with are becoming increasingly familiar which allows us to sort through the collections more quickly. It helped that we encountered a few sizable collections that had already been well processed an organized, some with finding aids included. A majority of the materials we saw were correspondence from various departments, most of which had been arranged chronologically and within each year, the items were alphabetical.
The biggest question mark from today’s work involved a few boxes that were lacking good labels. DR074 was said to have 7 boxes, but we found only 3 that were labeled “074.” Nearby were a few stray boxes, without proper labels. In this and a similar case, we flagged the record in the spreadsheet while also flagging the boxes themselves with post-it notes to be reviewed later. We also came across two boxes, again without proper labels, one of which seemed to contain much more recent materials (up to 2010) than we have encountered previously.
TagsAinu AMNH library catalog Anthropology Archives Archbold Archival Arrangement archives Authority Names CAT Cataloging CLIR 2010 clir 2012 Correspondence Crocker Land Department of Preparation and Installation Department Records EAC-CPF expeditions Fall 2011 Field Notes Finding Aid finding aids Hayden Planetarium Herpetology Archives hidden connections IMLS LARA linked data Mammalogy Archives Manuscript Collection Museum History Non-Curatorial Field Notes Ornithology Archives Paleontology Archives Phase 2 photographs Photo Print Collection Processing Research Library Risk Assessment Slide Collection Spring 2011 Spring 2012 Summer 2011 Summer 2012 T. Don Carter
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