Best practices for Finding Aids

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    • #133014
      Joy Banks

      After working in my current position for about 2 years, I think I’m finally ready to tackle some of our undocumented archival collections. I’ve gone back and forth about the best way to handle these collections, and I think Finding Aids of the EAD variety will probably work best. Here’s my problem. I have no way to purchase new software (nor the IT infrastructure for open source options like Archon) or add much content to our institutional website. I’ve looked through countless sample sites, recommended sites, and forums. I’ve even been in touch with a state organization that was offering Finding Aid creation/hosting/storing but is no longer able to do so. I know many people who have finding aids online already had paper versions of these and just migrated, but we currently have nothing.

      So, here is my question. How can I create usable finding aids for my vertical files and archival collections that can be accessible to my users? I have an online catalog that could probably support a link to a pdf file (which I may be able to finagle), but that seems so static to me. Does anyone have any suggestions about a way to make these items findable? I would be more than happy to go into further detail about what we actually have, but I thought I would throw the question out here, first. I am open to suggestions since we are starting from scratch. I’m just getting tired of looking through file folders item by item every time I am looking for something :-)

    • #133018
      Michael Nagy

      First, know you are not alone. I would tackle your two problems separately – finding aid creation and finding aid discovery. EAD is a markup language to aid in discovery and display. Since you don’t have a system that can do both now, I would set the EAD aside temporarily. Focus on the description of all your collections. Once a system is in place, you can go the migration route as you stated. The most important thing is to have good finding aids, no matter how they are accessed: binders, online catalog, PDFs, EAD with Archon, etc. Best to create them according to archival content standards from the start, which in the US is SAA’s DACS. Once they are written up, you can print them out, link PDFs to your OPAC, or whatever you can do at this point. Take it a piece at a time. There is a national aggregator that will take finding aids, marked up or not, ArchiveGrid. You may want to check that out. That could help some remote users, but for yourself and onsite users I would focus on the PDFs. Even the search capacities within PDFs will be beneficial and if you are able to load static, OCR’ed copies to a website, you will likely get some web browser hits even with those.

    • #133017
      Joy Banks

      Thanks, Michael. These are great suggestions. Also, thank you for suggesting ArchiveGrid. I hadn’t realized that OCLC was making that move. I will definitely need to research that further.

    • #133016
      Susan Knoer

      Remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If you create a text FA, you can always print it out for on-site and reference use. Create a PDF, and you can always go back and mark up the text file for better access. If server space is an issue, look at Google Drive to post them. It’s fairly stable, and you can link to them from wherever. Or post them everywhere. EAD, like MARC, was created in the Olden Tymes when computer memory was small and expensive (my first pc ran on DOS and had a 256 byte hard drive, and cost 1200, and yes, the dinosaurs did have bad breath), so while XML is great, EAD may be past its prime. Once you have the info entered in a text form, you can migrate it to any number of systems later.

    • #133015
      Melissa Houston

      I just attended a webinar on the CLIR Hidden Collections grant that would be great for your project. I would recommend going to their site – they solely fund cataloging projects that deal with unprocessed collections like yours. They’ve just opened their application but it is due rather quickly, I believe it’s due March 22. There are also great resources listed on that site. There are many institutions they’ve funded that I am sure would be happy to help you.

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