Digitization, Processing and everything in-between

This week in GA world has brought new tasks and therefore new challenges. I am the “guinea pig” in digitizing an entire collection – basically scanning everything in a processed collection without regard to its significance. Mainly, I am doing this to time myself and see how long it could take an archivist to do this so we can properly plan for the future. The Collection I am scanning -The John Rice Homer Scott Collection – can be viewed in person at the Arkansas Studies Institute. Scott studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1848. During the Civil War, Captain Scott commanded four Calvary companies and took part in the Pea Ridge/Elk horn Mountain battle in northern Arkansas. He also was a state Senator for Pope, Conway and Searcy counties in 1873. Most of the documents in his file are from 1861-1862 but there are a few towards the end that expand out in time. Its a time consuming project but its cool to read through another collection that has been processed – kind of like a cross reference for when I finish processing MY collection.

Speaking of MY collection – the Mary Lee Harris Papers are getting more interesting by the minute. I love reading through her correspondence (though I do wish I had her letters in response to gauge the conversation better). I have started actually processing the papers though, which is a positive step! There are many dead ends and unrelated documents and pictures, but with the help of the Archivists and some Genealogy expertise hopefully I can fill these missing gaps on who some of these people are, how they are related and why they are put together in this collection!

One thing I am looking forward to in the future (aka next week) is the start of creating a video with the Life Interrupted series and learning how to rip a DVD and covert to a different medium. I have not worked with video in this situation before so it will be a great experience and something new to add to my resume!

As for the “everything in-between”, I have learned how to inventory an unprocessed collection; basically creating an itemized list of what is in the folder, but nothing too specific since it has not been processed. I am slowly learning my way around the research room in the Arkansas Studies Institute building and actually attempted to assist a patron yesterday in their research! (Crazy, I know.)

I leave you with an interesting document I scanned from the Mary Lee Harris Papers. These are instructions on what should be consumed during and after labor and gives informative examples. A larger section of these papers contain information booklets and instruction manuals on the process of becoming a midwife, the rules on being a midwife and how to help the family before during and after pregnancy. These are recommended foods and liquids “during labor and the lying-in period.” Enjoy!Image

UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture: Mary Lee Harris Papers

UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture: Mary Lee Harris Papers

Welcome back!

I have begun my Facebook postings, which is part of my Graduate Assistance and helps show the public the papers I am processing from the Mary Lee Harris papers. It’s a great tool, especially in these early stages of processing since the archivists and I are the only ones who get to see this until I organize the entire paper collection!

Besides Facebook posts and updating this blog, another world I have delved into is the great and wonderful METADATA! I have to admit, I was very daunted when I first looked this over. Where do I even begin, what does this mean, how does it end? Luckily, I have great resources and in a short amount of time I find myself able to read (and dare I say) understand the XML Metadata that is brought to me. (Though I wouldn’t put this to a graded test.)

We start this metadata adventure with XML (eXtensible Markup Language) which is, in basic terms, the metalanguage for creating and defining a more specific markup language. In essence, everything you see online has raw data in the background. How do you or I read it, and more importantly, how do we read it through different machines that need a common code? That’s where you get things like HTML and XML. HTML deals with content and structure as well as the format, but cannot be customized like XML. XML also deals with the content and structure of documents but is much more extensible. For example, you could go and create your own “flavor” of XML while you could not with HTML. The XML schema is defined by a Document Type Definition, or DTD. It is also machine-readable! You can have many different types of programs (“flavors”) that display or interpret XML; the main one that we use in this field is EAD. EAD is Encoded Archival Descriptions and is used as the data standard for describing archives.

Now, without getting to complex, I should say that I won’t necessarily be writing this out to start, but it is helpful to read and understand because this is the language used for us to take a processed collection and display it for you to see online.

I have also begun my work in Archivists’ Toolkit, which lets me type everything out like I am now and it converts this to the metadata language to display online.  I have just started with Archivists’ Toolkit so expect wonderful things in the future!

While you are web-surfing, check out the wonderful Facebook page for the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture to get a better idea of not only my collection, but other collections and events going on as well!

Harris Collection: The Gospel Temple Singers

The Gospel Temple Singers
Mary Lee Harris Papers (in process), UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture.

As a Graduate Assistant for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Center for Arkansas History and Culture archival collections, housed in downtown Little Rock at the Arkansas Studies Institute building, I am excited to share a picture I discovered during my first two weeks. My collection to be processed this semester is the Mary Lee Harris Papers. Above is a photo that was preserved in her collection. It’s important for us as archivists to preserve history, especially through documents and pictures. Not only that, we need to take it a step further and bring this exciting information to anyone who wants to view it, even if they are miles away. This makes the internet such a great tool. I am learning about the digital aspect of historical preservation and will continue to share my progress. The Mary Lee Harris Papers are also a great representation of a local black family living in the south during a tumultuous time period. We are thankful to have this collection to share another point of view with the world.

Digitization has become such an important tool to not only archives, but museums and libraries as well. We strive to bring in visitors to view our collections while staying true to the future and the new digital era. This can be tricky. An important thing that I have learned while starting this graduating assistance is the importance of progression and patience, as well as the beauty of being able to share an experience or materials to others who are not able to drive downtown to visit.

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