The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Princeton University Library holds world class archival and manuscripts collections. The Mudd Manuscript Library, with more than 35,000 linear feet of storage, holds two major collections: The Princeton University Archives and “Public Policy Papers” which include very significant collections in the areas of foreign policy, economics and economic development, Civil Liberties, Law and Jurisprudence.
Finding aids, descriptive inventories created by archival repositories in order to provide access to collections, serve as the entry points for scholars and researchers to discover and explore these collections. In order to provide a standard structure for finding aids, the archival community developed an international XML metadata standard, Encoded Archival Description (EAD) in 1995. Comparable to AACR2 and MARC for bibliographic records, the content standard for Finding Aids has now been adopted by numerous institutions. EAD reflects the hierarchical nature of archival collections and provides a structure for describing the whole of a collection, as well as its components. And the standard supports flexible searching by collection, creator, biographies, title, call number, or topic.
With more than 5,000 patrons a year, the manuscript library has sought to reduce its backlog in recognition that it is unreasonable and even unethical to “preserve” material without making it available to researchers. For archivists, providing access requires processing, physically organizing the materials usually contained in boxes and folders, and describing the contents in finding aids. At the April 22 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Daniel Santamaria introduced the Library’s EAD website.
A quick search brought up the Finding Aid for the papers of George Kennan ‘25, a noted diplomat and historian. The extensive finding aid contains an informative biography as well as a detailed description of the organization of the papers. Like the other finding aids, it places the Kennan papers within the context of the era in which the documents were created.
Santamaria emphasized that it can be very challenging to maintain and gain control over these collections and efficiently and to describe their contents succinctly. Collections can be as small as a single box or thousands of boxes (the largest collection at Mudd, the records of ACLU, contains several thousand boxes. More than 2,000 finding aids representing all University Archives, Public Policy Papers and nearly all Manuscripts Division collections are now available at Mudd to assist patrons. Latin American Ephemera and Engineering Library finding aids are also available. Moving forward, the library hopes to develop a more dynamic interface to the finding aids and to increase the use of finding aids to provide access to digital content.
Daniel Santamaria is Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University. In his current position he oversees accessioning, processing, and descriptive practices. He has overseen the processing of several thousand linear feet of organizational records and personal papers since 2005. Dan has previously worked at the New York Public Library and both the Special Collections Library and the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. He holds an MSI from the University of Michigan’s School of Information and a BA in History from Wesleyan University. He is active in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference and Society of American Archivists, and has presented and taught workshops at numerous meetings and conferences.
Posted by Lorene Lavora