Princeton wins MARAC Finding Aid Award

We are very pleased to announce that the Princeton University Library’s Archival Description working group has been awarded the 2012 Frederic M. Miller Finding Aid Award by the Mid Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). The award recognizes outstanding finding aids and finding aid systems in the Mid Atlantic region. Submissions are evaluated in the areas of content, design, innovation, and adherence to descriptive standards.

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Princeton’s archival description working group includes two Mudd staff members: Maureen Callahan and Dan Santamaria, who serves as chair of the group. Former Mudd staff member Regine Heberlein is also a key member of the group, as are Don Thornbury and John Delaney from Firestone Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Jon Stroop and Shaun Ellis of the library’s digital initiatives group.

The group was awarded first prize in the 2012 competition for findingaids.princeton.edu, the redesigned finding aids interface for descriptions of Princeton’s archives and manuscripts collections. The new interface was the result of more than a year of close collaboration between Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Digital Initiatives staff. The site contains descriptions of all of the archival and manuscript collections held at Princeton and includes a number of innovations including:

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

• Delivery of images of actual collections material directly from the finding aid interface

Contents lists that are sortable by title, date, or physical location in the collection

Enhanced topic features, listing collections related to our collecting strengths

• Better options for users to contact the library and connect with each other, including “Ask a Question” buttons for reference requests and commenting features for users wishing to request a description enhancement or share information within their own social networks

• Automated requesting of collections material from all contents lists

• Direct access to components of collections (often boxes and folders) from search results and Faceting and browsing options from search results.

In addition to the work of the team that developed the finding aids site, it should be noted the site is built on data created by dozens of library staff over the last several years. The innovations described above would not be possible without the work of these staff members in processing and describing our collections.

The award comes with a small monetary prize, which will be donated to a small historical society in New Jersey. While use of the finding aids by our patrons is our biggest reward, it’s great to receive recognition for the hard work that went into developing the site. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Applying “More Product, Less Process” to very large collections: Mudd archivist presents at professional conference

MARAC
Recently project archivist Adriane Hanson participated in a panel at the recent spring conference of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Cape May, NJ. The topic of her talk was how she is handling the size of her current project, processing 2,500 linear feet of the records of the American Civil Liberties Union Records in a two-year project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
In a nutshell, this feat is accomplished by:
1. Stay on top of the schedule through careful project management, collecting metrics to have realistic data on how long each task requires, and frequently revisiting and adjusting the timeline of the project.
2. Be flexible about the workflow, examining the way you have always done things and adjusting as needed to better work with a massive collection.
3. Think of it as data management. Use tools to repurpose data from one step of the project to another, and to analyze and transform the data once the box inventories are complete.
4. Spend extra time writing descriptions about each part of the collection to provide the researcher with important keywords to search for and context to understand the significance of the section. But do not spend time on description that is not aiding in searching, such as lists of document types in the collection inventory. Time should be spent on value-added description.
The slides and text for her presentation are available here.
If you have any questions for her, you can reach her by email: ahanson@princeton.edu