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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 1995, Week 4

ARCHIVES April 1995, Week 4

Subject:

Re: Converting old finding aids -Reply

From:

Bill Landis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Archives & Archivists <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 23 Apr 1995 11:09:56 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (59 lines)

Jon Reynolds' post serves, for me, as a caution.  I have no idea (until
SAA this fall) what programmatic decisions are driving the conversion of
Georgetown's finding aids, so these comments aren't in direct response to
Jon, just prodded by it.
 
I think that the wholesale scanning of existing finding aids in any
repository is a tactical error.  Even if current OCR technology made it a
breeze to do it, it seems to me a wasted opportunity for a repository to
simply take paper finding aids and convert them to a digital format.
There are so many issues concerning access, what future developments might
hold for the use of digital delivery technologies in archives, whether or
not our "audience" is the same when we make our finding aids available in
digital format over the Internet, and whether or not we can approach that
altered "audience" in exactly the same manner we've been approaching the
researchers who happened to walk through the doors of our institutions to
look at our finding aids in the past.  A digitization program probably,
IMHO, ought to be looked at as a long-term commitment by a repository to
re-examine thoughtfully how collections are and might be used, what sorts
of "virtual" use might collections support.  Maybe there ought even to be
some sort of feedback mechanism where we ask for and listen to users of
our collections and finding aids--traditional users as well as those for
whom use is made possible by this new delivery medium--and incorporate
that feedback into our programmatic vision.
 
In just the repositories in the area in which I currently live and work I
can think of a half-dozen or so totally different kinds of finding
aids--different in basic approach to the organization of information about
a collections, as well as in style and layout.  Within many repositories
there are often radically different types of finding aids, and this
depends only on when they were created and how frequently the collection they
represent gets used. These sorts of things might be fine when the
archivist is physically present to explain to a researcher/casual browser
what different things mean; however, in an environment in which the two
aren't in the same physical space, the finding aid has to do a lot more
work on its own than many repositories currently expect it to do.
 
These list discussions on the topic of the BFAP are exciting to me.  I'm
learning a lot about how the rest of my colleagues approach information
and the provision of access to it.  I, too, would extend the invitiation
to Daniel Pitti, or someone from the BFAP team, to participate in the
discussions.  Perhaps after the Mellon-fellowship team convenes in Ann
Arbor this summer some list participants who are involved can move the
discussion onto this list.  I would hope that interested archivists are
given a chance to provide some input into the process during this crucial
phase.  It seems to me that it would provide some basic understanding of
SGML, the developing DTD, and how they will contribute (and perhaps, who
knows, revolutionize) the delivery of information about archival
collections and,eventually, the collections themselves.  In addition, it
might make SAA's job of promoting the use of SGML for finding aids among
archivists much easier once the DTD is accepted by the international
standards community.  The more we talk about it now, the less of a
mystery it'll be in the future.
 
[log in to unmask]
                                                             Bill Landis
                                                      Cranbrook Archives
                                         Cranbrook Educational Community
                                              Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
[log in to unmask]

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