This article originally appeared in our Spring 2011 issue of Points West Magazine as “Bringing the BBHC’s McCracken Research Library Archives to the Internet.” I have incorporated some updates, changes, and corrections to the information presented originally in this article so that it more accurately reflects our current efforts. These changes appear mostly in bold to distinguish them from the original information. This article has also been split into multiple parts to make it more readable.
We are currently in the process of migrating to a new database system called ArchivesSpace, which resulted from a merger with Archon and Archivists Toolkit.
By Samantha L. Harper, Archivist, McCracken Research Library
When someone wants to conduct historical research on the American West, they most likely come to the McCracken Research Library. Until recently, they had to speak to staff to discover which collections lay stored in the Library’s vast labyrinth of vaults. Using detailed finding guides, Library staff could locate the desired information, and the researcher could be on their way. That was all before Archon and now ArchivesSpace.
For the past year (now 4 years) Samantha Harper, Archivist; Karen Preis, Administrative Assistant; and Char Gdula, Reference Assistant (now Volunteer), along with many interns have been entering archival collection finding guides into an online searchable database called Archon. To see the Archon database go to the following link: http://archon.bbhc.org/?p=collections/collections&char=%23 [No Longer Valid. See http://centerofthewest.libraryhost.com/index.php?p=collections/collections&char=%23.] Or, access the finding guides by going to www.centerofthewest.org, selecting the Research tab to view the Archives Collection List and Finding Guides link.
The Archon database at the McCracken Research Library displays a complete list of the Library’s 418 (now 435) manuscript collections. In Archon, collections are searchable by keyword (words entered anywhere in the collection description), Subject Headings, Creator, and Title. This allows anyone to know which collections the Library holds. Library staff, interns, and volunteers enter information into Archon directly from existing and newly created finding guides, and 50 (now 250) collections are already entered to at least the folder level. Users can select collections, folders, or individual items of interest to them, and click “Add to Cart”, creating a checklist for future use.
This cart is not tied to any user login, and we have no way to access it for you on a different machine than where you created it. If you want to make an appointment please e-mail [email protected] or Mary Robinson at [email protected] as the appointment message generated by Archon does not reach us. If you have a shopping cart please be sure to copy and paste it into your e-mail request for an appointment. Digitized collection items are also accessible via a link in the finding guides, as well as through CONTENTdm at centerofthewest.org/research/mccracken-research-library/digital-collections/browse-collection/.
That the Archon system is web-based is also exciting, since it means that Library catalogers do not need to be on-site. Workers, volunteers, and interns can help identify images, transcribe documents, or assist in cataloging without needing to physically live or work here. For instance, a number of our un-cataloged photograph collections relate to Native Americans or American Indians. People on reservations, at universities, or on-site could collaborate to identify and describe images, manuscripts, or other mystery items. If volunteering either in person or by distance is something that interests you, or if you have collections that you use frequently, or whose entry into Archon or CONTENTdm you see as a priority please contact the Archivist Samantha Harper at [email protected], or 307-578-4138.
The staff at the McCracken Research Library would like to hear your ideas, feedback, and input. Please contact us at [email protected] or 307-578-4059. Library Director Mary Robinson can be reached at [email protected] or 307-578-4063. In addition, the Harold McCracken Research Library now has a page on Facebook, so “Like” us, to stay up to date on our progress! facebook.com/McCrackenResearchLibrary