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.
By Samantha L. Harper, Archivist, McCracken Research Library
Continued from ARCHIVES FINDING GUIDES OF THE MCCRACKEN WORLDWIDE – PART 1.
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] 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.
All collections will be entered to the folder level and eventually links will connect to a folder level record with scans of all contents. Individual records for letters, programs, photographs, etc. will be linked to item-scans as warranted. All scans are created by Mack Frost, Digital Services Technician, and interns or volunteers under his supervision. Kathleen Broeder, Photograph Cataloger, as well as interns under her supervision will catalog the folder or individual item-scans in CONTENTdm. CONTENTdm is a searchable database for visual digital materials, such as scans of items in the Library’s archival collections. The items currently in the Library’s CONTENTdm (Digital) Collections can be viewed at centerofthewest.org/research/mccracken-research-library/digital-collections.
(Or, by following the Digital Collections link on the HMRL main page, or the Digital Collections link under the Research menu of the Center of the West main page).
We are also currently uploading collection scans which are displayed with only their folder level descriptions to help speed the process of providing access to collections materials. This is especially true for firearms related collections since they are in high demand. We are exploring the possibility of expanding this project to include collections relevant to other subject areas, in order to provide the highest level of access possible, while providing greater detail for items once their relevance and degree of use are determined.
Archon shows users the physical and intellectual relationship between items, and CONTENTdm allows users to search for individual unique items. Between these two programs, the Library will re-create its archival collections online. Cody’s remote location is an obstacle for many researchers, which Archon coupled with CONTENTdm, can potentially reduce or eliminate via online access. This is still the case for the most part, and of course we want to be available to anyone regardless of their financial or geographical circumstances.
In Archon, it is possible to search one or all collections by keyword. As an example, if someone wants to know what items the Library has that relate to William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, one can now search the term Buffalo Bill as a keyword and retrieve every occurrence of that keyword. A keyword search for Buffalo Bill across all manuscript collections resulted in 36 hits. Of these 25 are in Collection Titles, and 5 hits are Creator Descriptions. Creator Descriptions are headings assigned to one individual person or entity that was integral in the creation of the materials in the collection.
Archon McCracken Home Page-Buffalo Bill Search
Across Collections Search Results – Collections: Click on “Records and Manuscripts” to expand it.
Archon McCracken Home Page-Buffalo Bill Search-Collections
Across Collections Search Results – Folder Level: The click on “Results Found with Box List”
Archon McCracken Home Page-Buffalo Bill Search-Collections-Folder Level
By looking at the Folder Level list, researchers can identify exactly what they want to see. They can then add collections, folders and individual items to the cart. This allows the researcher to find specific collections, folders within that collection, or even specific items that they want to see before even setting foot in the door or picking up the phone.
Again 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.
In this particular instance, the William F. Cody Collection held the most materials related to Buffalo Bill. Therefore, by choosing to view a specific collection, researchers can browse the contents of that collection, or use the Archon search dialog box on the lower left side of the screen to search that collection for keywords. If they want to find specific items related to any subject within the William F. Cody Collection, they would then see those results.
Archon McCracken Home Page-Buffalo Bill Search-Collections-Single Collection
Archon McCracken Home Page-Indian Search
They can also look at collections based on who created those materials. Since in the example researchers are looking specifically for items created by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the list of those collections are displayed below. Regardless of what type of research someone may be doing, and their level of expertise, this database will make locating the relevant items in the Library’s collections much easier!
Archon McCracken Home Page-Cody, William F. Search
Archon also allows for recording material types (personal papers, corporate records, and publications), geographic locations (unlimited), subjects, vocabulary, creators, and file types. Library staff can define which terms are acceptable for a particular field, and create a controlled vocabulary, aiding in the research process, as researchers will no longer need to search multiple synonyms in order to find what they are looking for.
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, 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.