A change in the ranks of the ArchiveGrid team

At the end of September, the Small but Mighty ArchiveGrid Team said farewell and adieu to our teammate Ellen Eckert. Ellen joined OCLC at the start of 2010 as a research assistant and was soon taking a lead role in assisting ArchiveGrid users and contributors. During her time, the ArchiveGrid index grew from under 1 million descriptions of collections and items to over 3.6 million. Ellen played a big part in helping that expansion take place, working with new contributors and evaluating the quality of the growing system. If you’ve been in touch with us to contribute collection descriptions or to ask a question about a collection in ArchiveGrid, you’ve likely benefited from Ellen’s careful attention.

Here’s the team at our last get together a week ago at OCLC headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. Thank you Ellen for all of your hard work!

Bruce and Merrilee

The Small But Mighty ArchiveGrid Team.. L-R, Bruce, Ellen, and Merrilee.

Robert Goulet and Camelot resources in ArchiveGrid

Happy birthday Robert Goulet. The mustachioed singer would have been 80 years old today.

Why am I writing about Robert Goulet? After college, my husband Keith was, for a brief time, the concertmaster in the Robert Goulet Orchestra.

Goulet is well known for his role as Lancelot in Broadway musical Camelot. If you were interested in finding documentation on the musical, you might consult the papers of the composer, Frederick Lowe, at the Library of Congress. Or the papers of director Moss Hart at the Wisconsin Historical Society. You might also be interested in seeing photographs of performers and stage productions in the Joseph Abeles collection at the Harry Ransome Center (the collection includes stills of Goulet and Camelot).

Quite apart from his musical fame, Robert Goulet’s mustache is memorialized by the Goulet Award, bestowed annually by the American Mustache Institute. It is fitting that Robert Goulet’s birthday is at the end of Movember,  a time when some men grow mustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues.

Happy Birthday Billie Jean King — Title IX and ArchiveGrid

Today is the birthday of legendary tennis player Billie Jean King, well known for her numerous Grand Slam wins and for her 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” win against chauvinist provocateur Bobby Riggs.

Long an advocate for equal footing for women in sports, King’s match against Riggs came on the heals of the passage of Title IX, a 1972  law that requires gender equity for boys and girls in educational programs that receive (US) federal funding. Although Title IX is most frequently associated with athletic programs (and most of the debate about the impact of Title IX centers around athletics), the law actually covers 9 additional areas: Access to Higher Education, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Sexual Harassment, Standardized Testing and Technology.

For all intents and purposes, I grew up at the dawn of the post Title IX athletic era; even when I was a relatively non-sporty kid, I was surrounded by girls who participated in sports as fully as their brothers. In college, I was a coxswain on the UC Berkeley women’s crew team (Go Bears!) and trained at Hearst Gymnasium for Women. Even at that time, in the mid 1980s, the men’s athletic teams had better facilities over at Harmon Gym (now Haas Pavilion); over time men’s and women’s athletics at UC Berkeley and elsewhere have been brought more into line with one another. In recent years, I’ve been part of a running club — mixing with women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, and comparing notes about our varied experiences with support for sports (or lack thereof) reveals to me how much of an impact the athletics portions of Title IX has had on the real lives of girls and women in the US.

Merrilee (center) on the Cal Novice Crew team, 1986

In ArchiveGrid, you can see the traces of Title IX implementation. A search for Title IX records reveals a rich trove of self study and implementation done at campuses all over the US, records from the US Department of Education, and documentation of the lives of key individuals such as the papers of Christine Grant, University of Iowa Sports administrator, professor, and gender equity activist.

Happy 70th birthday, Billy Jean, and thanks for the inspiration!

ArchiveGrid contributes to Archival Descriptive Standards Effort

Reader advisory: this posting is pretty heavy on the acronyms!

Although researchers who use ArchiveGrid may be unaware of it, the nearly two million collection descriptions that are under the hood fall into three categories. Roughly 90 percent of the records are in MARC, or MAchine-Readable Cataloging, a standard for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form. The remaining 10 percent are split between HTML, the markup language used for creating web pages, and an XML format called EAD, or Encoded Archival Description. EAD is a format that was designed by and for archives in the 1990s, specifically to encode more discursive collection descriptions or finding aids that would not be well accommodated by the MARC format. (A tiny fraction of ArchiveGrid records are in Word or PDF.)

EAD is currently undergoing a major revision, under the auspices of the Society of American Archivists, overseen by a group called the “The Technical Subcommittee for Encoded Archival Description” (the group reports up to SAA’s Standards Committee).  As part of the revision work, TS-EAD is developing a conversion tool that will transform finding aids from the current version of EAD (EAD 2002) to the new version (EAD3). The ArchiveGrid team has shared over 125,000 EAD XML files from ArchiveGrid with the team that is developing a testbed for evaluating the EAD3 conversion stylesheet. Although the timeline for the release of the conversion stylesheet is not yet set, the group reports that having such a large corpus of EAD records will be enormously helpful in helping to test and shape the stylesheet.

OCLC Research and the ArchiveGrid team are pleased to be able to contribute to this important effort on behalf of the archival community.

ArchiveGrid gets wild at the Technology Petting Zoo

Technology Petting Zoo participants wore badges bearing images of Minnesota animals, such as moose (above) and elk.

For the second year, ArchiveGrid was featured in the Technology Petting Zoo at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) Preconfernce, held this week in Minneapolis, Minn.
(Note: RBMS is a section of the Association for College and Research Libraries, or ACRL, which is part of the American Library Association. “Preconference” relates to the summer ALA Annual Meeting, which immediately follows RBMS.)
Last year Ellen Eckert and I both attended the inaugural Technology Petting Zoo, or TPZ, at RBMS in San Diego, Calif., and I didn’t know what to expect. Since this was a new program feature, would people come? Would they ask questions? Would ArchiveGrid be well received? The answer to all of those questions was yes, so when the organizers for RBMS asked me if ArchiveGrid would be on the docket for the TPZ this year, of course I said yes.
At the TPZ, ArchiveGrid shared the space with Aeon and ArchivesSpace, along with demos on how institutions are using OMEKA, Google Apps Suite, and how they are measuring the impact of primary source research on student performance. Since I was on my own and talking nonstop to RBMS attendees who stopped by, I didn’t have a chance to talk with others who were also giving demos. Too bad! The time passed quickly as I answered questions about ArchiveGrid, gave brief demos, and talked a little about the research we’ll be publishing soon.
If you didn’t have a chance to see ArchiveGrid in action at RBMS, please come see us in the at SAA in New Orleans in August. Bruce Washburn, Ellen and I will all be at the booth, ready to answer questions, and hear about ArchiveGrid ideas and experiences.

Eureka! ArchiveGrid helps to quench your thirst for knowledge

Today, January 24th, is an important day in American history. On this day in 1848, a nugget of gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The promise of gold that could be found on the ground or plucked out of a river drew tens of thousands of fortune seekers. The Gold Rush left an enduring mark on our state — our state motto is “Eureka!” (“I have found it!”); the nickname for California is the “Golden State;” and our state seal includes a tiny gold digger (along with a grizzly bear, wine grapes, and Minerva).

On the world stage, January 24th is a notable day because it marks the first time beer was available in cans. This led to significant disruption in the marketplace, as national beer producers and distributors were able to gain advantage over local distributors. Of course, you might argue that the tables have been turned, with tastes turning to craft beer (on tap, please!) in recent years. But whether you are interested in doing research on precious minerals or changes in food production, ArchiveGrid has the answers.

If you are interesting the evolution of food packaging and containers, look no further than the Continental Group Oral History Project from the Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University. Covering the time period from 1904-1974, this series of interviews with 226 subjects — everyone from executives in the corner office to workers on the factory floor — covers packaging (“metal cans, crowns and closures, glass and plastic containers, folding and corrugated cartons, fiber drums, grocery and multi-wall bags, paper cups and tubs, and flexible packaging”) alongside labor relations, manufacturing, and mergers / acquisitions, and advertising. And yes, there is discussion of the difference between beer cans and food cans.

There are numerous collections and items relating to the California Gold Rush, but to my mind none more tantalizing than the correspondence from those toiling in the gold fields to those back home, such as those in the Bancroft Library‘s California Gold Rush Letters collection. You can also find documentation regarding the remarkable growth of shipping at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park — in those days before the railroads, many people and most goods came via sea.  This documentation includes, for example, crew lists from ships that sailed in and out of San Francisco during these years; this includes lists of those who worked on the ship, but also contains inventories of unclaimed merchandise carried by the vessels (and how much they sold for), giving a glimpse into boomtown economics. Also, in the personal narrative category, a sea journal kept on board the Croton, detailing the 195 day journey between New York and San Francisco.

ArchiveGrid — we know you will prosper from the wealth of archival description, and that you will slake your thirst for primary sources!