Seeing scrapbooks in EAD

As our intern Marc Bron leads team ArchiveGrid in analyzing EAD tags in archival collection descriptions, we get to learn what EAD brings – and doesn’t bring – to a finding aid, and ultimately, to researchers who encounter it. One observation Bruce Washburn mentioned after sifting through EAD and all its lines, fields, tags, and text, is how scrapbooks are accounted for in many finding aids. A New York Times blog article about scrapbooking gives context to what was a widely-practiced habit and art of clipping collation in the 19th century and parallels scrapbooking with 21st century information management. While the archival industry is still establishing how to best preserve artifacts of scrapbooking today – digital “clippings” a person pulls from various sources and compiles into one realm, such as a Facebook, for example – there is no shortage of finding aids pointing researchers to 19th and 20th century scrapbooks in a collection. Should a researcher ever find themselves searching in ArchiveGrid for scrapbooks, or discovering that a scrapbook in a collection may lead to something, they won’t be disappointed.

Scrapbooks in collections come in more than one distinction. Bruce found in ArchiveGrid’s search results one collection, “Scrapbook.,” at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, has materials about the International Earth Ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl in August, 1950. In formats one might typically find in a scrapbook: newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs. What we know from the finding aid is who gifted the scrapbook to the museum. What we don’t know is who the scrapbook is by. Maybe no one knows, maybe the donor made it, or maybe that information is accessible somewhere else. Or maybe that information would be more relevant in connection with a personal scrapbook rather than one that functioned for a group. Either way, (in my opinion I think) a name or biographical information – or preferably both – indicating the creative force behind the making of a scrapbook would be useful because it would give the researcher context.

So I searched ArchiveGrid for a finding aid which would give me exactly that: A name and biographical information about who a scrapbook is by. Since I saw the movie Lincoln not too long ago and enjoyed it, I narrowed my search to scrapbooks about Abraham Lincoln. Three scrapbooks in a collection at University of California Santa Barbara pertain to the centennial celebration in 1909 of his birth. “The scrapbooks were compiled by Benjamin DeForest Curtiss,” states the finding aid, and “The collection contains…mainly newspaper and magazine clippings, with portraits and accounts of the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, including tributes paid him on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1809.” Since we have studied the use of names and locations in our EAD tag analysis, this record contains a hefty amount: “Newspapers represented include the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Globe and Commercial Advertiser (New York), New York Daily Tribune, New York Evening Post, and New York Times.”

What else will we see in our EAD? Stay tuned.

OCLC Research welcomes Marc Bron to ArchiveGrid team

February started off with a new employee at OCLC Research’s San Mateo, Calif., office.  Marc Bron, a PhD candidate at University of Amsterdam, will spend the next three months focusing on archival data and incorporating his findings into ArchiveGrid, before returning home to The Netherlands and finishing his information retrieval (computer science) program.

In his own words, here is a description of what Marc’s project this spring will be:

“Archival collections provide us with a window into history, and Encoded Archival Descriptions (EAD’s) support the discovery of these collections by carefully describing each collection. Each EAD, however, describes an individual collection in isolation of other collections. That both collections have something in common, i.e., the history of California, remains hidden. In the next three months we will investigate whether it is possible to make meaningful connections between EAD’s and thus the collections they describe. As a starting point we focus on entities and perform Named Entity Recognition (NER) on the EAD’s. By analyzing the co-occurrences of entities across EAD’s we will gain an understanding of what type of co-occurrence constitutes a meaningful connection. We plan to incorporate these findings into the ArchiveGrid system as a new discovery model and to evaluate the model through A/B testing.

“My personal interest lies in investigating the type of connections between entities that can be automatically detected in contextually sparse documents such as EAD’s. Answering this question would further our knowledge about the opportunities for using automatic methods to supplement the annotation of archival collections.”

Marc has been thoroughly enjoying the weather and the beautiful environment in the San Francisco Bay area and he is planning some weekend trips to the national parks.

Welcome, Marc!