By Beaudry Rae Allen
Distinctive Collections & Digital Engagement is proud to announce our finding aids are now publicly available and searchable through our VuFind catalog and a public user interface through ArchivesSpace. ArchivesSpace is discovery portal for archival and other unique materials at Villanova University.
This means greater access to our collections, especially for the University Archives, which has not had any detailed content information made public before. As of today, Special Collections’ finding aids for manuscript collections and all the Villanova Presidents’ papers from 1870s to 1980s are publicly accessible. In addition, some finding aids will have links to digitized content in our digital library.
Over the course of the next year, expect to see more University Archives finding aids from other areas of the University published.
The new public interface for finding aids will allow you to search by repositories, collections, subjects, record type, keywords, and dates. However, it is important to note that once you find what you are looking for, you will need to email firstname.lastname@example.org to request access or get more information about the collection.
These access points are critical to the library’s mission of discovery and access to resources. Searchable finding aids will allow researchers find more of our primary source material holdings and conduct more thorough research with our materials.
What are Finding Aids?
Finding aids are descriptive tools that provide information about the archival documents held in a collection. Researchers use finding aids to help determine whether a collection of archival materials contains the documents, photographs, etc. that they might need to consult for their research project.
A finding aid typically consists of contextual and structural information about an archival collection. This includes information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization, and arrangement; and an inventory of the items or folder titles.
A long time coming
Getting the finding aids online has been a two-year endeavor. Special Collections had finding aids in HTML and PDF formats on its website, but not integrated with the Library catalog system, and University Archives had some partial inventories in a content management system called Archivist Toolkit or in Microsoft Word documents, but nothing comprehensively organized and described, all of which has made access to our information disjointed and incomplete.
The first step was implementing a new content management system, ArchivesSpace, and migrating inventories from the previous system and converting the HTML, PDF, and Microsoft Word documents into XML to be imported into ArchivesSpace.
The new system allowed description to more nuanced and structured in a way for easier user navigation. Moreover, the migration required a lot of clean up of data and standardizing description. Our student assistants, Kamryn Dow and Emma Poley, assisted in cleaning up our metadata.
We also received help from Access Coordinators Mike Sgier and Gerald Dierkes, who are cleaning up the component unique identifiers and folder locations of the University Archives collections. While metadata clean-up has been in process, Library IT Developer Geoff Scholl helped set up the ArchivesSpace public interface for the finding aids, and Library IT Director Demian Katz integrated ArchivesSpace with Vufind.
This project is just a step in the continued work of DCDE to enhance access to our collections.
Beaudry Rae Allen is Preservation and Digital Archivist at Falvey Memorial Library.