This study path will ask learners to replicate the methodology/follow the model described in Dorothy Berry’s case study “Digitizing and Enhancing Description Across Collections to Make African American Materials More Discoverable on Umbra Search African American History” in order to better understand the value and values of additional description in surfacing materials from marginalized groups.
By Katie Rawson, Humanities Librarian, Emory University; and Trevor Muñoz, Interim Director of the MITH, and Assistant Dean for Digital Humanities Research at the University of Maryland Libraries
Learners should know something about search strategies and have basic knowledge of archival finding aids and other special collections discovery tools.
- Learners will be able to identify how different search/access structures and descriptive materials shape user experience
- Learners will prepare an example set of African American materials embedded in a special collection at their institution along with a descriptions that can help to make those materials more discoverable
In the mentioned case study, Dorothy Berry outlines the process Umbra Search used to make African American materials buried in other collection discoverable. In this activity, you will follow three of the major steps of this process.
First, at your institution, look in finding aids or archival discovery systems to find materials about African Americans in collections not explicitly about African Americans. Document your search strategy. As you do this, consider the following questions:
- How much time does this take?
- How detailed are the descriptions of the materials currently? What information do they include?
- How much do you need to rely on guesswork? (E.g. You would need to request the boxes/actually examine materials to find out if materials are present.) Who might you consult that would take away some of the guesswork?
- What prior knowledge do you need to do this work?
Second, go to the University of Minnesota’s digital collections. Look at this sample recordfor an item from the Library’s Kautz Family YMCA Archives (not obviously a collection related to or explicitly referencing African Americans). Look at the metadata provided for this object and note all the places where information has been included that might help someone looking for African American materials locate this item. Write a description for the materials you have found at your own institution. How might you fashion the description differently from what exists there now (using the metadata fields your institution’s system supports)?
*This assignment could also be set up with the activity leader having pre-selected collections with may have materials of interest.
If you are learning on your own, you can do this same exercise.
The success of this activity requires two parts:
- Actively developing a set of materials, including original and revised metadata records, and;
- Reflection on the creation of that set of materials and the value of that work (including costs and benefits).
While this activity could be done in a class with traditional assessment mechanisms, like a reflective paper and a description of the work, the outcomes of this activity could also be more practically focused. It could culminate in the listing of materials and suggested metadata records which could be added to the systems the collection-holding institution uses.
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