Friday, March 25, 2011

Week 10

Brandi, and I have finished placing the archive material in archive standard files and boxes. We have begun entering items in the finding aid. There are many artifacts, and the entry of these items will most likely take the rest of the semester to finish. Brandi had worked on another finding aid, so her insights in constructing the finding aid for this archive were helpful.

In thinking about the organization and construction of the finding aid for this archive, I viewed an on-line presentation developed by Eloquent Systems Inc. An more detailed explanation of their services can be found here. The company representatives explained their product, and provided examples form the Toronto Archives (one of their current clients). A screen shot from the presentation is pictured below.

The program by Eloquent Systems provides a finding aid, as well as an interactive on-line presence for your archive. With this system, patrons can search and view items within the archive from any computer located worldwide. There are many features for entry, including the development of tags, and authority files for individual items within the archive. The archivist can also choose which information is public, and which is private, and the database can either self generate accession numbers, or they can be entered manually. It was a very impressive program. 

In addition, this week a number of students from area colleges came to the library to conduct research on comparative art papers. When Ms. Preston was assisting a patron, and another would arrive, I would assist the newcomer. They had many questions, and I attempted to answer as many as I could. It is good to get feedback, and one patron e-mailed Ms. Preston, saying I was very helpful.   

Finally, the new Web Site has been launched. There are still a few minor problems to be ironed out, but the new Site is an improvement. A link to the Web Page is here.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 9

      Ms. Preston was out for the week, and Brandi was off for spring break. I therefore learned much about the running of a library/archive/information center first hand. It was an active and enriching experience.
      I assisted patrons as they came into the library, I fielded reference questions, and also managed to begin work on the creation of a finding aid for the archive. There were two patrons that came into the library looking for information on Wedgwood Jasperware. I helped them access the library online catalog, and assisted them in locating the material they were looking for. They were very impressed with the collection, and explained that they had no idea this library existed. I was happy to help them, and invited them to return in the future.
      For the finding aid, I began to compose the scope and content. When this archive is finished, it will have approximately 20-25 boxes, and contain a number of items related to the founding, history and development of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Most of the items will be arranged alphabetically. However, a few items ( correspondence for example) will be arranged chronologically. It is my hope that this archive is easy to access, and easy to follow for many years to come.   

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week 8

The additions to the Web Site are proceeding. I attended the meeting that unveiled the new Web Site to the various department heads within the museum. The image below illustrates the current museum home page.

At this time the Web Site is very basic. The new Site will feature more content in the collection, exhibitions, and calendar sections, as well as in other blocks. The new site is cleaner and easier to navigate. All of the department heads were very impressed, and offered very positive feedback. The site is expected to launch on March 21. Ms. Preston, and several others have been working very hard to update this Site, and the improvements that will be made available will benefit everyone.

In addition, work on the institutional archive continues. Another graduate student from the University of Alabama (Brandi), has come onto the project. She completed work on one of the Wedgwood archives, and will now help with the creation of the finding aid, and final preservation of the institutional archive.    

The image on top shows the files as they were sorted form their original boxes. The lower image illustrates how they are being stored alphabetically in archival standard files and boxes. With the help of Brandi, this project will begin to move much faster.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Week 7

The Birmingham Public Library houses some unique archives, including a set of museum archives from the BMA. This week I was sent to the archives to examine what they had, and see how their finding aid was set up. The archives are located in the basement of the original structure of the Birmingham Public Library. The library itself is fascinating, and the map/reading room features a very unique mural painted along the entire upper walls. It might be interesting to explore the history of this building, and the meaning behind the the murals at a more appropriate time. This visit however was focused on the archives.

After checking in with the archives staff, and signing a form promising not to damage or remove items form the archive I was shown the finding aid, and provided a form to request specific folders. The archive of the BMA included a variety of documents, correspondence, and information. Their materials extended from the 1950's through the 1980's and had many items not present in the archive I have been working on. For example; I examined a handbook from the 1950's for air raid safety that specifically addressed what to do in a nuclear attack. This handbook was distributed to all Jefferson County municipal buildings and was likely present in the museum when it was first opened to the public.

After explaining that I am a library science student interested in archives, I inquired as to the possibility of a brief tour of the facility. The staff were extremely excited and were more than willing. I saw the rows of electric movable shelves ( which were explained as being far longer than most movable shelving units), and was shown the area where records were processed and preserved. Among the many items in their archive were the blueprints and plans for almost every structure in the city of Birmingham. The collection of archives at the Birmingham Public Library were impressive.

In addition to the archives visit, I attended a meeting with Ms. Preston about upcoming improvements being implemented for the museum Web Site. New improvements discussed included adding additional content like podcasts, and links to videos from lectures and educational programs. A more user-friendly interface that includes  a "bread crumb" trail as the user navigates the site is also planned. The improved version of the Web Site offered many possibilities.