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University of Pennsylvania Librarians' Assembly


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University of Pennsylvania Librarians' Assembly

  1. 1. The PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project University of Pennsylvania Librarians’ Assembly December 20, 2011 Holly Mengel, Project Manager Courtney Smerz, Project Archivist
  2. 2. What is PACSCL? Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries– Cooperative group of special collections libraries with shared goals for their collections– Founded in 1985 with 16 member libraries– Today, PACSCL is composed of 35 member libraries • 4,000,000 rare books • 260,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archival materials • 9,000,000 photographs, maps, architectural drawings, and works of art on paper • BUT, PACSCL itself, does not own collections– Long history of consortial work
  3. 3. Hidden Collections Processing Project• Funded by Council on Library and Information Resources’ (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative• Processed and made accessible for research 125 hidden collections of manuscripts and archives• 23 participating PACSCL repositories27 month-long project
  4. 4. What are hidden collections?• Hidden collections: – Unprocessed or under-processed collections – NOT research ready – NOT advertised to the researching public – Not unique to Philadelphia; 1000s of hidden collections across the country
  5. 5. Why are theyNOT research ready? • Not physically or intellectually accessible • Have been on the shelf for a long time – Repository staff does know what’s in them – Not made available for research
  6. 6. The problem with hidden collections• Managing archival collections is time consuming• BACK LOG of work to be done• BUT - If no one knows its there, and no one uses it, why keep it?
  7. 7. How PACSCL is dealing with Hidden Collections• Follow-up to PACSCL survey project, 2006-2008• Processed / made accessible 225 hidden collections• Processing: • The act of arranging an archival collection, • Providing archival quality housing, and • Describing the collection, or writing a finding aid• Finding aid: a catalog of the collection, which communicates to archivists and researchers what is in the collection and how to access the materials quickly and easily
  8. 8. Methodology• Used “MPLP” – Processing at a less intensive rate – Collections range from the 17th to the 21st centuries• Used the Archivists’ Toolkit database• Used graduate student labor, developed “Archival Boot Camp”
  9. 9. Fruits of Our Labors• We processed 3987 linear feet in 2 years • At 8 hours per linear foot, that would take a single archivist roughly 15 years to do• Developed workflow to reduce processing BACK LOG in archival repositories• Shared our success and failures so that other archivists across the globe can benefit from our experiences.
  10. 10. …Making collections research ready…Before archival processing After archival processing
  11. 11. …And easier to find• Created a central online finding aid site – Developed by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries – Finding aids from all 23 repositories in one place – We are adding new finding aids all the time – We are NOT digitizing collections• Related collections all over Philadelphia – i.e. the Wister family, women’s history, horticultural collections, etc.• Collections and information in unexpected places – Word War II drawings at the Academy of Natural Sciences
  12. 12. Searching capabilities• Search across repositories• Keyword searching• Faceted searching – Select as many or as few facet categories as you like
  13. 13. Project Website:
  14. 14. Project Blog, Twitter & Flickr
  15. 15. Collections by Topic
  16. 16. What we processed • The American Revolution • The Arts: Fine Arts, Music, Performing Arts, and Writing • Business and Commerce • Colonial History • Education • Family Histories and GenealogyJust about everything! • History of Philadelphia CulturalAll with a HIGH research value Institutions • Law, Politics and Government • Maritime History • Medicine • Military History • Race and Ethnic History • Religion • Science • Travel and Tourism • Women’s History • Writing, Publishing and Bookselling
  17. 17. Lubin Manufacturing Company records Free Library of Philadelphia
  18. 18. Vaux Family papers Haverford College
  19. 19. Samuel George Morton papers Library Company of Philadelphia Image courtesy American Philosophical Society
  20. 20. Samuel George Morton papers Library Company of Philadelphia
  21. 21. Alma A. Clark papers Bryn Mawr College
  22. 22. Julien Levy papers Philadelphia Museum of ArtPortrait of Julien Levy, from “TheArt Story”(
  23. 23. Julien Levy papers Philadelphia Museum of Art
  24. 24. Belfield papersHistorical Society of Pennsylvania
  25. 25. How to find us and the collections