First Slide

This past weekend Abi Simkovic, the CLIR project’s Project Archivist and Project Manager, and India Spartz, the project Co-Principal Investigator and Union College’s Head of Special Collections and Archives, traveled to Roanoke, Virginia for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) to present a workshop on our project’s digitization and description workflow. This conference is attended by archives professionals from Virginia to New Jersey, New York to West Virginia with the aim of exploring the theme of “ingenuity and innovation in archives”.


One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working on a large, pioneering project like a CLIR Hidden Collections grant is creating structure for your institution to break ground in new areas of archives and special collections.   Innovating the work of archives and special collections, both within Union College and the field at large, was written into every part of the Pioneers of Wilderness Conservation project through the use of ArchivesSpace, embedding undergraduate researchers in our collections, and connecting the digitized primary sources of the collections to K-12 students to name a few.

The aspect of the project that we held our workshop on this past weekend was the digitization and description workflow which was developed for the 500 objects we are digitizing from the Apperson and Schaefer collections. You may recall that last August our Project Archivist/ Project Manager traveled to the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting to present on the same subject:

For the MARAC workshop we delved deeper into the challenges and faced by small academic institutions as they embark on larger digitization projects with dispersal into large digital catalogs such as the DPLA.  One of these challenges is that each, individual digitized item needs to be described in 22 different ways!  This hurdle to effectively sharing items from your institution’s collection can make librarians and archivists feel like this:


no no no no arrested development gif


In order to combat this we developed a fantastic workflow utilizing the help of undergraduate and graduate students in a collaborative atmosphere!  To create our workflow we divided the metadata into which are unique to each item, and which are only applied on a collection level:


Before then splitting the metadata into levels of expertise needed:



And then dividing these among our project’s staff:


We also created a Metadata Reference Guide, which was written with language for professionals, para-professionals, students, and volunteers; contains definitions, examples, and explanations for each field; and links to resources as well as a document for our team to use with approved terms from our chosen controlled vocabularies:

At the workshop we then handed out paper-copies of the spreadsheets we use, facsimiles of archival items, and copies of our metadata reference guide.  The audience then formed groups of three, and practiced our method:

If you are interested in exploring our process, please help yourselves to:

The slides for “Seven minutes to Digitize and Describe: An approachable, hands-on metadata workshop”.

The workshop worksheets.

Our Metadata Reference Guide.

The poster from the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting.

The handouts from the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting presentation.

And please, address any questions you may have to, @CLIRwild, or @abisimkovic!