One of my appraisal objectives for this year is to learn more about our library’s archives, particularly about issues regarding the cataloguing and metadata thereof. In light of this, I made my first foray into the world of archives last Friday, when I attended the Archives Hub contributor’s workshop at Camden City Learning Centre, London.
We started off with an overview of the Archives Hub, which has been maintained by Jisc in Manchester since 2000, and now contains around 27,000 descriptions and 450,000 items described. Over 280 repositories submit records to the Archives Hub – and they manage all this with only 4 FTE staff!
Then aims of the Hub are to enable discovery of archives, to be comprehensive, reliable and innovative and to support contributors to the Hub.
We then went on to learn about “standards for discovery”, which was very interesting to me as a cataloguer/metadata person. The Archives Hub uses EAD – Encoded Archival Description, which is basically XML for archives. It also complies with ISAD(G), the International Standards for Archival Description (General), and uses controlled vocabulary for access points (I imagine these as the equivalents of added entries in library cataloguing). One thing I found odd was that the Archive Hub allows contributors to choose authorities from one of up to three authority databases (e.g. subject authorities can be taken from UNESCO, LSCH or UKAT), which, as a cataloguer, doesn’t make sense to me at all! [I did ask about this, and Jane S. did give me an explanation but I still don’t quite get it.]
Thankfully, the editor is quite easy to use, but adding to the Archives Hub (and archives cataloguing in general) is quite different from creating a catalogue record on a library system. I’m used to creating records for individual items – e.g. one edition of a book has one bibliographic record on a catalogue – but in archives cataloguing the cataloguer first creates a record for the collection (or fond – a new word I’ve learned recently!) as a whole and then creates further records for the different ‘levels’ of the collection. [I hope I’ve got that right]. It is actually quite unusual to find records for individual items on the Hub, although if you’re interested you can see some examples if you search for (e.g.) “International Olympics Committee”.
As well as metadata, the Archives Hub also allows contributors to embed digital objects (e.g. photos, audio files or gifs) into their records, which I thought was quite nifty.
We also learned about Archives Portal Europe (APE), which looks interesting and useful. The Archives Hub team are in the process of uploading records from the Archives Hub to APE, so eventually all records on the Archives Hub should also be accessible via APE as well.
All in all, I had a very interesting and informative day, including some nice lunch! Thanks to Bethan and the two Janes .