The process of assessing software options, configuring one for our use, training our staff, and manually entering the initial collections has taken more than a year.
The Archive Department is excited to announce that a collections catalog will be available on its website beginning Monday, Aug. 1!
What is a collections catalog? Just as one might search their local library website by author, keyword, or title, so, too, will our collections be searchable in this manner. The difference is that in addition to books, a search will also return relevant manuscripts, historical photographs, and other archival records.
The process of assessing software options, configuring one for our use, training our staff, and manually entering the initial collections has taken more than a year. In many instances, archives and libraries might already have a collections catalog and transfer the records into a new software, but since we did not have one previously, the title, creator(s), date (range), narrative description, related subjects, and other details had to be painstakingly entered manually for every single item by one of our three staff members.
Because of the time and effort required to enter each collection, presently included are the most frequently used collections: bishops' papers, the manuscript collection, reference books, school records, sacramental records, and the first several hundred of nearly 5,000 historic photographs. Adding new and updating existing records will be part of our daily workflow moving forward.
The catalog can be accessed by visiting our website, bostoncatholic.org/archives, where a link will be added to the home page.
Directions for how to search the catalog are included on the landing page, above the search tool. In addition, users will see a menu at the top of the screen, where they can click "Collections" to view a list of collection titles, listed alphabetically. Likewise, users can select "Subject" to view an alphabetical list of subjects, then select one to view related instances. "Names" will provide a list of individuals and organizations (parishes, schools, religious orders, etc.), and selecting one will allow users to view details such as the date a parish or school opened, and eventually navigate to a list of related collections. Finally, "Record Types" will allow users to search specifically for moving images, objects, photographs, reference books, etc.
The catalog is primarily intended as a place to search our collections and view descriptions, including inventories, after which one may request to view them in our library or inquire about photocopies or scans. The catalog is not intended to be a place where one can view records online, although, in some cases, collections are linked to online collections elsewhere, and in time we may also provide digital images of select items.
As mentioned, our staff is new to this process and will be continually working to develop the catalog, adding new collections and expanding existing collection descriptions. Users are encouraged to return frequently as they will be able to search more of our collections and, in the meantime, are welcome to contact us at email@example.com to inquire about our complete holdings. We will also be glad to receive constructive comments in this way so we may work to improve the user experience.
To close, we would like to offer a word of thanks to the archdiocese's Information Technology Department for their assistance evaluating software and hosting options, and Atlas Systems for hosting the catalog and training our staff. It has been a team effort and we appreciate all your help!
- Thomas Lester is the archivist of the Archdiocese of Boston.
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