Special Collections Librarians, To Me!
July 15, 2013 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find a good introduction to best practices for cataloging a newly fledged popular culture document archive?

I’m the freshly minted associate director of PLAGMADA, the PLAy Generated Map & Document Archive (previously), and one of the things we’re hoping to do is implement a useful cataloging system for the archive. Currently, the digital archive is based on some web gallery software and is not searchable in any practical way. I’m hoping to catalog our holdings along a variety of classifications as well as establish a submission form for new donations that will help us collect information that will help with integrating said donations into the catalog. The catalog is also going to be referencing the actual materials, which we have arranged to have archived eventually at the National Museum of Play. For various reasons, the digital archives are not going to be fully extensive with our material holdings.

While PLAGMADA is probably unique as an archive in many ways, I’m sure that this sort of thing has been tackled by special collections librarians plenty of times and that there are manuals and field guides to this sort of thing. It’s a difficult enough undertaking without our also turning it into the outsider art of the cataloging world.

Bonus points for any pointers to a FOSS solution for a special-collections-friendly collections database that has a good web front end.
posted by ursus_comiter to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might get more/better answers directing this to a listserv full of catalogers and/or archivists, such as A&A, DIGLIB, or AUTOCAT.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:45 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: 2nding AUTOCAT. This is what they answer best.

I am not a Special Collections librarian (yet) but I am a cataloger. With my minimal experience, I would first try to set up a system using CollectiveAccess, which is Dublin Core-based and allows for digital files like images as well as GPS data. I played around with it and it seems like a searchable, easy-to-use database that functions like both a web gallery and a catalog. It seemed quite comprehensive-- there's a demo at collectiveaccess.org. It's open source so all you need is a server once you've got everything input. Good luck, it sounds like a cool project!
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:46 PM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: What an awesome job! I have all the envy.

I'm going to throw another organization into the mix: the Visual Resources Association is where a lot of work on cataloging (you guessed it) visual resources happens. They help maintain Cataloging Cultural Objects. (Which I'm NOT saying is what you want to use -- not an expert in the area -- just putting it out there as an example.)

RBMS is one of the other traditional homes for special collections folks, so definitely ask there, too.

And definitely ask the archivists you meet for their input, but I believe ArchivesSpace is the up-and-coming FOSS thing, though it might be overkill for your collection. Which is THE BEST collection ever.
posted by lillygog at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: Don't let the title fool you. I'm a volunteer. :) And by we, I mean me and the guy that started this up and has been juggling the whole thing on his own for the past few years.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:23 AM on July 16, 2013

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