The time has come in which I have to say a sad goodbye to the amazing archival adventure I embarked on last Fall. With just a short week away from ending my graduate assistantship with UA Special Collections, I have yet to complete my last and biggest project. If you follow our blog, then you know that I have been working on digitizing photographs for the Arizona, Southwestern and Borderlands Collection. I have just submitted my descriptive metadata to my project supervisor and I am excited to see how I did. This has been the most challenging task I have taken on.
So far, I have encountered various issues in digitizing my selection. The first one had to do with image quality last week, which was an easy fix: re-scan. This week I missed a step in the process of saving the photographs, which set me back a couple of hours. Policy is to save images under TIFF format for preservation purposes. This is because TIFF format uses a lossless compression when saving an image that allows an exact, full quality copy of the photograph. However, we also save the images in a JPEG format to upload onto the web gallery. This is because it uses a lot less space and is quicker to upload. Again, it is the format that gets uploaded into the content managing system, since most people cannot tell the quality difference anyway. This meant that I had to go back and make sure all images were saved under both formats.
Describing images was not an easy task. I had to make sure that I could identify people, a Mexican revolutionary from a federalist, a soldier from an officer and the different railroads, buildings and cities and U.S. Army units I was looking at. That entailed plenty of research. Not only that, but then I had to come up with something short, accurate and clever to write about it (minus the clever part).
After a couple of days, I completed the description part and moved on to access terms. By policy, I had to use the LC TGM (Library of Congress Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms) I and II as guides for indexing visual materials. I had never worked with this source before, so I had to browse it before beginning the task at hand. The thesaurus had great, narrow terms, but there were two issues with it.
The first was that the format was long (United States—Army—Cavalry, 10th–People) and sometimes too narrow, such as having dates that did not match the records I was working with. Second, it had not been used in the existing digitized photographs which meant they would not look the same and new terms would have to be approved.
We decided that using the terms already approved and associated with the collection would be best practice. These next couple of days will be dedicated to revising metadata and finally uploading the data to CONTENTdm (our content management system) and the project will be finalized.
As I wrap up this assistantship and prepare to graduate, I realize I am going to miss working with all the rare books, facsimiles and photographs I love so much. I am thankful to everyone at Special Collections who shared their space, time and knowledge with me throughout my learning experience.
I am now ready to face the real world and find an archiving job. Wish me a happy hunting!