My final week at Special Collections has arrived, but things haven’t calmed down yet. I, along with my two other wonderful GA colleagues, will be presenting in a showcase of our experiences in the archives to donors tomorrow. The ten-minute showcase of what we’ve accomplished will be akin to the writing of my experiences on this blog. I’ll touch upon my work with the Fred A. Riecker collection, the process involved in creating and encoding online finding aids, the digitization of photographs and creation of metadata for online exhibits. I am particularly enthused to have been exposed to the digital aspect of content management systems. Creating DACS compliant EAD finding aids on oXygen’s XML editor is something I will definitely continue to pursue experience in, along with digitizing photographs and creating Dublin Core metadata element tags on online content management systems like CONTENTdm and Omeka. Ensuring the security and provision of collections that have enduring value to a community or the general public will remain one of my fundamental objectives as I pursue a career in the cultural heritage archival field.
For my final couple of assignments at Special Collections, I was tasked with a number of different objectives. First, I was to become familiar with the processes involved in building a physical exhibit to be displayed in the Special Collections gallery. This process entails initial research on the subject in question, coupled with an exploration of pertinent objects located within the repository, finally followed by some intellectual and logical ordering of the artifacts for display and exhibit. Next month, the Special Collections will be opening an exhibit to honor Ray Bradbury’s life and work in science-fiction and beyond in conjunction with a book signing by Gloria McMillan, recent editor of Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars: Biographical, Anthropological, Literary, Scientific and Other Perspectives. As a result of this exciting news (astronomy is a light hobby of mine), I delved into the Special Collection’s holdings of pulp science-fiction magazines and digests searching for material that featured Ray Bradbury.
Dating back to the 1940s, I was able to pull close to a hundred magazines or digests that featured Ray Bradbury in them. He was a prolific writer of the short story genre, but this number does not even include the vast number of books and poems he has written, either. Because Ray Bradbury touched upon almost everything in his literature, I had to really try and focus on his science fiction writing; more specifically, anything that had to do with Mars. This proved a more manageable strategy as I was continuing to gather materials for the exhibit. Finally, after having gone through the expansive amount pulp-sci-fi magazines and digests, I came away with a pretty good idea of the items that were going to be highlighted in the exhibit and those that would serve a supplementary role (some pulp sci-fi digests only featured his name as a contributing author while others dedicated their covers to the man), whilst being able to become more familiar with our collection as a whole. We also have some neat Copernican and Galilean rare books, as well as a number of unique photographic pieces of Mars’ early exploration by local astronomers that you will have to come see for yourself!
My other activity for the past month has consisted of curating metadata for the online exhibit of the de la Torre collection, a Catholic family of priests and clergy who helped bring the counter-revolutionary movement of La Cristiada, the Cristero War, to Northern Mexico as they fought for their religious liberties during the 1920s. I edited the text that had already been translated into Spanish by a previous intern and translated some section narratives into Spanish, as well. However, the technical aspect was more engaging as I became familiar with the Omeka software utilized by Special Collections to host their digital exhibits. A spreadsheet in Excel contains a table of all the metadata that has been created for the digital exhibit and arranges fields like title, subjects, description (in Spanish), description (in English), creator, date, publisher, filename, source, relation and coverage for greater organization. Importing the metadata from the spreadsheet to the digital online content management system, Omeka, requires tedious observation and constant error checking because the metadata exists in droves. Fortunately, the metadata seems to have been uploaded with no issues.
As I continue my search for jobs after graduation, I hope to be able to depend on the skills learned here at the Special Collections. I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn from the wonderful staff and am forever indebted to them for the experience they have so graciously afforded me. India, Roger, Maurita, Veronica, Bob and Erika: a big thank you! You have been great and I hope to be able to work in a professional capacity with all of you one day.