Empire Archives Discovery Collaborative

A MARAC Newark 2017 session;

Chair: Déirdre Joyce, Central NY Library Resources Council
Jen Palmentiero, Southeastern New York Library Resources Council
Laura Streett, Vassar College
Greg Wiedeman, University at Albany, SUNY

Blogpost Author: Barbara Gombach, student, LIU-Palmer Archives & Records Management Certificate Program, bgombach@gmail.com

Discover. Connect. Engage. That’s the three-part mission of the Empire State Library Network (ESLN). One of its signature projects, the Empire ADC (Archives Discovery Collaborative), has created a centralized online finding aid repository and index enabling the discovery of New York State’s vast and varied archival holdings through a single portal. Already nearly 1,000 finding aids strong, portal contents are now poised to grow significantly, putting Empire ADC on track to realize its developers’ ambition to join states such as Texas (Portal to Texas History), California (Online Archive of California), Colorado (History Colorado), and Virginia (Virginia Memory).

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Giving the background and timeline of the Empire ADC project to date, Déirdre Joyce got the presentation started. Next, Jen Palmentiero described how the team adopted and adapted a form-fill tool called EADitor that team member Ethan Gruber had developed at the American Numismatic Society. With EADitor, less technically-inclined users can create EAD-compliant finding aids without deep understanding of the standard. An IMLS SPARKS grant allowed the team further to develop EADitor for use in small cultural heritage organizations. The grant had three objectives: 1) create collection-level records with “help tips” and optionally upload box-level descriptions from existing finding aids, 2) create a super-administrative database, and 3) develop a training program and related materials piloted through workshops around the State.

The team also developed a harvester in order to ingest, index and store, and create access for the finding aids. Using GitHub, the team has validated and ingested finding aids from the University at Albany, SUNY as well as from the American Numismatic Society via OAI-PMH.

Following Jen Palmentiero’s demonstration of EADitor – including its linked data features and multiple facets – Déirdre Joyce led a panel discussion of topics that brought the development of this important project to life, including team members’ personal motivations for getting involved, how the training workshops and materials have evolved (Laura Streett), the challenges for contributors at the harvester level (Greg Wiedeman), prospects for long-term sustainability (Jen Palmentiero), and what has surprised team members most about the project so far.

Solutions to the vexed challenge of putting aggregate-level access on par with item-level access in digital collections are on the far horizon due to recent work done by DPLA and others…. but that’s another story. Thanks to the talented and dedicated Empire ADC team and ESLN, it won’t be too long now before New York State’s archival collections will truly be discoverable worldwide.

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