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Uncovering Archives and Rare Photographs: Two Models for Collective and Item-Level Description of Art-Historical Collections Using Archivists' Toolkit

Grant Period: January 2009–September 2010

Cover of High Performance magazine
Funded in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as part of their Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative, this project resulted in online finding aids that are now available on the Getty Research Institute's website (see lists below) and the Online Archive of California. This project also generated enhanced catalog records for a diverse range of archives and collections of manuscripts and rare photographs.

The larger goal of the project was to develop and test new tools, procedures, and workflows for more efficient processing in the future. Archivists' Toolkit, an open-sourced, archival data management system, was used to create Online Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids that allow for greater levels of machine-processing than with traditional text-document finding aids. The newer technology provides enhanced access and facilitates different display formats.

Archives and Manuscript Collections

Les mots parlent / Lettrist movement papers
The seven archival collections selected for this project date from the 20th century and demonstrate—through documentation of experiments with poetry and sound, spoken word, performance art, conceptual art, and criticism—that making art and talking about art are related enterprises.

Materials include letters, manuscripts, artists' books, audio and video recordings, drawings, printed ephemera, and photographic materials. The collections are of great research value to scholars across disciplines, from art history to literature to cultural studies to technology.

New Finding Aids:

Rare Photograph Collections

Puzzle, embellished and affixed to Coracle Press stationery
The rare photograph collections selected for this project document cities, sites, and peoples from around the world, with a focus on Asia and Latin America. The photographs are of research value to art historians as well as anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, and historians.

For each collection, an image list was accessible only to select staff. Depending on the size of the collection, the existing list was either used as the basis of a finding aid created in Archivists' Toolkit; transformed into a searchable PDF and linked to the catalog record; or entered into the catalog record itself.

Through this project, legacy image lists for 41 collections of rare photographs were transferred to Archivists' Toolkit, resulting in a new Excel template for future image lists that can be easily ingested and transformed into online finding aids.

New Finding Aids:


The grant also made possible the "Colloquium on Innovations in Archival Processing," held for 70 Los Angeles–area archivists on September 23, 2010, at the Getty Research Institute. Archivists shared recent innovations in archival processing and presented CLIR-funded projects.

The colloquium concluded with a panel discussion that explored ways scholars might help with archival processing.

Panel Discussion:

 Read the agenda (2pp., 61KB)

 Read the transcript (15pp., 344KB)

Listen to the audio

PowerPoint Presentations:

 Uncovering Archives and Rare Photographs (31pp., 3MB), Andra Darlington and Ann Harrison

 UCLA Library Special Collections (41pp., 2.4MB), Genie Guerard

 Uncovering California's Environmental Collections (11pp., 600KB), Adrian Turner

 He Was Too Busy Saving the World to File Anything: Using MPLP to Process the F. Sherwood Rowland Papers (15pp., 1MB), Dawn Schmitz

 Mellon Cataloging Project (18pp., 1.7MB), Brooke M. Black