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Houghton's 100th Online Manuscript Finding Aid

On May 1, Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library reached a milestone when it added its 100th guide, the guide to the Amy Lowell papers, to the OASIS catalog. OASIS (http://oasis.harvard.edu) is Harvard University's union catalog of guides, or finding aids, which describe archives and manuscripts in a growing number of repositories in the Harvard system.

Houghton's Manuscript Department has been involved in the implementation of Encoded Archival Description (EAD), the recognized standard for encoding finding aids for web use. All new cataloging since EAD's inception in 1995 is available on OASIS and, selectively, older typescript finding aids have been converted to electronic form, encoded, and added.

"It's been a slow process," said Leslie A. Morris, curator of manuscripts in the Harvard College Library, "but that situation will soon change." Houghton Library has been given a matching grant under the University's Library Digital Initiative (LDI) for a two-year pilot project to begin conversion of its older finding aids. These funds have enabled Houghton to hire a full-time conversion coordinator to investigate and apply 'best methods' for converting typescript finding aids, as well as to manage the project. "We estimate that Houghton has about 2,650 finding aids, or some 70,000 pages, to convert—but that doesn't include the handwritten ones," said Morris.

"The College has been creating finding aids since the 19th century. We hope to convert about two-thirds over two years, including most of our'modern' ones."

"While 100 out of 2,650 may not seem like much," commented Morris, "for us, it marks the end of a period of struggle to get this work done, and the beginning of a very exciting time. It is crucial that detailed information about unique Houghton collections be easily available over the Internet. More and more, students and faculty make the web their first research stop."

Added William P. Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library, "We hope that this pilot project will not only provide improved access to Houghton Library collections, but will also provide the information to move the University forward on conversion of all finding aids within the Harvard system. We estimate there may be 14,500 of them. The Harvard manuscript and archival collections are incredibly rich primary research resources, and those of us who care for them want to make it easier for people to find what is here, and use it."

For more information contact Leslie Morris, 5-2449.

A Note on the Amy Lowell Papers
It is particularly appropriate that Houghton's 100th online finding aid is the guide to the papers of poet Amy Lowell (1874-1925). One of a distinguished Boston family that includes her brother, Abbot Lawrence Lowell, president of the University, 1909-1933, and the poets James Russell Lowell and Robert Lowell, her own poetry became identified with the movement of Imagism, and she was its most prominent practitioner.

She also established the Amy Lowell Fund which has supported many of the library's most important literary acquisitions-from the notebooks of Alfred Lord Tennyson to the papers of e.e. cummings, Robert Lowell, and Wole Soyinka.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.