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Houghton Hits 1,000 Finding Aids

The Manuscript Department of the Houghton Library posted its 1,000th finding aid to OASIS, the Online Archival Search Information System, in June. Houghton is one of the major contributors to OASIS—Harvard's electronic catalog of finding aids for archival and manuscript collections—creating 1,000 of the 1,600 total aids in the system. Houghton's 1,000th finding aid was: Santayana, George. Miscellaneous papers.

Finding aids, which are detailed descriptions of the contents of archival and manuscript collections, usually include an inventory of the material in a collection and background information about the person, family, or organization that created the material. In traditional printed form, they range in length from two to hundreds of pages—depending on the size of the collection and the level of description. OASIS provides a web-accessible interface to finding aids across the Harvard system and it provides researchers with the ability to browse, to search by keyword and phrase in a variety of indices, and to limit searches.

OASIS was developed through Harvard's University-wide Library Digital Initiative to provide centralized, online access to a growing percentage of finding aids for the University's archival and manuscript collections.

"Scholars can organize research trips more effectively because OASIS allows them to see into the collection from anywhere in the world. Previously, scholars had to come to Houghton, or call us, to find out if we had manuscripts that related to their research. Now, they can walk into the library with precise questions about a specific item, ready to start their work," said Leslie Morris, chair of the OASIS Steering Committee and curator of manuscripts in the Harvard College Library.

Houghton's finding aids include both new collections cataloged since 1995 (when Houghton first began contributing to OASIS) and older finding aids converted as part of the ongoing retrospective conversion project. Finding aids from all Houghton departments, including Manuscripts, Printing and Graphic Arts, and the Harvard Theatre Collection, have been added. In the next year, the Manuscripts Department will add finding aids for the Harry Elkins Widener Collection, the Woodberry Poetry Room, and Rare Books.

According to Morris, "Every cataloger in the Manuscripts Department contributed to this achievement: Bonnie Salt, Chip Coakley, Melanie Wisner, and Beth Carroll-Horrocks. But special recognition should be given to the contribution of Jackie Dean, finding aids conversion coordinator, who headed the retrospective conversion effort for the past 20 months, and her team of students."

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Last modified on Tuesday, September 16, 2003.