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veritas Harvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1325 May 2005

  HUL Associate Director Barbara Graham and Harvard University Archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff  
 

HUL Associate Director Barbara Graham and Harvard University Archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff

 

Harvard University Library Notes / November 2005 / No. 1328

Conversation: Barbara Graham and Megan Sniffin-Marinoff

Since June 2005, HUL Associate Director Barbara Graham and Harvard University Archivist Megan Sniffin-Marinoff have provided interim leadership for the Harvard University Library's Open Collections Program (OCP). In a conversation with Library Notes on October 31, they reflected on the genesis of the program and discussed its future.

LN
It's exactly three years since the Hewlett Foundation made its founding gift for the Open Collections Program [see "Hewlett Foundation Awards $1.25 Million For Harvard Library Open Collections Program"]. What have we learned so far and what have we accomplished?

BG
Harvard's library holdings are extraordinary resources for teaching and research. Historically, the value of those holdings has accrued primarily to individuals fortunate enough to study at Harvard or to teach here. In the digital age, resources from Harvard's libraries can be made available in ways that we could not have envisioned a decade ago. OCP is also a strong reflection of Larry Summers's commitment to globalization.

We've developed "Women Working" with care, and it's proven to be a valuable and substantive online resource. It opens an effective window on Harvard's library and museum holdings—and that window is useful to a range of Internet users outside of the University. It's also proven valuable to Harvard students and faculty. Megan Hurst, the OCP outreach coordinator, has been tracking and documenting the use of "Women Working," and she's posted very persuasive statistics on the OCP web site [http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu]. We're very pleased with the growing visibility and use of the site and its content.

MSM
We've also learned a great deal about the process of creating these resources. Since last spring, much attention has been given to the complexities of describing digitized manuscript material at the item, folder, and collection levels. A working group—chaired by Anne Engelhart and including William Stoneman, Robin McElheny, Maggie Hale, Steven Riel, and Robin Wendler—has proposed changes to some of the descriptive practices used in "Women Working." Those changes are already taking effect.

LN
It is OCP's goal to create subject-based digital resources, open to the general public, that would link holdings across Harvard's libraries and museums. Are we achieving that goal?

BG
The answer is a resounding "yes." The curators, bibliographers, and public service librarians have been generous collaborators for OCP. They opened their doors and—quite literally—their collections to help shape the contours of an OCP resource. And it's worth enumerating the sources for "Women Working." These include books on domestic science from the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, as well as diaries and manuscripts on the lives of working women from its manuscript collections. Trade catalogs and industrial photographs from Baker Library at the Business School. Works on birth control, hygiene, medicine, and nursing from the Countway Library of Medicine. Legal treatises from the Harvard Law School Library, educational reports from the Gutman Library, and books on tenement life from the Frances Loeb Library. There are narrative accounts of work in the factories from Widener Library, statistical publications from Littauer Library, and photographs of social conditions from the Fogg Art Museum collections.

MSM
OCP and its resources will never supplant these physical collections. But uniquely, OCP is a venue that can link aspects of our many physical collections at a single URL—and make them available to anybody.

LN
How have changes in the Internet environment affected OCP?

BG
As Sid Verba likes to remind us, it's a worldwide phenomenon that many of today's students regard the Internet as the source of all information.

MSM
"Women Working" demonstrates how we can bridge that gap. OCP uses the Internet to bring people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographical locations into contact with historical library and archival materials. We're delivering the contents through web pages, but the original materials are cataloged, documented, authenticated, and preserved for long-term use here in the Harvard libraries.

LN
You've just announced a new OCP resource—"Emigration and Immigration"—as well as a likely topic—infectious disease [see page 3: "OCP to Develop 'Emigration and Immigration'"]. Will the selection process for these new resources follow the path of "Women Working"?

BG
In "Women Working," we learned how important it is to engage librarians and curators Harvard-wide to drive the selection process. As "Emigration and Immigration" has taken shape, we've done this formally and informally—in small conversations and ongoing committees.

MSM
We have a working group from "Emigration and Immigration" that includes Alison Scott, Laura Linard, Jan Vogt, and Barbara Burg. With their input and expertise, we've shaped "Emigration and Immigration." It's this newer model that OCP will follow for subsequent topics.

LN
In the next six months, what should we be watching for from OCP?

BG
"Emigration and Immigration" will be in full production mode. If you have materials that have been selected for it, you should expect to hear from Christine Madsen, Sarah Smith, and the OCP production and cataloging team.

MSM
We expect "Emigration and Immigration" to be complete—all materials digitized, all deliverable on a completed web site—by this coming May.

 

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