This was the first day for all M-LEAD interns. I met with my supervisor and head cataloging librariain, Beth Kushner. We set up my network log in, email, etc... We then spent about an hour going over the basic process of cataloging verticle files into WorldCat. We then went on a tour of the building with M-LEAD coordinator, Jennifer Chisnell, who was well equiped with stories about the history of the museum itself and how various permanent collections came to live at the Brooklyn Museum. It certainly put a new spin on collections I had seen many times before. After lunch we had we had a general orientation to the Libraries and Archives with Dierdre Lawrence, Beth Kushner and Angie Park, followed by orientation to the Digital Lab with Deborah Wythe. The day ended with refreshments in the libraries beautiful old reading room with the rest of the library staff.
The first full day in the library was spent learning the intracacies of using the OCLC software and more about MARC 21. I got started cataloging institutional files. By the end of the day I completed about 20 records, and finally felt like I had the hang of it. Though the process is very straightforward and prescribed, I realized the fun part is actually when something is not so cut and dry. Figuring out the names of galleries as they have changed over the years, when something is actually part a separtate institution versus just a name change and tracking down folders that have already been cataloged but mis-filed. An additional part of this process is making a note in a separate database that tracks folders that have materials that are of particular interest to the museums collections and missions statement (Egyptian Art, American Art, Brooklyn Institutions, etc...). I am interested to see how this information can be used later.
Beth Kushner invited me to attend this OCLC event since it applied to what I was doing at the internship, and it fell on my usual day anyway. It was called, "Good Practices for Great Outcomes: Cataloging Efficiencies that Make a Difference." I found it very useful to hear about the kind of issues we discuss in classes at Pratt, being discussed in more practical, day to day type of contexts. One issue that seemed encompass all of the different panels and speakers was how to make the most with the least. Issues such as copy cataloging when cataloging staff gets cut but acquistions do not. Also collaboration among various institutions and within institutions but between departments. This is one thing that we have discussed in a lot of my classes and it was great to hear how programs like this actually get implemented. Some of information on OCLC was a admittedly a little above my head, since they mostly discussed what new applications they offer, and I am not yet totally familiarized with their existing software. I particularly enjoyed the first speaker though, Karen Calhoun, Vice President of Metadata Services of OCLC who talked about trends in cataloging and the latest perspectives on metadata. Particularly interesting was her discussion of the gap in allocation of labor in libraries. She noted that 70% of daily activities are devoted to print materials, whereas students (and the general public) are becoming more and more concerned with digital access, so shouldn't more resources be put into this? Overall, this was a great way to talk with people in the field and learn about the daily issues affecting catalogers and librarians.
After completing approximately 20 records (in about half the amount of time as last time, I'm getting the hang of it!) Dierdre Lawrence forwarded a reference question on to me, which applied to the verticle files I was cataloging. (See attached file at the bottom of this page). It was great to know that people out there (in Texas in this case) are finding these records that I and interns before me have worked so hard to make accesible. In this case a researcher was interested in a specific show at a gallery in Manhattan in 1939 featuring Salvador Dali. I was able to find some material relating to the show, though I am not sure any of it was helpful, as she already had quite a bit of information it seemed. It was still very rewarding to know that someone was finding this information, that it was useful, and could be used to answer (hopefully) important questions for art researchers. Also today, all of the interns had lunch with Dierdre Lawrence. She discussed her recent attendance to a conference at the Peabody-Essex museum in Salem, MA. We discussed her participation and what she learned from others about trends and directions of the field. I think the most important thing I took away from this talk, is the importance of networking, not just with other librarians, but Tech. folks, historians, curators, web developers, etc... There are so many different types of professions that are becoming more and more connected as the world of museums, libraries and archives moves more and more toward digital. Its time to break down these silos and collaborate if libraries want to stay afloat in this environment.
I got through a significant chunk of records today, I'm definitely getting faster and am able to learn more and more about MARC and OCLC. The only subject access we are putting in right now, aside from the title of the institution, is if the institution is a Brooklyn Gallery. It's great to be able to add a some amount of local specificity to the collection, as the beauty of veriticle files is really about what separates the collection from others, and usually that is geography and the speciality of the institution. It is especialy rewarding to be able to put this access on galleries that are not in LOC authorities or anywhere else in OCLC, that may have just been small and short lived ventures. The collection of these little Brooklyn Galleries as a whole could be really interesting to researchers.
Today we able to go on tour of the preservation lab with the museum's conservator, Keith Duquette. I have been interested in preservation for some time and found it fascinating. It's amazing how much work goes into some of these books and manuscripts. At an institution like the Brooklyn Museum, the conservators have to get pretty creative with how they preserve some of the items. For instance, the Brooklyn Museum has a lot of artist books, which have a wide variety of needs. One in particular actually had living plant life that had been growing (and then decaying) on the cover that Keith actually created a glass box for. I think it helps to have some amount of artistic creativity (as well as biology and chemistry background, a hard combo to find it would seem) in order to best preserve some of these items. I found out later that Keith is indeed an artist as well, which is one reason he does such a good job.
One step in the process of cataloging these verticle files is after finding the LOC authorized heading, to search Brookmuse (the Brooklyn Museum's catalog) to make sure it's not already cataloged. Since so many of this files had been mislabled or misplaced over time, or the folder will sometime contain an old name for an institution, it helps to make sure the file doesn't alreay exist in the catalog, somewhere else in the collection. I started checking the entire Arcade consortium catalog instead out of curiosity, to see if there was indeed files on some of the same institutions at the Frick or MOMA. What I started noticing was that MOMA Queens, does indeed have many of the same files as the Brooklyn Museum. This is different than P.S.1, what I originally though P.S.1 meant. MOMA has a library in Queens that things are sent back and forth from the museum to the Queens location. I decided to start making notes of how many of the files that I am cataloging are already at MOMA. This strikes me as beneficial to researchers, especiallly researching New York institutions from out of town. Should be interesting.
I began my tally of what files were also at MOMA and so far it seems there is about a 30% overlap, although its too early to tell right now. I would have to get a larger survey to tell. Additionally today I was able to attend a staff tour for a new exhibit "Seductive Subversions" about women pop artists. Though I found the exhibit extremely interesting it struck me how removed the library's day to day functions often are from the larger institution. I had heard about the exhibit but really didn't know much about it, and here the curator was talking about the years of planning that went into this. This is a good example of those silos we talked about during our lunch with Dierdre on October 8th. However, there was a glimmer of hope in a couple of display cases devoted to materials from the libraries and archives that were related to the exhibit.
I spoke with Beth, my supervisor, about the possibility of interviewing the cataloger at the MOMA and she was excited about the idea. I found out a few things. One is that the MOMA did make the decision to catalog their verticle files before the Brooklyn Museum and their project is completed. I believe also this did influence the decision of the Brooklyn Museum to do individual catalog records for each file, opposed to a searchable database, or collection level finding aid type of access. This way a researcher looking for these specific types of materials doesn't have to look in different places to access them, and the record look similar too, making it easy search and understand the results. I am interested, as part of final project, to see what type of results the MOMA has gotten from putting their verticle files on line. I would also like to explore, of those files that are the same, are the contents similar as well? Additionally, how are our collections different, since the Brooklyn Museum has a different focus (Egyptian, African, Asian... from all time periods) thant the MOMA who is interested in contemporary art?
As I begin to think about what I would like to discus with Danny Fermon, cataloger for the MOMA, I start thinking as well about other possible ways to provide access. Although title of the institution or artist and making the information available in the OPAC that the file exists is unarguably the first step, and probably the most important thing you can do, I start to see other ways that this material might be utilized, that this type of cataloging doesn't account for. For instance, the subject access to Brooklyn galleries is one important step in increased access. But I wonder how else we can draw researchers in to the special collections that lie within the verticle files. There seems to be an assumption that most art institutions with these types of collections hold much of the same material. If MOMA and Brooklyn Museum's overlap is only 30% we start to see how this might be true. So how can we hightlight these unique collections. It is a topic I wish to further explore in my paper.
Today instead of writing about what I did I will show the various steps
Here's the Library of Congress Name Authorities page.
This is a veiw of a record in progress in OCLC. You will see that the subject heading: Art galleries, Commercial. Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) is in blue but the gallery name heading Park Slope Artists Council is not. That is because this is an example of a unique record to the Brooklyn Museum. This heading was not validated because it does not exist in Libary of Congress Name Authorities.
This is the record exported to the Brooklyn Museum's cataloging module, Millenium. This step ensure that the record shows up in Arcade and Brookmuse. Clicking on the stack of books icon takes you to the next screen...
That's pretty much it, refile and repeat.
The further I get into the internship, the more I find myself adding to the "Collections - Areas of Interest" database. I am starting to really see how unique some of these files are and how useful they could be for researchers. After speaking with Beth, it seems like there is no solid plan yet for how they will use this information, but it sounds like they might apply for a grant to further catalog files that have have materials in their areas of interest. This might be by cataloging or digitizing some of the materials individually, or by creating a collection level finding aid that highlights these areas of interest. I am curious to see which direction they chose to take it in.
Out of curiousity, I begain searching for "file" and the name of the institution I am cataloging in OCLC rather than arcade, to see what other institutions have these materials. I noticed that especially for more local galleries, we and possibly MOMA are often the only ones that come up. Of course, this doesn't mean that these files don't exist other places, they just might not be cataloged or they might be cataloged differently. I think it still points to some amount of individuality in these collections.
As I make my way through the "R's" and near the end of the internship, I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Myself and interns before have made their way through the entirety of the artists' files and through a majority of the institutional files. It looks to me like this project can be wrapped up next semester by the next M-LEAD intern. It is extremely exciting to know that all of this information will be discoverable, for the most part. Of course, these collections need constant maintenance and I hear there is already a backlog building of material to be filed, which means possible creation of more records as well.
Although I have not directly received any more reference inquiries, Beth has been forwarding onto me every time someone requests to view a file or wants more information about one. Though the amount of requests are still relatively low at this point, it is nice to know that they are being utilized. It is also very interesting that most of these requests are from out of state researchers who most likely see the record in Worldcat and request more information about what is in the file. I assume that the researchers who visit the library and receive direct assistance from the reference staff also use vertical file material in their research, but this information might not be forwarded onto the cataloging staff. Whether it is that the majority of people expressing interest in this material are from out of state, or if its just some small amount, I'm glad this collection isn't hidden away from the public any longer.
Today was short day to try to squeeze all my hours in before the 17th, but I was pretty impressed with myself and how much I could get done in 3 hours. I think the fairly tedious nature of the process lends itself to being able to get a lot done in short spurts. I think as the day goes on, I tend to burn out and slow down significantly. If I could recommend to next semesters intern one thing, it might be to try to go in a couple days a week for a few hours instead of all day one day a week. Not many people have that sort of flexibility of schedule. I think for a full time staff member doing this kind of cataloging, they would have to break it up with other tasks.
Hana Shisu textile pattern courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum