Getting to Work

After some introductions to the collection and some unforeseen problems with our wifi connection (which have finally been resolved), yesterday was our first full day of cataloguing.  We spent the day learning how to use the XML language (fairly easy) and working through the more theoretical issues involved with our particular cataloguing project (somewhat more difficult).  While a few of my colleagues have experience with library cataloguing, none of us have ever had to develop a cataloguing system from the ground up, which turns out to be more complex than I had imagined.  Since last year, we have made significant changes to our process in an attempt to make our data more reliable and uniform.  Many of these changes have involved implementing authority controls to several fields of our records, so that we fall in line with modern cataloguing standards.  In an attempt to make our catalogue as universal as possible, we have chosen to encode such fields according to both RISM and Library of Congress standards.  Moreover, as we begin to delve into specific manuscripts, we sometimes find ourselves rethinking our cataloguing philosophy or encountering unanticipated needs that require adjustments to the XML schema that governs our data entry.

The effect of these changes is that we are, in some ways, straying from the path marked out by our colleagues in last year’s Ostiglia team and forging a new path.  This task is made somewhat more daunting by the departure of our awesome tech specialist, William Guerin, whose help has been invaluable during these first few days.  Still, the more we work with the records, the more familiar we become with the possibilities this project holds.  I suspect that over the next few days we will continue to fine tune the cataloging process in an effort to make our data as useful as possible to future scholars.



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