Authority files

April 15, 2009

I don’t know if any of you have run into the same situation with authorities that I have…

The  archives was originally setup  with item cataloging.  All  folders  are items in the card catalog.   I estimate  at best  20% of the  card catalog has  be converted to  MARC  and in our Voyager catalog. Since I came I’ve been item cataloging the digitized photographs.

Once Archivist’s Toolkit showed up on the scene, I’ve been trying to do incoming materials as collections.  Also, pulling some of the existing “items” together into subject collections for ease of use.

Now the names and subjects headings that are in the Voyager catalog are not in the AT names and subjects and visa versa.  I want to be as precise with our local names and subjects as p0ssible.  Here is my plan:

  • I have Pauline, a super precise cataloger in our Tech Services, working with me.
  • Pauline is checking the names and subjects I have already put in AT for correctness. (I’m not a cataloger by training.)
  • She is then going through Voyager and checking that the headings conform to AT.
  • I’m using AT as THE authority file.  As I’m cataloging more photos or adding collections, I check the AT headings.  If a heading isn’t there, I add one.
  • I’m keeping track of my additions to send to Pauline, so she can check for correctness.  I’m hoping this way new things won’t slip through the cracks, as she moves alphabetically down the list.

I hope I’m not making both Pauline’s and my life too complicated. It just seems there are so many possibilities for forms of all those faculty and alum names that without an authority file we might loose someone.

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5 Responses to “Authority files”


  1. If you are dealing with local names, the authority records you create may not match those of other local repositories. You might want to create a working group of representatives from local libraries, archives, and museums and come up with a union list of local authority records that can be used by all repositories. That way, one researcher does not have to use three or more differing authority records to search all of your databases. A little work and coordination, but well worth it in the end for the researcher and the cataloger.

  2. undergroundarchivist Says:

    We are doing the exact same thing. As we are putting items into our digital library, we are also putting the local authority files into AT.

  3. Karen Weaver Says:

    You could also check the freely availabel Library of Congress National Authority files available at : http://authorities.loc.gov select the Authorized heading button on the left hand side of each name/heading

    Are you familiar with the Getty Thesauri -?
    also useful if its not in your Archives Toolkit

    It can get time consuming one by one and you
    will ‘ideally’ need to accurately verify
    your names somehow –don’t guess if they
    seem ‘ballpark’ matches. check the information
    in each authority file heading below for
    more identification of your name, works etc

    Best, Karen Weaver


    • Thanks for the thoughts. I’ll check out Getty Thesauri. We already use LC authorities. The names and heading we all to AT are for all those alumni/ae and faculty that are not
      yet

      important enough to show up in other sources.

  4. karen weaver Says:

    They just need to be established as new NAF headings then…slower process but same authority work needed to support your headings. As you know, one just can’t match ballpark dates etc and why it so often goes to the wayside…staff time involved. depends on how much of a priority it is to your organization.
    good luck / karen w


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