New year, new processing update

Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel, Blue Ridge Parkway, circa late 1950s-early 1960s
I may have been remiss lately in keeping you updated on our behind-the-scenes progress on the processing of the Hugh Morton collection. The fact is that I’ve been on the job for over a year now, and some days I feel like nothing’s gotten done! So much is going on at once, and no task ever feels “completed” (at least not yet).

But on other, calmer and saner days, I can begin to see things coming together — a glint of light at the end of the tunnel, you might say.

So, in bare bones format, here’s where we are at the beginning of 2009:

  1. Negatives and transparencies: I have begun the third and “final” (grain of salt added) pass through these, with the goal of opening them for research use once this pass is completed. They’re organized into series (and sub-, sub-sub-, and sometimes sub-sub-sub series) and described (at varying levels) in an Excel spreadsheet, from which I will extract the metadata to create a finding aid and a digital collection in CONTENTdm (like the McCauley Collection I mentioned previously).
  2. Slides: these are Amber’s territory at the moment. She has plowed her way through the 35mm slides from the 1960s and 1970s (sorting, describing, and re-housing), leaving the 1950s (already partially plowed), 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s to be completed. However, like a slide ninja, Amber is moving faster and more efficiently as she continues to hone her methods.
  3. Prints: languishing a bit at the moment, still awaiting their third pass.
  4. Motion picture film: also languishing, but not for long — a new School of Information and Library Science (SILS) student will be joining our team soon to tackle the processing, preservation, and description of the films. I’ll introduce her when the time comes.
  5. Scanning: David’s domain, still continuing full steam ahead. We’ve been digitizing a somewhat haphazard assortment thus far (responding to various priorities), but are now ready to focus our efforts on the aforementioned CONTENTdm digital collection, which will feature a selection of “highlights” from the Morton photos.
    (David will probably be jealous that I called Amber a slide ninja, so let’s go ahead and proclaim him a scanning ninja).
  6. Photo Identification: an ongoing, constant, mammoth, and never-ending task. All I can say is, we’re doing the best we can. I don’t think this job will ever be truly finished; there will always be more detail to add, more faces to match with names, more people with knowledge and stories to share. Right now, we’re just trying to provide access to the collection as quickly as possible. Then, let the sharing begin!

5 thoughts on “New year, new processing update

  1. I’m feeling really good about the 70’s slides. I have done 3-4 passes through them trying to identify people, flowers, places, etc. To date there are 16,285 slides that have been processed for the 70s. I have a little under 500 that I can’t seem to find a home for. They don’t seem to match up with the other rolls. Since my routine has gotten much more refined, I am going look at those 60s again and see if I can match their orphans. Hi-Ya!

  2. Question: What about the metadata? (and yes, I am aware that providing info about metadata is meta-metadata )

    Are you embedding metadata into the digitized files, or only putting it into your content management system? Are you using XMP (Adobe’s attempt to help standardize metadata into XML packets)?

  3. Interesting post, Elizabeth. I continue to be amazed at the complexities you guys have to overcome in processing the Morton Collection.

    The Morton photo you selected for this post is interesting as well. In my recent e-mail conversation with Lew Powell we talked about Hugh Morton’s use of black & white. This image, with its very high contrast, looks like it could have been taken with infrared film. Once again, if I remember correctly from my Physics 45 days at Carolina, you can achieve this kind of result by using black & white infrared film with a number 25 (red) filter.

  4. Tim, at this point we are just putting item-level metadata into CONTENTdm (as shown in the McCauley collection), not embedding it in the files themselves. I do think tools like XMP hold a lot of potential and are being explored and experimented with by digital libraries/archives, but we’re not quite there yet.

  5. The picture of the tunnel was, of course,taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I think Hugh used infrared film for this one (in the days when color was rare) because he liked the contrast – the snap – the film provided. I don’t suppose infrared is even made anymore.

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