Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MPLP Thoughts

My name is Aimee Dus, and I am interning at Northeast Historic Film while finishing up my degree at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science. I’m excited to be working with film for the first time, and I’m interested in seeing how topics from my coursework on paper based archives relate to film. For example, can, and should, "More Product, Less Process" techniques apply to collections of film and other media? Discussion of MPLP* started with the necessity of dealing with backlogs of huge modern manuscript collections. MPLP guidelines typically discourage processing at the item level, but this practice may not be desirable for film collections. A film reel is not really analogous to an individual document in a set of records, and vital information is not discoverable when individual reels are not described. Another option then, is to focus on making description of each reel more efficient. A cataloger could, for example, abandon shot by shot description of a reel, and instead compose a short summary of the reel's overall content and theme.

Another area where streamlined processing techniques could be applied to film collections is using the accessioning process to complete basic descriptive work. Christine Weideman, in her article “Accessioning as Processing,” discusses practices she established at Yale to alleviate a processing backlog. Having established minimum level descriptive standards for the Yale repository, staff now complete basic finding aids for all collections on accession. A critical step in this process is engaging donors at the beginning of the process so they are aware of limited processing and can give insight into the materials. Weideman even sometimes enlists donors to help with writing series level description. Involving interested donors in the initial processing of a collection could be especially useful for amateur film archives since so many of the films are home movies that donors know well through years of viewing. While these steps do complicate the accessioning process and may not work for every institution, taking advantage of donor knowledge could prevent a collection from entering a processing backlog and make its content immediately available for researchers.

* “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing” by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner, 2005.


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