Although it seems like a million years, it actually was not so long ago that our students were processing at the Independence Seaport Museum. While we were there, we were faced with one of the limitations of our minimal processing time frames. The archivist there, Matt Herbison (now at Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center) had a few spreadsheets detailing information on ships’ plans—information that made the collections truly useful to researchers. Problem was, there were thousands of entries in the spreadsheets and we knew that our processors could never re-key or copy/paste that information into the Archivists’ Toolkit in the time allotted for the processing.
Because we knew that this information would really make a difference for users, we thought and thought of ways to make this work, but our best solution involved saving the spreadsheet as a pdf and linking to it from the finding aid–not very elegant. And then Matt, who really is extraordinarily techie, created this amazing spreadsheet that solved the problem. To sweeten the deal even more, he offered Courtney and me the use of the spreadsheet for the project.
I will now make a very bold statement: this spreadsheet made it possible for us to finish the project within the time frame. Not only did we use it at the Seaport, our processors used it for original data entry at repositories that had spotty internet connections, technical troubles, and/or did not adopt the Archivists’ Toolkit. Our Archivists’ Toolkit cataloger used it as a starting point for almost all electronic legacy finding aids.
Matt has offered to share this spreadsheet with everyone. It is available here and we have created a guide for using the spreadsheet. In a nutshell, each column in the spreadsheet maps to specific field in the Archivists’ Toolkit. It has three levels of hierarchy below the collection level, so it not the tool of choice if your finding aids has sub-sub series and items, but for most modern finding aids, it is the ticket. I should say, though, that it is not necessarily a quick process if you are starting with existing data … time needs to be taken to combine columns, format data, and check for errors. If you know how to use regular expressions, you can really streamline some of this work. If you are doing original data entry, the use of the spreadsheet is incredibly efficient for getting container lists into the Archivists’ Toolkit.
This means that anyone with knowledge of MS Excel can create finding aids and take legacy information from an electronic format to xml. Pretty awesome! I will say that a little knowledge of EAD is very useful and understanding the Archivists’ Toolkit will make decisions in data entry easier. Many of our students preferred working with the spreadsheet rather than the Archivists’ Toolkit, but it is a matter of preference. I think it is a little harder to see the hierarchy when using the spreadsheet, but it is a thousand times easier fix error in Excel than in the Archivists’ Toolkit. Check it out, try it out and see if it changes your life.
Yes, I did say that … I think it could change your life!
Thanks SO much to Matt Herbison!