This blog post was written by MARMIA’s 2021 Remote Summer Intern from Ryerson University, Iris Robinson. Iris lives in Canada and remotely worked this May-August on making our WJZ-TV Collection and our home movie collections more accessible.
This summer, I had the opportunity to complete a remote internship at MARMIA over the course of 12 weeks. The primary goal of my internship was to work towards making MARMIA’s collections more accessible and more discoverable, and I largely focused on the WJZ-TV Collection and the home movie collections. Though I began with WJZ-TV, my main focus would become the development of a proposal for describing MARMIA’s home movies. This would culminate in the creation of a resource record for the A. Harvey Schreter Collection in ArchivesSpace. Reflecting on the tasks that I carried out over the course of my internship, I am thrilled to have been able to gain this experience, since my work at MARMIA aligned quite closely with my own research interests and provided me with an excellent learning opportunity. As such, I am overjoyed to have had the chance to learn these skills within the context of a regional archive, and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to contribute to MARMIA’s preservation work.
My tasks with the WJZ-TV Collection largely consisted of data entry. WJZ-TV is MARMIA’s largest collection. It contains approximately 22,000 videos holding local television and news footage produced by the Baltimore television station WJZ-TV, with a date range of 1950s-2000. Within the collection, I worked with the Evening Magazine series and the Unidentified Footage series. “Evening Magazine” was a television program that highlighted local and everyday news stories. In addition to WJZ-TV in Baltimore, it was programmed with respective local content on television stations in Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. Shot on videotape, the “Evening Magazine” series at MARMIA consists of 4,676 U-Matic tapes, with a date range of 1977-1991. The Unidentified Footage series is a mixture of videotape and film, with a date range of 1965-1993. It is composed of materials whose true series are unknown, or whose series have not yet been identified.
To enter the series into ArchivesSpace, I followed a workflow manual written by a former intern at MARMIA, Zoe Yang. The predominant method of ingesting resources and metadata into ArchivesSpace that I used was via Excel spreadsheet uploads. While the “Evening Magazine” series was very easily automated, the Unidentified Footage series did present some difficulties since there was an increased supply of material that could be included in a Scope and Contents note. For many of these instances, I entered them manually into ArchivesSpace after I had already ingested all of the corresponding objects via a bulk spreadsheet upload. While data entry might sound like tedious work, I actually really enjoyed this task. I did not have any prior experiences with archival information management platforms such as ArchivesSpace, and my experience in cataloguing more generally had been quite minimal. I enjoyed inputting the data from the text document into the Excel spreadsheet, and being able to see the thought process for choices made during cataloguing. Further, I found it extremely interesting to be able to see how the metadata found its way from a text document, to an Excel spreadsheet, to ArchivesSpace, and finally to the front end presentation of the MARMIA catalogue. I think that this task fostered a strong understanding of automation and workflow; both in development of and execution, which was especially driven in my careful reading of Yang’s manual and through my weekly check-ins with MARMIA President and CEO Siobhan Hagan. Most importantly, the practical experience that I developed through data entry greatly propelled my ability to confront my next major task; working to develop a proposal for the home movies collections.
The goal of the home movies project was to create a guide to describe the home movie collections in ArchivesSpace and to import existing digital objects from Internet Archive into Aviary. The resource records in ArchivesSpace would then be linked to the digital objects in Aviary, and would be able to be accessed by researchers via the front end presentation of ArchivesSpace. To begin this project, I was able to access a Google doc with information pertaining to MARMIA’s six home movie collections. This included condition reports, deeds of gift, historical/biographical documents, inventories, and links to Internet Archive digital objects. After I became acquainted with the home movie collections I began regularly meeting with MARMIA Board Member Megan McShea, who compiled a list of valuable resources and guided me in writing a proposal for describing the collections. While writing the proposal, I found it difficult to articulate ideas for the collection-level metadata without working through an example. I began to use the A. Harvey Schreter Collection to consider different options and variations of the collection-level description. As a result, I was able to create a resource record in ArchivesSpace for this particular collection.
The A. Harvey Schreter Collection is composed of ten 16mm films, with a date range of 1952-1963. The films were created by Schreter over the course of his personal family life. As such, the films depict scenes of everyday life, such as; anniversaries, birthdays, children playing, family holidays, and weddings. The collection was donated to MARMIA by Schreter’s daughter, Carol Ann Schreter, who is featured in many of the films. Reading the biographical/historical documents presented the most difficult challenge in proposing how to describe this collection. Due to the deeply personal nature of Schreter’s films, descriptions surrounding the biographical/historical note, the scope and contents, and the arrangement needed to be expressed in a meaningful way that reflected the content of the films, rather than the format. (This method of organization was likely my most significant point of learning while completing my internship; not just in terms of home movie descriptions, but for describing collections more generally). The majority of the collection’s biographical/historical note came from Schreter’s obituary, and it was my aim to include aspects of his biography that reflected the films’ content, such as; family information, important dates, interests and hobbies, and regional information pertaining to Baltimore. The scope and contents likewise functioned to reflect these themes. For the arrangement I proposed that sorting the films chronologically would be the most appropriate, since it acted as a progression of Schreter’s life.
Following continued discussions with Siobhan and Megan, I wrote a completed description of the collection and entered it into ArchivesSpace. From there, I was able to import the existing digital objects from Internet Archive into Aviary. Though there is an automated method to do this via an Excel spreadsheet upload, I ended up performing this task manually. I also manually created the digital objects records for the Schreter collection in ArchivesSpace, and was able to link them to the digital objects in Aviary. As a result, researchers that visit the A. Harvey Schreter Collection in MARMIA’s front end presentation will be able to access a full collection level description, as well as four items from the collection that have been digitized.
In sum, during my internship I was presented with an incredible opportunity to learn a wide array of archival skills. Not only did I become well-versed in practical work, such as data entry and navigating information management programs, but I was also able to interact with workflow development, as well as collections descriptions and considerations for how to describe collections to the best of my ability. It is with great fulfillment that I also was able to learn these skills while working with regional, local, and community-based works. Being able to contribute to the accessibility and discoverability of these two collections is something that I really value, since they are both such important pieces of Baltimore’s regional and filmic history. As such, I am excited to bring the skills that I learned forward into my future archival efforts, and am overjoyed to have been able to contribute to MARMIA’s work in this way.