Northeast Historic Film’s Hidden Collections Catalog

How we use PBCore

Northeast Historic Film was awarded a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources Hidden Collections program in 2010 to create descriptive records for 50 film collections (8mm, 16mm, 35mm) identified as significant moving image archival documents relating to work and labor in the first half of the 20th century.

The reels hold hidden research materials from 50 previously uncataloged donations among the 800 collections gathered at the northern New England archives in Bucksport, Maine. Examples of the materials include a 1921 film depicting small boats created by marine architect Norman Skene (author of Elements of Yacht Design); workers in the A.S. Hinds cosmetics factory in Portland, Maine, by Charles B. Hinds; and film from the American Writing Paper Company, Holyoke, Mass., intertitled in Spanish and English by Visugraphic Pictures.

To accomplish the Hidden Collections Project, Northeast Historic Film needed a new asset management system to hold both collection-level and item-level information. CollectiveAccess was chosen as a new central metadata repository. This repository would have to accommodate the eventual migration of about 25,000 existing records stored in a legacy ProCite database, and also work for original archival description using DACS for finding aids (collection level description) and PBCore for the approximately 1000 reels in the 50 collections of work life. The project staff found that CollectiveAccess was a powerful system for describing collections, but was not yet configured as an item-level PBCore cataloging tool. Early in the year, staff catalogers and interns were easily creating new finding aids and publishing them to the Web, while PBCore cataloging took place in an interim tool built on the ExpressionEngine CMS.

Thus there were two migration challenges: all the newly written metadata from ExpressionEngine, to be followed by the mass of heritage metadata. Because PBCore provides a well-formed data structure recognizable by CollectiveAccess, once the data export to PBCore XML records was accomplished, the importing process was simple.

Why we use PBCore

Karan Sheldon, co-founder of Northeast Historic Film, explains the reasons for using PBCore in this project: “NHF has managed our collections over more than 20 years largely through item-level description, which allowed us to find specific people, places, things, and activities, in tens of thousands of reels. Item-level description is a given for our survival. We need to be able to migrate the detailed descriptions of the reels into a data structure that will efficiently track new forms of the work (new preservation copies, digital surrogates, and unknown future forms), without having to redo all the work we’ve done so far.”

Contact Information

Karan Sheldon
Co-founder, Northeast Historic Film
PO Box 900
85 Main Street
Bucksport, Maine 04416

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