Dalhousie Libraries’ University Archives has released a new online research tool that provides information about a trove of historical records, photographs and other archival materials available to the university community and the general public.
In January 2011, the Archives initiated a project to develop an online catalogue hosted by the Dal Libraries. The result, launched officially in January 2015, is a sleek interface that allows researchers to search over 150,000 descriptions of files and items in the collections.
Michael Moosberger, Dalhousie University Archivist and Associate University Librarian for Research and Scholarly Communications, oversees the operations that manage and provide access to the collections. “We’ve come a long way from the paper-based collection listings and static web pages that were the primary way users discovered what was in our holdings. With our new online catalogue a user can type in any subject or keyword and find what records we have related to the topic, regardless of the collection with which the records are associated,” says Moosberger. The Dalhousie Libraries’ University Archives also holds records of Dalhousie University dating back to its earliest days: “Our new catalogue will also provide easier and faster access to the historical records of the University, which will be in greater demand as we get closer to 2018—Dalhousie’s 200th anniversary. The catalogue allows us to link digitized copies of a record, document or publication directly with the descriptive information in the database, providing users with ‘one-stop shopping’ for some of their research queries,” adds Moosberger.
Staff at the Archives still have their work cut out—there are hundreds of thousands of uncatalogued documents, photographs, videos and other materials.
“The catalogue covers less than half of our total holdings. There are thousands of boxes of unprocessed records to sort through and describe before they can be made available to the public,” says Creighton Barrett, Dalhousie Libraries Digital Archivist. Simply cataloguing these materials is no longer enough: “Our users want online access to entire collections. This catalogue is an important step in that direction,” says Barrett.
Uncatalogued collections include the archives of important Nova Scotia businesses such as Robb Engineering and the personal archives of prominent researchers affiliated with Dalhousie, such as world-renowned oceans scientist Ransom Myers and civil engineer George Meyerhof.
The catalogue is built with an open-source program called Access to Memory (AtoM), developed by Artefactual Systems, a Vancouver-based archival software development company. New information will be added to the online catalogue on a regular basis as the Archives acquires new material.
For more information about the Archive’s collections and services, visit the Dalhousie Libraries’ University Archives website (http://dal.ca/archives). The catalogue can be found online at: http://findingaids.library.dal.ca.