Days 18 and 19
Archon and Finding Aids
I started learning the Archon interface for creating the Finding Aids that are online. The system is not difficult and is designed to allow a bit of flexibility for different collections and the style of the archivist in terms of how detailed and deep he wants to make the finding aides. For example, while most collections I worked on have a hierarchy of series then the folders, then the items in the folder. However, smaller collections may have only one folder in a series, and one item in the folder. Instead of breaking it down all the way to the item level, I described the items generally in the description of the folder itself. I only defined specific items in cases of materials that were separated out into artifact boxes, textile boxes, or oversize boxes, where there is no folder level.
This is where diligence in the previous work of note-taking and writing up what I called "reports" pays off. As I used previous finding aids to give me the structure and information needed in writing up the report, it makes for ease in working in Archon, all the information is already at hand. The better the report, the less to no need to actually refer to the collection itself. A few places, I felt the need to re-write a sentence so that it worked better in the actual structure of the finding aid. Also, using something already written earlier allowed me to catch mistakes and inconsistencies that I missed earlier.
Archon has two annoyances that make the process a bit more time consuming than it should be. The first is there are three main sections to creating the finding aid (as I do not have the program running in front of me, I am going to have to give an approximation of what they are called): creator manager, collection manager, and collection content manager. The problem is, that every time you leave one to go to the other, you have to search again for the collection you wish to work on.
The other is one that many people who use the computer for writing and publishing will find familiar: copying and pasting text from a word processing document into the publishing program. Inevitably, any formatting you have done in one will create errors. I had very little specialized formatting going on and Archon tries to accommodate by having different options for pasting text into Archon. Unfortunately, none of these really made a noticeable difference. To make matters worse, the errors do not display in Archon itself until you exit the screen and come back (although they will show up in the live preview). Every place I had italicized text, apostrophes, quotation marks and the occasional place where I had two spaces instead of one, a funky "A" or "AA" or even "AAA" popped up. I am not a bad typist, so smaller sections, I ended up re-typing from my notes instead of copying and pasting. For longer sections, I tried to go through and delete the punctuation or take out the formatting style and then add it back in from inside Archon. This generally worked. However, reviewing the finding aids later, I discovered that sometimes the errors still showed up, in conjunction with my typed in changes. So, I had to re-edit some areas several times. This made the Brune and Westray Battle collections take longer than readily apparent. Partly because both collections had relatively lengthy biographical data. As a writer with various publication titles and columns referred to, Brune's collection had quite a bit of italicized and quotation bracketed text. Westray Battle's collection had many apostrophes from different references to "Woman's College" as well as several references to the Alumnae News.
Over the two days, I typed up the three collections I worked extensively on: Westray Battle Boyce, Rachel Ann Brune, and Thelma Meyer Petty. The Creator bios are currently online though the full finding aid is not yet.