Training Future Librarians and Enhancing Digital and Print Collections: M-LEAD II Comes to a Successful End

  • Posted on Aug 14, 2015 by

It is rare that goals and missions of different institutions come together and the result serves many purposes at once. This is true for the IMLS funded M-LEAD II grant which is ending this summer.  M-LEAD stands for Museum Library Education and Digitization, which has provided graduate students from the Pratt Institute's School of Information and Library Science two-semester internships in the NYARC libraries. The project’s goals and learning objectives allowed interns to gain a wide range of experiences based on their internship sites’ individual project needs and to give them practical hands-on work that would prepare them for entering the workplace as librarians or archivists. Fifteen interns were hired over three years and worked under the supervision of the NYARC libraries’ professional staff and me, the M-LEAD II Project Intern Coordinator. Students successfully completed the Practicum course at Pratt, composed of a research project that in part details their internship experience and project accomplishments. Each institution has benefitted from intern contributions to make their collections more accessible, while each intern gained training in cataloging, web archiving, and collection development.

Over the past three years, the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives and its fellow NYARC institutions have been working toward the various goals set forth in the IMLS-funded M-LEAD II Intern Program. We are currently in the final stages of wrapping up this grant and wish to share our many successes and accomplishments over the three years of this program and to say a great big thank you to IMLS in supporting these projects!

Frick M-LEAD and NYARC Mellon-funded web archiving interns (L to R), Tali Han, Meredith Powers, Molly Seegers, Caitlin Harrington

The M-LEAD II program built upon an internship model that was established in previous IMLS-funded grants providing graduate students from Pratt Institute's School of Information and Library Science (SILS) with invaluable on-site training. We have enjoyed the benefits of working with enthusiastic and talented Pratt SILS students and seeing their work provide unprecedented access to a variety of research collections thereby benefiting a large and diverse audience.

In this post I will highlight the talented group of interns from year three, the 2014/2015 academic year, who contributed immensely to this project through contributions to cataloging, web archiving, and collection development. However, we all wish to acknowledge the equally talented interns from years one and two who contributed to several projects.

The varied projects carried out in the NYARC libraries have exposed the interns to a wide array of activities within the museum setting, while allowing the students to gain skills by working alongside professional librarians at each museum. In this way, the interns are better prepared to be employed as they enter the field of librarianship and archives. Additionally, access to shared NYARC resources has been vastly improved.

In this past year, Diane Dias De Fazio and Rebecca Plock were placed at the Brooklyn Museum Library, Tali Han and Molly Seegers were at the Frick Art Reference Library, and Elizabeth Feldbauer worked onsite primarily at MoMA’s QNS location.

Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives: Auction Catalogs

The Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives focused their project work on completing review and cataloging of its auction catalog collection during the final year of the project.  Diane and Rebecca were invaluable in helping provide assistance in the review and cataloging of the extensive auction catalog collection while at the same time learning and utilizing valuable professional skills working in a museum environment.

Over the course of the three year project the M-LEAD II interns at the Brooklyn Museum surveyed an extensive collection of thousands of auction catalogs from approximately 70 different American, European and Asian auction houses. We discovered over 200 catalogs that were unique, i.e. not held by other libraries, and many more that were extremely rare (holdings in less than 5 other libraries).  The interns were guided by a collection policy that supported the Museum’s curatorial research efforts including a focus on non-western art.

Screenshot from Diane Dias De Fazio’s Practicum Project featuring the Brooklyn Museum’s Hotel Drouot Auction Catalog Collection

In this final year of the IMLS funded project, our Brooklyn interns focused on American and European auction houses including a large runs of rare or unique catalogs from Sotheby’s and Christie’s. We chose to catalog every catalog from Sotheby’s and Christie’s ranging from the 1880’s up until 1950 to capture the wide ranging activities of the art market as reflected in the transactions of these important auction houses.

Rebecca and Diane worked on surveying, weeding and cataloging the Library’s “hidden collection” of European auction house catalogs and Sotheby’s and Christie’s catalogs. They  collectively cataloged approximately 1,100 auction catalogs thereby adding records to NYARC’s shared online catalog, Arcade and WorldCat. Their work  contributed immensely to the Museum’s Library mission by making its resources widely accessible, discoverable, and available to a large audience.

Over the course of the year, both interns developed Practicum projects that focused on their cataloging work and research. Rebecca’s Practicum project, “Discovering Hidden Collections: Cataloging Ethnographic Auction Catalogs in the Brooklyn Museum Library,” focused on the importance of auction catalog sales of non-Western art. Diane’s final project focused on the practical aspects of auction sales catalogs by answering the following questions in her thesis: What is an auction catalog? Who is considered the author of an auction catalog? From where do Libraries get auction catalogs? When and how are these materials cataloged? and why is it important for Libraries to collect auction catalogs?

By keeping and cataloging these auction catalogs the Brooklyn Museum Libraries are contributing to art historical scholarship, providing access to valuable research materials and the provenance information they contain.  Up to this time, the majority of the auction catalog collection in the Brooklyn Museum's Art Reference Library was uncatalogued and we are delighted to share these resources with the research community. We are also delighted to have had excellent Pratt interns work with us and to use the Museum as a training ground to prepare them for their careers in their chosen fields.

Frick Art Reference Library: Web Archiving

M-LEAD II interns based at the Frick Art Reference Library during the three-year grant period were intimately involved in the day-to-day aspects of NYARC’s web archiving initiative. M-LEAD II interns worked closely with web archiving staff as we have further developed the program workflow and determined best practices for surveying and archiving art historical websites. Each intern contributed to the description of live and archived websites and to conducting quality assurance to our collections of archived websites.  The Frick’s M-LEAD II interns assisted  in examining the organizational, economic, and technological challenges posed by the rapidly increasing number of web-based or “born-digital” resources that document art history and the art market, as we seek to acquire, preserve, and provide unified access to these unique and often ephemeral materials. The interns utilized the Internet Archive’s Archive-It tool to build and refine web-based collections, perform quality control, and create descriptive metadata for captured content.

In 2014 NYARC was also awarded a two-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement a consortial web archiving program. The M-LEAD II interns, working alongside the Mellon grant-funded staff, contributed to NYARC’s innovative initiative for capturing and preserving born-digital resources essential to the future of art historical scholarship.  This experience will be a great asset to the interns as they enter the workplace and encounter similar challenges related to new and evolving technologies.

In fall 2014, Tali conducted quality assurance to eight New York gallery websites and three websites related to the restitution of lost or looted art.  Tali’s responsibilities included processing quality assurance (QA) reports, reviewing website captures, triggering missing URLs, documenting technical issues, initiating  patch crawls for missing content, drafting support tickets to Archive-It staff and evaluating restitution-related websites for inclusion in NYARC’s web archive collections.

Tali in her web-archiving workspace at The Frick Art Reference Library.

Tali attended two web archiving collaboration meetings between NYARC and the Columbia University Libraries Web Resources team, in addition to attending regular monthly meetings with the NYARC web archiving team. In November 2015, Tali presented alongside all members of the NYARC Web Archiving team as part of a panel discussion for Pratt’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). In the spring semester, Tali continued her QA work on sites such as the Frick Collection, Travelers in the Middle East Archive, Lorna Simpson, and Different Visions.

Molly’s responsibilities mirrored Tali’s and at the beginning of the internship she learned how to use Archive-It to conduct crawls and review captures. She also helped collect contact information for websites that NYARC selectors had identified as being of interest for inclusion in the web archive collections, and assisted in drafting permissions letters for restitution-related websites during the fall semester (view graph of web archiving permission letter responses).

 

Web archiving interns presenting for NYARC staff at The Frick Collection (L to R: Tali, Meredith, & Molly).

Molly conducted QA to the websites of the Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auction House and the Edwin Dickinson Catalogue Raisonne. Both of these are very large sites and she worked on them her entire internship—they will be taken over by a subsequent web archiving intern.  She later took on the Paula Cooper Gallery website, which comparatively was much smaller and she was able to fully capture an iteration of this site during her internship.

In Spring 2015, both interns were trained to update and enhance electronic records of cataloged websites in Arcade, in an effort to improve accuracy and discoverability. Existing URLs were checked for errors, updates were made, and links to archived versions of websites were added to the records. They also had the opportunity to present their collaborative practicum project to NYARC staff and at the SILS Student Showcase in May.

NYARC: Latin American Collection in the MoMA Library

Lastly, the  NYARC intern was largely based on-site at MoMA. Elizabeth, the year-three NYARC intern, worked at the MoMA Library in the Latin American Collection, and prior to this internship she had no previous work experience in a library. However, her undergraduate background in History and Spanish served her well working with this collection.  The department exposed her to many different aspects of librarianship, and she was given the opportunity to participate in a number of different projects which greatly increased her knowledge of the field.

One of her first projects was to create a spreadsheet that consolidated the information from the finding aid of an archival collection housed in Queens: El Techo de la Ballena. The finding aid was quite large and contained some information that was not particularly relevant to scholars and researchers, so she was tasked with making an inventory/finding aid in a spreadsheet that would only include information that was relevant to someone who was working with the collection.

Additionally, some of her other tasks included deduping the catalog records against specific materials such as artist exhibition catalogs and general exhibition catalogs. Many of these types of materials were donated to the museum’s library, and she had to make sure that the library did not already have a copy of these resources. For this project, she used OCLC Connexion, Millennium, and MoMA’s Dadabase online catalog.

Year 3 focused on the acquisition of a Latin American art library collection. This experience for our year 3 intern, Elizabeth, included inventorying, processing, and cataloging of a recent acquisition of an important library collection on Latin American art. As a leader in the collection of Latin American art historical resources, MoMA was a perfect fit for this collection. /p>

The donor was interested in having her important archives and book collections available in a well-respected and accessible library. The bulk of the materials are exhibition catalogs, artist books, mail art and other ephemera from prominent Latin American artists with monographs rounding out the collection. Once the acquisition was completed, Elizabeth then began to process the collection of about 250 items. After initial training, she began copy cataloging starting with the monographs.  In all, the process took approximately six months. This provided a very unique experience for Elizabeth where she has had the opportunity to follow through on a well-rounded project, being involved in each stage of the acquisition from the initial meeting with the donor to the processed collection being available to researchers. Moving forward, and tying this experience in with her practicum project, Elizabeth focused on donor relations, and the step by step process of assessing, acquiring, and cataloging the books and other materials received.

One excellent outcome of the M-LEAD grants is a more solid working relationship with Pratt Institute SILS and an ongoing flow of paid interns at the NYARC libraries supported through the Pratt Fellows program. We are very grateful to IMLS, the Pratt Institute, and our interns for fostering an atmosphere of collaboration to train and prepare librarians to enter the ever-changing world of libraries and to allow us to make our research collections more available to a large audience.

Thank you to all who have participated and we hope to continue this collaborative arrangement to support the careers of new librarians and archivists and to assist in preserving and making our respective research collections available to a local, national, and international audience.

Kim Loconto, M-LEAD-II Project Intern Coordinator, Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives


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