The most challenging part of this course was the constant and necessary awareness of my impact upon the object, that my own understanding of them would provide that vision to those who would read my descriptions, subject terms, and who was decided upon as a source versus a contributor. With this awareness of my impact, I believe it made the job both easier and more difficult: the ease came from my assurance of being able to use the language of the objects themselves to describe them; the difficulty came with narrowing that language down to subject terms. And so in terms of my generating the metadata as quickly and succinctly as possible, here is my method:
- Get the title, author and date from the objects from a first going over, this way you can attach a name to the object in your mind, and quickly move through multiple items at once, generating basic data.
- If the author or date is not obtainable from an immediate glance, then it is time to start skimming the material, and keeping in mind what the object is saying about what it is, or what purpose it has to provide. This will then build into the description of the object.
- If there are any clues in the piece as to a date or author, do a quick internet search. As an example, one of my objects was a letter from an organization to the public, but did not provide a date, so I looked up the organization to see that it was not established until the late 70s, providing a “circa” date, since the object was discussing the founding of the organization, meaning I could make the educated assumption that the object was from the first year(s) of the founding of this organization in the early 70s.
So, my method breaks down into a rapid gathering of “visible” data from an immediate once over of the object, then a more in depth, and possible fast research oriented approach to find more information for the metadata.
With my method in mind, my general time frame of working on objects was probably about 15 minutes per object, give or take five minutes depending on how much research (either by reading the object instead of just skimming, or doing internet research on an organization or date). Sometimes an object would not have an explicit title, such as a letter from Thomas Bradley to the community of South Los Angeles during his campaign. I decided upon a very formal approach of titling, with a much detail as could be taken from a first glance approach. So for the letter from Bradley, I saw there was a letterhead, that this was a formal correspondence stating this was a campaign letter from Thomas Bradley, specifically his running for city councilman. Then after reading the address, I knew it was to the public and not written to a specific person. And so I decided to name the piece “A Letter from the desk of Thomas Bradley’s Councilman Campaign.” I would then address all of the “missing” information from this title that I created (or any title provided to me by the object) in the description. So continuing with the Bradley letter, the letter was in regards to the corruption of the city councilmen on the council at the time, and how they were not in support of the Fair Housing or Fair Employment acts of Los Angeles. That is pertinent information that a researcher would need about the Acts, who supported them, and corruption in LA politics. With all of this then put in the description, it made it a bit easier to approach the subject terms. As for subject terms, I believe this was the most difficult to create. I had to split my thoughts into the researcher, someone who would have definitive search terms in regards to their approach, versus someone who would just be interested, and not have a particular approach who would find these objects fascinating simply on their own, but would need to see what the connections of the objects are. It helped greatly to have the “hive mind” approach where the class collaborated terms from both aspects, and then refined them to the proper and yet least intrusive terms to apply to the search of the piece.
Lastly, as for readings that were provided in the class, I had the best help from Gerald Horne’s introduction and first two chapters of his text “The Fire This Time” to provide a lot of missing context that these objects were being created in and after the events of 1965. Secondly, the introduction of “Sorting Things Out” for help in the metadata department.
2.) Tagging is, I would hope, a less complicated beast than Subject Terms, however it allows a lot more of a personal implication upon the object, meaning that you would be able to manipulate what the object is saying about itself. But at the same time it is then more searchable by everyone because a tag will create a network of the objects, a more and less scholastic environment (meaning scholars can interact with the tagging systems, but the non-scholar can more easily interact with the objects, with their own language). I would be in support of a library user tagging capability because it is in alignment with the goals of the community oriented archive, and it would provide the users with a more in depth experience of being able to have the objects speak for the archive.
As a suggested system of tagging, I would tag items as “Pre-Watts 1965” and “Post-Watts 1965” so that it would be easier to quickly gather objects that show the build up to the events, or reactions from the events, etc.