The Center for Jewish History (the Center) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) have completed the first step of a multi-step collaborative endeavor to expand access to American Jewish archival collections at local Jewish historical societies and museums, as well as within academic special collections on the Eastern seaboard. The primary goal of the initiative is to boost online representation and collection visibility from a local to a national level, making a place for local histories in the larger narratives of American Jewish history. The Center and AJHS are grateful for the generous support of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for phase one.
Phase one (February 2014-January 2015) focused largely on relationship building and information gathering with 13 participating organizations, in order to facilitate goal setting for the next phases. The Center and AJHS assigned archival staff members to conduct site visits at 12 of the 13 organizations. During the visits, Center archivists recorded the following information about each organization:
Following the visits, archivists compiled a 2-3 page report structured around these informational categories. Based on these findings, the Center and AJHS will set measurable goals for upcoming phases of the initiative, tailored to both the unique needs of each participating repository and the services the Center and AJHS can provide. To read a summary of the project's work, and to learn more about plans for the future, please see All History is Local: Expanding Access to American Jewish Archival Collections, a paper presented at the 2015 CLIR Unconference & Symposium.
After establishing collaborative relationships, the initiative’s next step towards increasing access to American Jewish collections is the ingestion of collection-level records into AJHS’s Portal to American Jewish History. The Portal is a metadata aggregator that enables researchers to perform complex searches across American Jewish archival collections currently residing at over seven geographically dispersed repositories. As part of phase one, Center and AJHS data implementation specialists ingested 104 collection-level records into the Portal. The records originated from three project participants: the Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County (Stamford, CT); the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, University at Buffalo (SUNY) and Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo (Buffalo, NY); and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford (West Hartford, CT). For technical details on the data transfer, please see our Data Transfer Strategies page.
In progressive phases—and subject to project participants’ goals and resources—the Center and AJHS plan to migrate additional collection-level records into AJHS’s Portal to American Jewish History, encode legacy finding aids and inventories, process selected collections, digitize selected material and host the material online in the Center’s OPAC.