Archival Processing Work at Manuscripts and Archives

Image of 11 removable storage technologies laid out on a table: 8" floppy disk (largest, left; square), 5.25" floppy disk (next largest, center; square), 3.5" floppy disk (top center; square), cassette tape (top right, on top of its case; rectangular), 8mm tape (right middle; rectangular), CD (bottom right; round), DVD (bottom right center; round), ZX Microdrive (bottom center; rectangular), SDHC card, CompactFlash card, USB disk (left middle).

Image credit: avaragado from Cambridge, Wikimedia Commons

In these quarterly blog posts, I usually share an update about collections and additions to collections for which MSSA has recently acquired and completed processing. However, since the Sterling Memorial Library building has been closed since mid-March, our processing staff have shifted their attention to processing born-digital material at MSSA.

Born-digital material is material that was created in a computer environment. Born-digital material comes to MSSA in a variety of ways, including on floppy disks (and other fun old school formats!) or CDs; on flash drives; or as direct network transfers. At MSSA, we have a wide variety of different types of born-digital content, including personal computer files from individuals whose papers we hold; email correspondence and websites from organizations whose records we steward; and institutional electronic records created by Yale University offices.

Archival processing for all our materials, including those born-digital, entails preparing materials for use by making sense of and describing them. This allows researchers and other users to discover and access Yale’s rich collections. Processing born-digital materials is a developing area of practice for archives staff across the United States. To accomplish this work, MSSA is consulting the recently-created Yale University Born Digital Archival Description Guidelines. These guidelines allow us to describe our born-digital materials in a standardized and consistent manner to enable user access.

During the past few months, MSSA staff have begun and completed processing for born-digital materials from the Dorrit Hoffleit papers, the Brian Kiss photographs of stained glass in the Sterling Memorial Library Nave, the Arnold Rosin papers, the C. Vann Woodward papers, the Teacher Preparation and Placement Program, Yale College, records, and several other collections.

For more information about Yale’s work with born-digital material, see the Saving Digital Stuff blog.