Week 1

The primary goal of my capstone project for the University of Texas, School of Information masters program is to create descriptions of a collection of approximately 40 medieval manuscripts and charters in the Special Collections of Waldo Library at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

These descriptions will ultimately be used to produce MARC catalog records for each manuscrip that can be accessed through the library’s online catalog and OCLC (WorldCat). They may also eventually also be used in descriptions to accompany digital images of the manuscripts and charters that will be accessible through an online database.

While I’m here, I will also be assisting in creating scope and content notes for MARC records of a collection of archival materials (which includes the archival records of the medical corp. Pfizer) in the Western Michigan University Regional Archives.

The first week was a little disorganized as I worked out exactly when I would be working at the archives and when I would be working at the Special Collections, and as people figured out how to get me a work station and laptop— but this is to be expected.

I’ve decided that I need to work to complete at least six descriptions per week in order to get through all the manuscripts. The best way to tackle the project, I think, is to create two descriptions for each item in the collection: (1) a basic description that will can serve as a basis for the online MARC record and (2) a more advanced description to assist in any future scholarly use of the collection. The basic descriptions are the highest priority and should be completely fairly quickly. The advanced descriptions will require much more time and research to appropriately complete and may not be finished by the time I have to leave. If there is time, I will combine the advanced and basic descriptions into single, comprehensive scholarly catalog descriptions of each item.

There were many interesting materials that I encountered during the first week. Two of the most interesting included a 14th-century un-illustrated and abreviated  Book of Hours (MS 102 pictured above) with a nice vellum binding and an abreviated Roman Missal (MS 105) from 1491 with a beautiful German binding  which may have been stolen at some point in its history–there’s a record indicating it was investigated by INTERPOL. They say every good rare book has been stolen at least once.

Initially it seemed that I would be working from scratch for my catalog descriptions, but after a few days of work, and the help of some collegues, I located an old record (often several different old records) for almost every manuscript and charter in the collection. This is very significant as it means that I will be primarly proof-checking these and collating them into a new, uniform set of descriptions.

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