Through my employment here, I am a member of the Delaware Valley Archivists Group, or DVAG, and have found the association's meetings to be very informative and educational. It was at a DVAG meeting a couple of years ago that Cathleen Miller, who at the time was serving as Project Archivist for the Chew papers at HSP, gave a presentation on archival repositories' use of blogs. She noted the many benefits that could result from institutions blogging about their collections and the work that archivists do. The concept has really taken off since then as evidenced by the fact that pretty much any archives' website, including ours, includes a blog section where researchers and fellow archivists can find frequent and enlightening posts on a variety of topics.
At a more recent DVAG meeting, I was introduced to another form of outreach that some archives are employing: the catablog. Started by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, some institutions are using this method as a way to allow users to access their collections. As explained on the University of Massachusetts' UMarmot site, the catablog originated:
"...as an experiment responding to two perceived needs: first, to find a low cost means of maximizing the public availability of our collections; and second, to find a solution that could be shared with colleagues in less technologically-intensive institutions... we recognized that the indexing capacity, web-readiness, and familiarity of blogging software made it a good fit for an online catalog — hence 'catablog.'
…we selected WordPress blogging software for its superior combination of power, ease of development and maintenance, and flexibility in design. In keeping with our goal of keeping the catablog model accessible to all of our peers, we have limited subsequent development of UMarmot to inexpensive, easily implemented, open source alternatives."
We are a less technologically-intensive institution; we use WordPress for our site; we need inexpensive and easily-implemented alternatives...Perfect! The catablog looked like a great option that would allow us to make our collections more accessible to researchers.
With the help of our IT consultant, Walt Rice, Jr. I have begun to create our own catablog to highlight PAHRC's manuscript collections. Each collection includes an abstract and controlled access terms; some entries also have a link to a PDF version of the full finding aid.
Researchers have the ability to search for collections by keyword by using the website's search engine. They can also select collections by name or subject, using the drop-down menus, and browse collection descriptions alphabetically, using the alphabetic menu. The controlled accessed terms are configured as link that will show a user all of the collections that share subject terms.
Our goal is to create entries for all of our manuscript collections as well as to provide full finding aids, both xml and PDF versions, for each of these collections.
Researchers will also be able to access our collections and finding aids through our PastPerfect online catalog.