Connie Lamb, Public Services
The title of the MEG grant that I received beginning January 2011 is the “William E. Gates Mesoamerican Collection”. The purpose of the grant was to hire a student to go through the Gates Collection and create a complete and accurate register (finding aid) to these materials. Gates (1863-1940) was an author, linguist, archaeologist, president of the Maya Society, and collector of linguistic materials by and about Central American Indians. In 1946, BYU purchased a portion of his extensive collection including both originals and copies of items. The collection, titled in the library catalog, “Central American papers, 1544-1944” is housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of the Lee Library and consists of 12 series under these categories: correspondence, papers on collecting activities, research notes, writings, institutional affiliations, Maya Society records, personalia, Mesoamerican source material, collection of texts in native languages, ethno-historical material in European languages, collection materials, photographs, postcards and other material. Specifically the print collection includes dictionaries, grammars, glyph studies, linguistic tools, religious texts, drawings, additional ethnographic items, and considerable correspondence. Another portion of the collection consisting of photographs, postcards, tintypes, glass negatives, etc. is stored in the cold vault. The original processing of the manuscripts and photographic material was not totally accurate and not completed, so the collection has been stored for years having minimal use. With new online tools for processing and creating electronic finding aids, the Library decided to redo the Gates register in the Archivists’ Toolkit program using the standards set forth in DACS (Describing Archives: a Content Standard). This work needed to be completed before digitizing the collection, which is the ultimate goal, so that the Gates Collection can be accessed online.
The objectives of the proposal were met. During 2012-13, two students organized the collection and completed the online register. Both students were dedicated workers and performed well in producing the metadata for the materials which they entered into Archivists’ Toolkit. So the collection is ready for digitization which is already under way.
Although the grant was given in 2011, I got a late start on the work. The first student I hired, quit after a couple of weeks and it took a while to find hire another one. In April 2012 I hired an undergraduate student who worked on the project until June 2013 when he graduated and moved away. He did most of the work going through the 152 Hollinger boxes in the collection, putting the materials in new acid-free folders, redoing the organization, and inputting data into the computer. Part way through the year (2013) we were made aware of some boxes of photographs, which had not been previously processed with the rest of the collection and the student did not have time to finish those, so another student was hired to complete the register. I was the general supervisor for the project and met with the students at least weekly to check on progress; however, Special Collections staff did the training and the manuscripts cataloger performed the on-site supervision. Michael, the student who did most of the work, wrote comments about the project and his mentoring experience. I have attached his blurb at the end of my report.
Students and Deliverables
Michael B. Hoopes, a Latin American Studies major, was the student who did the bulk of the work. He learned the computer system quickly and worked hard on the project. In the summer of 2013, I hired a research assistant, Myriah Lewis, and asked her to finish the Gates project, mainly boxes of photographs, so she was trained and finished inputting the data into the Archivists’ Toolkit. Another student in the Metadata unit of the library reviewed the data and made some corrections. The register will be released to the public in January and the digitization of the collection will continue. The result of the MEG Project is the online register which is much more accurate and accessible for patrons to use in accessing the Gates collection. We have had several inquiries about the collection by persons studying Mesoamerica and Mexico, and the register has already helped us provide information to them. We have also learned more about the person who originally organized the collection who did the best she could under the situation in which she worked. A future outcome of the project will be the individual items available electronically through the digitization of the collection, financially supported by the Lee Library. It is also anticipated that a scholarly paper will be written about the collection including the results of the MEG work and experience.
Since this was a data inputting project, we did not generate statistical data or conclusions. However, for a library undertaking, the MEG project was very important. The content of the Gates Mesoamerican collection is of great value and of interest to not only BYU anthropologists but to persons world-wide who are doing research on Central America or Gates’ work. The register makes the materials more easily found and more useable – is a great advancement for the library and especially Special Collections.
The budget of $9,000 for student wages was used to pay the two student assistants for their work. We did not use the supplies allocation of $200 for copying, etc.