July 18, 2006

July 13, 2006: Today proved to be very busy. In the morning I spoke to the Michigan Genealogical Council at there quarterly delgates meeting. MGC gets updates on current and future Archives projects plus they wanted a demonstration of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC). I hadn’t used NUCMC since my graduate research years. At that time I still used the published version (oh, I have dated myself now!). Now the web based solution is much easier to search. NUCMC is a searchable database comprised of three sources: catalog entries from the Research Library Group (RLG), the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), and those that have submitted forms for free cataloging by NUCMC catalogers. Unfortunately, to conduct a search you have to search RLG’s union catalog and then OCLC’s—they are not combined. Also, you have to look at the tagged display usually to figure out who holds the records. This means taking the institution code and figuring out who is who.

In my research for the talk I learned more about the NUCMC catalog and more importantly about the process for cataloging manuscripts for free. I called the director of the program Tony Gonzales to get more information. Tony said that any qualifying institutions (see http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/ for details) can submit collection information for free cataloging. The backlog is about a year, which considering the enormity of their project and the fact they only have 4 catalogers is quite amazing. This is interesting as we have been talking about how we might assist small libraries and historical societies to get their uncataloged local history collections cataloged.

I also learned that as of July 1, 2006, RLG and OCLC merged. RLG is planning to add its Union catalog to WorldCat. Now if they could only partner better with NUCMC it would be the definitive archival database in the world. Not sure how Archives Grid fits into this. WorldCat is also poised to be offered for free in the future. Tony at NUCMC was uncertain about future partnerships with OCLC. Stay tuned.

After meeting with a prospective donor, I headed out for Kalamazoo to visit Sharon Carlson at the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional Historical Collection. The Archives is part of the Archives of Michigan Regional Depository System. This sounds like a very formal arrangement but the reality is that the regional’s store local government records for the state with little support. This is one of the issues that I am trying to address so that we can better support the regional programs.

WMU’s archives is located in the historic East Hall. Built in 1904, this structure was one of the first on campus. It is perched on a bluff overlooking downtown Kalamazoo. This has been the temporary location for the Archives since 1999. Sharon said they get close to 3,000 onsite researchers per year (impressive!). They are collaborating with other university departments including one with the College of Education for an oral history project. Sharon recently received a grant to digitize some of their Civil War diaries which is always a popular research topic.

I came away from the meeting with a better understanding of how valuable this collection is and that we need to support Sharon in any way we can to advocate for a facility worthy of such a collection. Sharon also took me on a tour of the campus and we discovered we have a mutual love of historic homes/buildings.


On my way out of town I took the opportunity to snap some photos of East Hall…what a gem.WMU needs to save this—or at least acknowledge it’s importance. I tried to talk to the folks at Heritage Guitar to encourage them to save some of their Gibson Company literature (alas they were gone). Heritage is located in the historic Gibson factory, with some holdover employees from Gibson before they left town for Nashville, TN (Note the smokestack).

I also have an odd fascination with industrial sites. Must of have been nurtured by Dr. Hyde at Wayne State. He once gave a presentation at MAA on employee graffiti at the Dodge Main plant. Here are some pictures of the Checker Motors Plant. One of the original showrooms still has some tarped Checker models inside. You will not find this on the National Automotive Heritage Tour but it should be. Think of the anomaly of a midsize independent automaker 175 miles from Detroit!

Well, this is the end of a busy day. I pulled back into Lansing around 7pm.

More news tomorrow after my trip to Ann Arbor.

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