Posted by: kbenoy | July 27, 2011

How long is too long?

This week I have been planning the structure of the catalogue for the Smith, Son and Wilkie collection. Currently, I am on version three, which I think is the most user friendly and easy to understand yet. For a collection of this size it is difficult to find the right balance between the hierarchical cataloguing structure and ease of use.  

The image below shows the top-level structure of the catalogue with the collection level on top. This will be followed by a three way split to separate the internal records of Smith, Son and Wilkie, their client business records and their client family records. This split seems the most logical way to organise the records as their original order is not clear at this level.

Cataloguing Plan

The internal records of Smith, Son and Wilkie will then be split between various categories depending on their relevance within the business. It has been possible to identify some records that would have originally been kept as a series such Time Ledgers for consecutive years. The reference for a time ledger will be something like D-SSW/1/5/1/2. The diagram below shows the various levels from collection to item.

Cataloguing Plan showing D-SSW/1/5/1/2

The problem with hierarchical cataloguing systems is that they produce long references and can be difficult to follow by users and staff. The references for items within this collection will have a maximum of 4 numbers (and in the case of client business records two letters) following the collection reference and I hope that this will not be too unwieldy.

I would be interested to hear any comments on the proposed cataloguing structure and if you think the references are too long or if they adequately represent the position of the item within the collection.

You’ll be pleased to hear that once the structure has been defined I will be able to start cataloguing the collection and uncovering many interesting items! I hope this has helped to explain how the catalogue will work and why references for many items in archives are so long.


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