Hagley Finding Aid Database Has a New User Interface

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

We at Hagley Library are pleased to release our new user interface for Hagley Finding Aids. If you have researched our archival collections, the finding aid database will look and function differently but includes all of the same data.

The new site is now live at findingaids.hagley.org 

In addition to developing the new site over the last year, we have also been working to update and improve the information in the database. There are over a thousand existing finding aids that have been reviewed. Some of our earliest finding aids date back to the 1960s, as you can imagine, archival standards and best practices have changed since then, and some of the language that was used at the time is antiquated and, in a few cases, offensive. 

With the new database, we have made significant changes that hopefully will enhance discovery and connect researchers to the information being sought. 

Part of the changes include a new way of applying subject headings as access points to archival collections in order to create connections, links, and relationships between related terms, people, corporate bodies, and the content. We also made efforts to make revisions across finding aids for increased consistency, enriched descriptions and context. 

We made the decision to break with established thesauri, namely the Library of Congress Subject Headings, to create our own local headings on some terms, chiefly those which describe traditionally marginalized groups. At Hagley Library, as a business archive, we are acutely aware of the predominantly White, Christian, cis-gendered, heterosexual male history that is documented. We know it is disproportionate and does not provide a full representation of the history of enterprise in America. 

The collections we currently have, do contain the history of these traditionally marginalized groups and it is our hope that the revisions of finding aid description and application of subject terms will both bring forward these groups' achievements and accomplishments, as well as, expose the discrimination and bigotry they faced.

The launch of our new finding aid database does not signify that our work here is done, but rather that our work is just beginning. While the database does not include all of our archival collections, it does include a significant piece of the collection. We have been working in recent years to migrate more and more of our collections into the finding aids database and that work will continue for years to come.

The finding aid database is ever-evolving and expanding. The launch of the new site is a first step and a good starting place. The content will continually improve and we will continue to add new collections as we complete processing and migrate from older datasets.   

I am greatly indebted to everyone on both the Technical Services Team and the Reference Team and to all those who have come before us stewarding the Manuscripts and Archives and the Audiovisual Collections.

Laurie Sather is the Head Archivist in the Archival Collections Department at Hagley Museum and Library.