Locating, labelling and listing: the Locations Data Upgrade Project

As a substantial project approaches its culmination, UMA celebrates a number of benefits for researchers and staff and donors.

Due to the UMA Digital Finding Aids Project sponsored by the RE Ross Trust and the Locations Data Upgrade Project sponsored by the Miegunyah Fund, there are now 1520 lists of detailed (box or file level) collection data published in the Archives online catalogue – an increase of 60% since January 2012.

Recent months have seen the addition of 323 finding aids collated from the front of boxes of previously unlisted collections, as part of the Locations Data Upgrade Project supported by the Miegunyah Fund.

University records have been uncovered in previously unlisted collections such as the Melbourne University Film Society, University of Melbourne Department of Statistics, University of Melbourne Department of Fine Arts and a long range of minutes from the Melbourne University Student Union.

Black and white photograph of Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, 1895
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, 1895, Photographer unknown, Australian Railways Union, Victorian Branch Collection, 1985.0097, OSBA/783

Some of the larger collections which are now listed at a box level include; the Patterson Family, with pastoral and mining records covering 1880 – 1923; business records of Repco Ltd. 1926 – 1980; editorial records for four past editors of literary journal Meanjin; Victorian biscuit manufacturing company Swallow & Ariell Pty. Ltd and 270m worth of material from the Australian Stock Exchange (Melbourne).

Two people seated in front of beach huts, Victoria, c.1925
Beach scene, Victoria, c.1925, Photographer unknown, Charles Edward Howlett Collection, 1990.0037, NN/2595

Unfortunately however, not all unlisted collections held data on the outside of each box, or with time the pencil notes faded or the 40 year old handwriting is illegible. These are the idiosyncrasies of archives.

The Locations Data Upgrade Project brings together many of the activities common and crucial to how collecting institutions manage their collections. Knowing where in the repository every single box of material is so it can be retrieved and transported for researcher use in the Reading Room may seem like a simple matter, but with over 18km of shelf space the logistics are anything but straightforward.

The outcome of the Locations Data Upgrade Project will see each box of material in each collection labelled correctly, stored with the rest of its collection, and its exact location on the shelf recorded in the database. Previously, the location of the range of boxes in each collection was known, but now each box is controlled. Better location data will support efficient retrievals, security and eventually online ordering of material.

There are also significant outcomes for reference staff, with the process of locating boxes in unlisted collections becoming more efficient. With staff having to travel to the repository and manually search the shelves to locate relevant boxes of materials for research requests, turning box data into a finding aid that is available online can save hours of time for staff and reduce the unnecessary transportation of material.

Further posts will reveal the depth of content that has become more accessible due to the Locations Data Upgrade Project.

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