ArchiveGrid–a few offhand notes

ArchiveGrid became available on March 1. I think it’s an interesting and worthwhile rethinking of access to archival materials–both Mixed Materials catalog (what used to be called AMC, where the RLG Union Catalog has for years been the de facto database of record) and finding aids themselves, which can be long, complicated, and fascinating.

Yes, ArchiveGrid is from my employer, RLG. Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with the project. I may get stuck with involved in providing a complete set of internal reports on usage (nothing that would violate confidentiality, of course); I don’t know yet. But I wasn’t part of the development team.

It’s a new interface, based in part on user studies, with one search box. The results can be a mix of cataloging records and finding aids; there’s also contact information for the archives, since one primary use of ArchiveGrid is to find materials that would need to be consulted in person.

I’ve been fascinated by the results of some searches I’ve tried. Of course I tried “Randy Newman”–and there are three places reporting stuff by or about Newman, including the typescript for “Faust” at The Billy Rose Theatre Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (part of NYPL). “Oscars” yields 14 results, including Walter Brennan’s papers at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. (“Academy Awards” as a phrase yields 55, including lots of stuff at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Brigham Young, NYPL and elsewhere.)

My home town turns up with 167, surprisingly (actually 188, but 21 of those are for people with “Modesto” as one of their names). Roughly a third of those are at UC Berkeley, but apparently only a third of that third at Bancroft. Interesting stuff. If I was planning to do archival research, I’d make heavy use of ArchiveGrid.

Sidebars along with a result set show the archives and locations included in the result set.

ArchiveGrid is free at least through May 31. (After that…well, I believe RLG is adding considerable value through ArchiveGrid, and RLG is not a government-supported institution: Someone has to pay our salaries and the costs of equipment and software if value is going to be added.) I think the team did a good job; I think it’s worth a look.

Update 3/7: Well, I told you I wasn’t involved in ArchiveGrid. And was unaware of a couple of helpful details about what’s happening. First, as I implied in the paragraph above, if other funding comes through, ArchiveGrid could remain free. Second, in addition to RLG’s usual institutional subscriptions, ArchiveGrid will have individual subscriptions if it can’t remain free, apparently quite reasonably priced–so that independent researchers, genealogists, and the like will be able to use it.

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