The reaction I get when I tell people I work down in the University Archives is always an interesting one. Although some look at you like you swallowed a goat whole, most are just curious though and ask what it is that I do. One person in the midst of this asked me about the impact of technology and why even bother with books and papers when anyone can look up information from their laptops or smartphones. It really is not that much of an issue though. We use technology all the time in archives. I will admit, technology and I have had a complicated relationship over the years (I’m pretty sure it started with floppy disks. I’m sorry it had to end the way it did by the way), and the idea of archivists and technology mixing sounds a little odd, but it is thanks to digitizing our paper records that anyone can find the information they need. It is efficient and makes things easier for researchers and archivists to find what they need. Even from their smartphones.
I finally got the chance to digitize certain University documents and prepare them for being entered into our archival search engine. These were UT Tyler publications called The Forum and Intercom that began in the 1970s and ran for different lengths of time. These are stored in archival boxes as a part of the Marketing and Communications Department records. The Forum was more of a magazine that ran from 1974 to 1989 on a seasonal basis and highlighted everything from Phase building, scholarships, faculty achievements, and had an emphasis on Alumni relations. Intercom on the other hand, had a production run from 1973 through early 2000, producing one volume every new fall semester with issues printed every month (some a few times a month). Intercom covered topics similar to The Forum but it also held memos for those specifically working and attending the University. There are calendars describing upcoming holidays, faculty video sessions, and announcements of upcoming power outages. I have a partial fondness for the Intercom though because they felt the need to change things up in their format several times over the years even going so far as to make every issue a different color with a glittery silver title. Very glitzy!
The process of digitizing these records has taken me nearly six months to complete for both of these publications. That sounds daunting, but I assure you it’s really not as terrible and time consuming as it seems. You have to be organized though! At least objects and papers being digitized are already a part of a processed collection that makes things a little easier.
First of all, in order to keep all the information together, I created a spreadsheet and labelled cells according to date I entered in the info, the volume and issue, number of pages in one printed product, the titles of the articles within the publication, any new faculty mentioned along with important administrators. Everything that is entered into this spread sheet makes my life a lot easier: I can keep track of which issue I am on and which one I need to start on when I come in the next day. Also, it comes in handy later on when you have to enter keywords into the scanned document itself.
Then, one folder at a time, you enter the info for all the documents within the folder under the correct label. Titles of the articles are the most important since these are going to be the key words in order to find the document in the system. Once that is entered in, I took the publication to the scanner to be scanned into a special PDF file. After setting the right settings to make sure the image is clear and readable when scanned, you preview the page to ensure that you got what you wanted, as opposed to getting the wrong page. Then you can scan to your heart’s content! You can always fix things at the end of your scanning session which helps. But then of course you have to name the PDF file, and you cannot just name them all Intercom or Forum because that will become frustrating later on. Instead, it is appropriate to name the document specifically according to publication year, month, and if that was the only one printed that month. I ended up naming them along the lines of “ForumYYYY_Spr001” or “IntercomYYYY_Month001” to make sure it was as orderly as possible.
Once all of the copies inside the folders are scanned, named and so forth, then the fun comes along of entering keywords into the PDF file for easier access for researchers. You open up each PDF individually using Adobe Acrobat, open up the “Properties” menu and enter in the Title, the Author, and finally the Keywords space which are the titles of articles in both publications. The Excel spreadsheet is quite lovely for this part. You simply copy and paste the titles from the spreadsheet to the Keywords space and you save it. You do this for every Forum or Intercom scanned.
I recognize that all that sounds rather tedious, but it really is not. Each part was broken down and eventually I got into a rhythm of typing, scanning, and flipping pages so that there was a steady system going on. Also, it is really interesting because as I went along entering in this information, I got a sense that I was learning more about the University that I attend than I had previously known. For instance, I know approximately when the school changed its name three times, that Eli Weisel came on campus as one of the distinguished lecturers in our Distinguished Lecture Series, and that many of the professors I have had did prestigious research and recognition.