Practical Technology for Archives

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[Excerpt] The Special Collections and University Archives Department (SCUA) at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) began operation in 1961 as a repository for the many unique resources already held by the University. This included University history and northern Nevada historical materials not collected by the Nevada Historical Society. Some of the department’s earliest collections cover Comstock mining and milling companies as well as Nevada politicians, local associations, and modern authors’ research files. Department holdings over the years have grown to include more than 2,000 cataloged and fully accessible manuscript and archival collections, as well as 131,000 photographs, 1,110 architectural drawings, 28,000 published materials, and 25,000 digital collections objects. Although many of these materials are already available to the public, SCUA faces many of the same challenges as other archives across the country, including a backlog (Greene and Meissner 2005).

A number of changes over the last four years, including the implementation of Archivists Toolkit (AT) and PastPerfect for the description, cataloging, and tracking of manuscript, archival, and photographic collections, prompted us to take a closer look at our holdings. We wanted to gain a greater understanding of the backlog while at the same time identifying physical storage locations of all materials. In June 2017, SCUA, with the assistance of the University Libraries Metadata and Cataloging Department (MCD), undertook a survey of all physical holdings, including maps, books, manuscript and archival collections, and photographs. In order to accomplish these tasks, we needed a tool that enabled us to capture an enormous amount of data in a quick and efficient manner.