Expanding Access to American Jewish Archival Collections Initiative

Project Summary

The Center for Jewish History (the Center) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) have completed the first step of a multi-step collaborative endeavor to expand access to American Jewish archival collections at local Jewish historical societies and museums, as well as within academic special collections on the Eastern seaboard. The primary goal of the initiative is to boost online representation and collection visibility from a local to a national level, making a place for local histories in the larger narratives of American Jewish history. The Center and AJHS are grateful for the generous support of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for phase one.

Phase One: Relationship Building

Phase one (February 2014-January 2015) focused largely on relationship building and information gathering with 13 participating organizations, in order to facilitate goal setting for the next phases. The Center and AJHS assigned archival staff members to conduct site visits at 12 of the 13 organizations. During the visits, Center archivists recorded the following information about each organization:

Institutional Summary:
Institutional history and size, staffing, user population, reference traffic, collecting policies, current processing/digitization projects, collaborations, any affiliate organizations
Archival Collection Holdings:
Number of personal, institutional or artificial collections, total linear footage, subject scope, formats, languages, date ranges, quantity of collections/footage processed and not yet processed
Archival Description:
Descriptive/structural standards (EAD, MARC, Dublin Core, DACS) and vocabularies (LCSH, AAT, local, etc.) in use, level of description of materials (collection-, box-, folder- or item-level), number of online and/or paper finding aids and records
Data and Systems:
Systems in which archival description resides, data formats, systems’ export options, existence of permanent URLs for records or digital objects
Preservation and Conservation:
Stacks space, levels of environmental control, housing of materials, condition of materials
Quantity and types of materials digitized, associated metadata
Institutional Priorities:
Needs and challenges facing each participating institution, as communicated by each institution to Center archivists
Additional Notes:
Other observations, suggestions for follow-up

Following the visits, archivists compiled a 2-3 page report structured around these informational categories. Based on these findings, the Center and AJHS will set measurable goals for upcoming phases of the initiative, tailored to both the unique needs of each participating repository and the services the Center and AJHS can provide. To read a summary of the project's work, and to learn more about plans for the future, please see