Improving Access to Special Collections through Collaborative Digital Scholarship
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The William Henry Seward papers are one of the largest and most frequently accessed collections at the University of Rochester, but legacy finding aids were incomplete, incorrect, and confusing for researchers. In 2012, a history professor initiated the Seward Family Digital Archive, a student-driven digital humanities project that digitizes, transcribes, and annotates the Seward family correspondence. In order to bridge the divide between the physical collection and the digital project, a project archivist was hired to create an enhanced finding aid and serve as a liaison between special collections, faculty and students working on the project, and library IT staff. The result of this collaboration is a finding aid that links collection description to images, transcriptions, and student research on the digital archive website. This new finding aid, completed in 2018, serves as a comprehensive research tool that greatly increases discoverability of collection materials and serves as an example of the opportunities for intersections between finding aids and digital projects. This project examines the relationship between special collections and digital scholarship and raises the larger questions: What are the next steps in establishing the role of archives in digital scholarship? What should these collaborations look like?