Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 17:19:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Peter Nelson <>
To: Mellon Archives Project DistList
Subject: UPDATE on 5 College Archives Digital Access Project

As the summer recess draws to a close, a synopsis of what's been going on with the archives project:

1. Survey data & what to do with it

For the last nine months I've visited each repository, consulted with the respective archivists and gathered data on collections deemed most appropriate for digitization in the project period. With the exceptions of UMass and Amherst, this survey is now complete. It's always important to understnd that the list represents only a possible pool from which to choose; I hope that more binding decisions on what we will attempt to take on will be made at one of the Five College archivists meetings this fall, when the archivists will see the large multi-institutional gestalt and see what's complimentary and what sticks out as of less interest or utility. In raw numbers, I estimate a final aggregate of ca. 24,000 pages/images. Not surprisingly, since we are building electronic collections about women, most of these will be from resources at Smith and MHC (about 9,200 and 8,600 respectively). Given the subject focus, the Amherst College collections represent the greatest challenge, but also the Amherst College collections represent the greatest challenge, but also the greatest potential for creative and genuinely unprecedented exploitation of their resources. I am scheduled to return to AC for in-depth examination of the collections in September, and will report more on this later.

2. Going into Production

Already some collections or partial collections have been digitized for evaluation purposes: some early MHC catalogs and journal letters, for example. See for an overview. These are all prototypes, results of my trying to develop some standards and benchmarks for imaging and WWW display. As always, I need your feedback on this ... and soon. Please take a look through the collections and let me know if this is close to what you had hoped to find. I'm happy to report that preparations are moving along well to hire our first project assistant. We hope to have that person on board in the fall.

3. Web Site:

The project web site has a new and hopefully permanent home, and I hope you've visited it occasionally over the summer ... if not, stop by now and take a look at the prototype collections we've developed and look through the survey data to get a sense of what is to come. Today the web site's search engine was successfully added, thanks to the deft work of Dan Wilga, MHC's webmaster. While it is fairly useful even now, it will really be a handy feature once a critical mass of electronic collections is in place next year and beyond.

As always, I welcome your comments, suggestions.


Peter Nelson
Five College Archives Digital Access Project
c/o Mount Holyoke College Archives
(413) 538-3020