Thursday, December 25, 2014
From Archivist to Information Architect. Digitising Finding Aids: I started out as an archivist. As a history student, I found a part-time job writing descriptions of the records of the district attorney and attributing keywords to them. Most of the records concerned petty crimes or car accidents in the 1950s. The photos of the accidents contained contemporary street views otherwise seldom found, and the records of suicides were both gruesome and fascinating.
What made the job interesting was that at the time the archives had just started digitising their finding aids. During my studies at university, library catalogues had gone from card indexes to stand-alone digital catalogues. When I was writing my thesis in the mid-1990s, the latest achievement was remote access to other library catalogues. The complicated and lengthy procedure of logging into external databases was explained on slips of paper taped to the table next to the terminals. Tedious as this may sound today, it was far easier than cycling furiously up and down the hills of Zurich and trying to leaf through the index cards of as many libraries as possible during their restrictive opening hours.
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