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American Archivist (Vol. 61, No.2 / Fall 1998)

Abstracts and Author Bios


"Commendatory Letters": An Archival Reading of the Venerable Bede

James M. O'Toole


This essay explores the role of writing, records, and documents as depicted in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a landmark of western historiography completed by the Venerable Bede in the year 731. Bede's purpose was to narrate the early history of Christianity in Britain, but he also made numerous references to writing and the role of documents in human affairs. Because he was preparing his history at a time when writing itself was a relatively unusual phenomenon, Bede offers a singular view of such larger questions as the uses of literacy and documentation, the shifting dynamics among different forms of communication, and the larger cultural meanings in records beyond the information they contain. A study of these forces at work in Bede's time give contemporary archivists a perspective on the revolutionary changes in the technology and the uses of records in our own age.

Author Bio

James M. O'Toole is visiting associate professor of history at Boston College. For fifteen years, he directed the M.A. program in history and archival methods at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. O'Toole is a fellow of the Society of American Archivists

Tracking Intelligence Information: The Office of Strategic Services

Jennifer Davis Heaps


Created during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the United States' first centralized intelligence agency, comprising research and analysis as well as various clandestine operations. The new agency accumulated massive amounts of information from open and secret sources and maintained such information in the form of reports, maps, charts, memos, photographs, and other kinds of documentation. A unit within the OSS Research and Analysis Branch, the Central Information Division, collected most of these documents and managed their use for intelligence analysis with the creation of an intricate card indexing system. The Central Information Division's careful tracking of information made possible present-day archival use of the cards and the records they index.

Author Bio

Jennifer Davis Heaps received an M.A. in history from the University of Cincinnati and is an archivist on the staff of the Special Media Archives Services Division, National Archives and Records Administration. She first undertook research of the history and administration of the OSS records described in her article in a previous position at NARA where she worked with modern military records.

Schellenberg in Cyberspace

Linda J. Henry


In the last few years, advocates of the ideas of David Bearman have written that archivists need a "new paradigm" for electronic records. The new ideas would change or overturn traditional archival theory and practice, as represented by T. R. Schellenberg and the first writers about electronic records. This article discusses several of the new ideas and the differences between traditional archival writers and those who support a new paradigm for electronic records.

Author Bio

Linda J. Henry has worked with manuscripts, organizational, and public records in several institutions. Since 1991 she has been an archivist with the Center of Electronic Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. She is an SAA fellow and has served as SAA Treasurer and as a member of the SAA Council.

Developing a Strategy for Managing Electronic Records: The Findings of the Indiana University Electronic Records Project

Philip C. Bantin


From June 1995 through December 1997, staff from the Indiana University Archives and University Information Technology Services undertook and completed an electronic records project partially funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, designed to implement and test the "Functional Requirements for Evidence in Recordkeeping" model developed at the University of Pittsburgh. In this article, the findings of the IU project are reviewed in the context of several questions project personnel addressed during the project, including:

1) Does the Pitt model ask the right questions?
2) What set of activities are required to use and implement the model?
3) What are the costs associated with implementing the model?
4) What types of skills are required to apply the methodology?

Author Bio

Philip C. Bantin is university archivist at Indiana University, where he has been actively involved in the management of IU's electronic resources as a member and co-chair of the university's Data Stewards Committee. Before working at IU, Bantin was an assistant archivist at Marquette University, university archivist at UCLA, and head of the Archives and Manuscripts Department at Boston College.

Diplomatics: Modern Archival Method or Medieval Artifact

Susan E. Storch


This case study applies the principles of general diplomatics and the analysis of special diplomatics to modern documents at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Special Collections and University Archives and the University of Massachusetts Archives. The information obtained from the application of diplomatics was then compared to information gleaned from administrative sources, such as procedural manuals, to determine if diplomatics revealed sufficient new information about the files to justify such a detailed analysis of records. This case study revealed that the use of special diplomatics is not justified, but that the principles of general diplomatics could be very useful to the modern archivist.

Author Bio

Susan E. Storch received her bachelor of arts degree at McGill University in Montreal in 1990 and her master of arts in history and archival methods at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1994. Her article in this issue is based on her master's thesis. She has worked on the Human Radiation Experiments Project at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and was the project archivist for Tobacco Control at the University of California, San Francisco from 1995 to 1996. Since June 1996 she has been the archivist at the University of Oregon.

Historical Resources in the Local Church: A Field Report on a Largely Gay and Lesbian Congregation

W. Bernard Lukenbill


The author presents a consultative field study report describing how the archives and historical records collection of a congregation associated with the University Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches were organized with little personnel resources and financial support. Details are given concerning the religious, political, social, and cultural aspects that influence the design of the collection. Rationale and examples are given concerning how the controlled-vocabulary subject file was built and how descriptive catalog records and folders of manuscript items were developed. Problems related to continued development of the collection and to the need for electronic access to records are also discussed.

Author Bio

W. Bernard (Bill) Lukenbill is a professor of library and information science at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Texas at Austin. He holds an M.L.S. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. He has lectured and published widely in several areas of information organization and use, including youth literature and HIV-AIDS information delivery within library environments.

The Applicability of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to Archival Properties and Objectives

Jane Greenberg


Natural language processing (NLP) is an extremely powerful operation—one that takes advantage of electronic text and the computers' computational capabilities, which surpass human speed and consistency. How does NLP affect archival operations in the electronic environment? This article introduces archivists to NLP with a presentation of the NLP continuum and a description of the Archives Axiom, which is supported by an analysis of archival properties and objectives. An overview of the basic information retrieval (IR) framework is provided and NLP's application to the electronic archival environment is discussed. The analysis concludes that while NLP offers advantages for indexing and accessing electronic archives, its incapacity to understand records and recordkeeping systems results in serious limitations for archival operations.

Author Bio

Jane Greenberg is a graduate student researcher overseeing the metadata aspect of the Pennsylvania Educational Network Digital Object Repository (PEN-DOR) project—a digital library of educational resources for teachers throughout the state of Pennsylvania. In January 1999, after completion of her Ph.D. at the School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Greenberg will join the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science. Prior to her work at Pittsburgh, Greenberg was the coordinator of Special Collections Cataloging at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research division of the New York Public Library.

Archival MARC Records and Finding Aids in the Context of End-User Subject Access to Archival Collections

Rita L. H. Czeck


This article discusses the findings of a study to determine the extent to which archival MARC records represent chronological, geographical, personal, and corporate information contained in corresponding finding aids to archival collections. A content analysis of twenty finding aids to archival collections and their corresponding archival MARC records was conducted. The data suggest that the level of representation in archival MARC records varies depending on subject category. Geographical terms were to most likely to be represented, followed by personal names, chronological terms, and lastly corporate names. Allowing for the searching of full-text electronic finding aids would enable end users to benefit not only from the subject information present at the collection level and in the abstract, but also from the areas in finding aids that tend to get less MARC representation: scope/content notes, historical/biographical information, series summaries, and container information.

Author Bio

Rita L. H. Czeck is assistant professor and monographic cataloger at the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. She earned her master of library science degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Developing International Cataloging Standards for Archival Holdings: Rosarkhiv-RLG- Hoover Project, 1994-1997

Natasha Lyandres and Olga Leontieva


This article describes the first joint international cataloging project designed to develop mutually acceptable standards of exchanging Russian archival descriptions through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) using MARC AMC format. The participants in the project were the Federal Archival Service of Russia (Rosarkhiv), which selected appropriate archival repositories and supervised the project's implementation in Russia; the Hoover Institution Archives, which performed quality control for all RLIN records created by Russian archivists; and the Research Libraries Group, which provided a wide range of technical support and the RLIN database to host the created records. The authors discuss project standards and methodology, work organization and implementation, as well as the need to develop mutually acceptable international bibliographic and subject standards to facilitate information exchange through the international multiscript databases.

Author Bios

Olga Leontieva has been working since 1987 for the Archival Department of the Tver' Region Administration, Russia. She studied history and archival administration at Tver' State University and Russian State University for the Humanities.

Natasha Lyandres is currently employed as a reference librarian at East Carolina University. Prior to taking this position in August 1997, she worked since 1990 in various capacities at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. She studied history at Moscow State University and received an M.L.I.S. from San Jose State University in 1993.

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