Updating Finding Aids: Improving the Discovery of Archives at the Burke Library


Like many archivists at CUL and beyond, I’ve found working remotely to be an opportunity to address back burner projects. Chief among these is the conversion of Burke’s 400+ finding aids, which were originally created as PDFs, into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) format — an XML standard for archival finding aids. You may be wondering: why bother converting and re-doing work that’s already been done? The short answer is that this format helps to make management and discovery of archival materials *much* easier. From the management side, EAD finding aids can be easily updated, and from the discovery side, this web-based format allows archivists to link collections by creators and subjects (among other ways), making it much easier for a researcher to find relevant material. For a longer answer to this question, see this excellent post from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library Blog about a similar effort. 

Because conversion requires me to read each finding aid in detail, to correctly transfer information, it’s been a wonderful way to become familiar with the Burke’s holdings. It also presents a great opportunity for data cleanup and enhancement. Much could have changed about a collection between the initial creation of the finding aid and the time of conversion, including potential accruals to the collection, new information about the collection materials (or the people associated with them), or even the ways in which archivists record that information. (Two significant data enhancement projects undertaken with archivists at RBML and other Columbia repositories include name authority review, and identifying married women by their given names.)

A year into the pandemic, I’ve converted over a quarter of Burke’s finding aids, and more are on the way! Below, find a highlight from each of Burke’s record groups. You can also click on the record group title to view all collections within that group. 


Union Theological Seminary Archives

Mary Ely Lyman papers, 1916 — 1996

Photograph of Mary Ely Lyman, from the Mary Ely Lyman Papers, 1916 — 1996, at the Burke Library

Mary Ely Lyman was the Jesup Professor of English Bible and Dean of Women Students at UTS, the first woman to hold a full professorship and endowed chair and first woman dean at UTS, as well as an author and wife of UTS professor Eugene W. Lyman. The collection contains correspondence, lectures, news clippings, UTS publicity releases, UTS alumna records, photographs, and other materials. See the updated Finding Aid here


Auburn Theological Seminary Archives

Titus and Fidelia Church Coan papers, 1830 — 1848

Titus Coan was an Auburn Theological Seminary alumnus and Presbyterian missionary; his first wife Fidelia Church Coan was a teacher who accompanied him to Hawaii on missionary work. The collection contains letters describing events and practical concerns of life in Hawaii, and reflecting on the missionary movement of the time. See the updated Finding Aid here 


Missionary Research Library Archives

James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey papers, 1920 — 1927

Photograph of James Aggrey, from Smith, Edwin W. Aggrey of Africa: a study in black and white. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971 [1929].

James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, 1875-1927, was a distinguished scholar and educator from the Gold Coast, West Africa. The collection contains materials gathered by the Missionary Research Library documenting the life and work of Dr. Aggrey, including letters, newspaper clippings, a biographical sketch, and a bibliography. See the updated Finding Aid here



William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives

City Councils of Churches records, 1909 — 1970

The various City Councils of Churches were ecumenical organizations that focused on Christian and church unity at the local level. Among the materials included in the collection are annual reports, bulletins and newsletters, and pamphlets. See the updated Finding Aid here



Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship

The Re-Imagining Community records, 1988 — 2016

The Re-imagining Community was a grassroots, ecumenical movement (centered in Minneapolis, Minnesota) that was organized to challenge what it saw as a patriarchal church hierarchy, promoting justice and equality in the church and society as a whole. The collection contains newsletters and other publications, audio recordings of annual conferences and video recordings of responses to the 1993 conference, records relating to the planning of the annual conferences, and administrative records of the organization. See the updated Finding Aid here


General Collections

Theological audiocassette collection, circa 1968 — 1990

This is an artificial collection composed of audiocassette recordings, held by the Burke Library, of various theological conferences and events, including the Evangelical Women’s Caucus, the First International Congress on the Meaning of Human Suffering, God’s Call to a New Beginning Conference, and the 1986 and 1987 National Workshop on Christian Unity, among others. See the updated Finding Aid here



2 thoughts on “Updating Finding Aids: Improving the Discovery of Archives at the Burke Library

  1. This includes the Journal Archives collection, which combines nine. Improving open access and discovery during the pandemic. Its network of presidential libraries, regional archives, and federal records .

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