Sunday, 23 February 2014

LIB 122: Week 6-7 (February 18, 2014)

In class this week, Dan McLaughlin, one of the founders of the Pasadena Digital History Collaborative (PDHC), talked to us about assigning subject headings to photographs. Through my HistoryMakers fellowship, I had been taught to use a given subject heading if at least 20 percent of the oral history was about that subject. I knew that would be hard to apply to a photograph, so I was looking forward to Dan’s thoughts on the assignment of subject headings. The advice that he shared which has stuck with me is, “if someone was looking for an example of “x” from a certain time period, what would “x” be?”. In other words, if there is a faint outline of a bird in the background, birds should not be a subject heading because there is nothing to be learned about birds from that image. Just like the HistoryMakers had to establish some local practices, Dan shared the subject heading handbook that the PDHC uses for consistency when dealing with images that their catalogers come across frequently. One thing that the PDHC encourages that The HistoryMakers did not is the use of a notes field to record any of the relevant findings that a cataloger comes across while performing subject heading research. I understand that this could spiral out of control for super detailed individuals but it does create richer metadata records that enable more contextual linkages over time. Cataloging managers have tough decisions to make when deciding how detailed the records should be throughout a given project. Dan showed us some resources on the Los Angeles and Pasadena Public Library websites that would help us to identify the people, buildings, and businesses in the images that we would be working with on our homework assignment. Both of the images that I worked with had some significant historical context that I was happy to include in the notes field of the record. Thanks to this class, I now know who Baron Michele Leone is!

The following Tuesday, Dan came back to our class to give commentary while everyone took turns showing our assigned images on the projector and sharing how we arrived at our particular choice of LCSH terms. The class seemed to drag on as the same individuals chimed in to give me and my classmates, additional terms to search in the LOC subject authority’s website. Once again the subjectivity of cataloging photographs met with the criteria of the assignment. After four or five terms, I’m ready to move on to the next photograph, but some people seemed intent on staring at an image until they have exhausted all of the possibilities. In conclusion, I would love to be photograph cataloguer with a sensible manager that understands when enough is enough….according to me, J

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