Un-hiding our Collections

I am beyond thrilled to be writing a post to tell you about a grant the BHS library received a few months back from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant, awarded as a part of the CLIR Hidden Collections program and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will make possible a project called Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn’s 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation. It is a big and exciting project for us to undertake. Over the next two years, we will be working to catalog many, many maps and survey and catalog a huge array of materials in our archival, manuscript, and photography collections.

This is just one of the many maps being cataloged as part of our Hidden Collections project. Map of the County of Kings showing the ward and town boundries, 1869.

This is just one of the many maps being cataloged as part of our Hidden Collections project. Map of the County of Kings showing the ward and town boundries, 1869.

The materials in the project focus on 19th century Brooklyn, covering the period from 1834, when Brooklyn was first incorporated as a city, to its consolidation with New York City in 1898. We see this as a fascinating period of history in our great borough; it is also a strong suit in our collections. Yet many of these amazing resources are currently not listed in any of our online catalogs, effectively making them invisible in a world where for many people, information seeking starts and ends with Google.

But this project will allow us to change all that! We’ll be cataloging like mad and putting the records in to a number of different online-accessible tools: the maps in to our online library catalog,  the archival collections in to our catablog and an NYU-hosted online finding aid search portal, and all records from the project will become a part of the WorldCat union catalog. Our hope is that with descriptions of our resources readily available and searchable on the internet, more and more people will find and use our collections, and in doing so will be inspired to create projects, papers, books, articles, research, songs, dances, and who knows what else about Brooklyn.

The project has actually been going on for a while now. We’ve assembled a fantastic project staff, and they have spent the last fseveral months surveying and cataloging. Some of their work is already up online (like the record for the map pictured above), but some won’t be online until close to the end of the project. In the meantime, the CLIR team will be blogging about their finds; and thus far, there have been some great finds. Look for a post from the library on Fridays, or click on the Hidden Collections category to the right to read them all. I’m really looking forward to reading them– I hope anyone who might be reading this out there in the blogosphere is too!

Chela

About Chela

I am the Director of Library and Archives at the Brooklyn Historical Society. I joined the BHS team in 2008. Prior to that, I was lucky enough to work in the archives of two other great history museums-- The New York Transit Museum and The Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford outside of Detroit.
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