By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
Although there are many miles between Boston, Massachusetts and Tashkent, Uzbekistan (6,148 miles according to Google) and although the English language is quite different from the Uzbek language, librarians from the National Library of Uzbekistan and staff of the Massachusetts Historical Society found much common ground and camaraderie during a recent meeting at MHS.
The scheduling logistics for the group – comprised of the Director, Deputy Director, Head, Reading Halls Lead Specialist, and Head of IT and Access to Foreign Library Collections – were handled by WorldBoston. The focus of the meeting and tour, which took place on 5 June, was on how the MHS makes special collections materials available to researchers both remotely and on-site. During the visit, with the aid of two highly skilled interpreters, we were able to convey information about cataloging, archival storage, and collections management issues.
Following Librarian Elaine Heavey’s brief introduction to the MHS’s history and collections, Digital Projects Coordinator Nancy Heywood and Web Developer Bill Beck showed some examples of how we make selections of our collections available online. The MHS website features a few different types of digital presentations—some sections of the website present sets of materials comprised of relatively small numbers of items with lots of contextual information and transcriptions, but other sections of the website present large sets of documents and/or fully digitized collection with minimal descriptive information and usually without transcriptions.
Elaine Heavey then conveyed information about how researchers use online catalogs and collection guides to prepare for their research visit and she demonstrated Portal1791, our new researcher request system. The group toured the building and saw the spaces that researchers use (orientation room, reading room, catalog room) as well as some staff areas including the conservation lab and one of the larger stack floors. They also saw a few highlights from the collections.