What’s up with the Bicentennial Project?

black and white photograph of Amherst, MA featuring Amherst College, 1800s

Since we officially began the Bicentennial Project in August 2017, we’ve been busy!

So, where are we now?

cover of the March 1972 Amherst Literary Magazine with drawing of someone traveling and mountainous scenes
Cover of the March 1972 issue of Amherst Literary Magazine. You’ll be able to see this issue and more soon in ACDC!

Well, back when I wrote Choosing the Bicentennial Collections in February 2018 we had decided to attempt to digitize, describe, and make available in ACDC 23 collections, either in part or full. So far, we’ve prepared for ingest 6 of these planned collections/portions of collections into ACDC, and we’ve been continuing to ingest selections from a 7th, ongoing collection. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

One of these 6 ready-for-ingest ACDC collections, Amherst College Student & Alumni Publications, Series 1 was a real whopper, too. To give a sense of scale, the portions of this collection series that we are able to put on ACDC based on copyright include 1,110 digital objects made of 29,379 images. That’s a lot of reviewing copyright status, project planning, digitizing, describing, reviewing, and ingesting. To give a sense a scale for where we are now all-in-all, let’s look at some more data:

  • Before we started the Bicentennial Project, ACDC held 4,172 digital objects of about 120,468 images in the Archives & Special Collections portion of the repository (the relevant portion of ACDC when it comes to Bicentennial work later on).
  • The launch date of ACDC was August 2012, thus ACDC was around for 5 years before the beginning of the Bicentennial Project. Of course, preparation for the launch of ACDC and digitization and description of objects that would go into ACDC began before that date.
  • Thus far into the Bicentennial Project we’ve prepared for ACDC 2,046 digital objects of about 47,466 images.
  • It’s been a little over 1.5 years since the Bicentennial Project began.
  • So, this all means that we’ve increased the amount of objects in the Archives & Special Collections portion of ACDC by about 50% and we’ve increased the images in the same by about 40% in less than a third of the time.
  • Oh- and by the way, over 60% of those 120,468 images that were in ACDC before the Bicentennial Project began were digitized by outside vendors. And the images digitized since the project began have almost all been digitized internally by us.

We’ve really upped our speed of output during this project thanks to increased staff and hard work on improving the efficiency of our workflows! Rock on!

A photograph of Chuck Berry playing the guitar at prom
A photograph of Chuck Berry performing at the 1967 Prom, included in https://acdc.amherst.edu/view/asc:980960

Okay, so we’re doing great so far. We’re here, in the middle of the Bicentennial Project, but

where are we going?

Well, this January we all (the Bicentennial Working Group and members of the 3 departments primarily responsible for ACDC) came together to touch base and assess what more we can do now that we’re about half-way through our Bicentennial Project timeline (August 2017-August 2020). We knew when we began that we would likely have to cut down on how many collections we’d reasonably be able to ingest during our timeline, and we were correct. So during the January meetings, we spent time prioritizing our remaining goals with the same criteria in mind that we used when first deciding on bicentennial collection candidates. We removed 7 collections from our bicentennial collections list for various reasons we’ve provided on their collection overview pages:

  1. Alumni Office Public Records, selections of the Society of the Alumni Minutes
  2. Friends of the Library Oral Histories
  3. Early President’s Office Records
  4. Books on Amherst College History [still imaging, but not going into ACDC]
  5. Amherst College Curriculum Reports Collection
  6. Amherst College Athletics Collection
  7. Board of Trustees Records, Meeting Minutes

We’re sad to see those we go. However, we want to make sure that for the Bicentennial Project we’re not only increasing our output, but we’re also staying true to our high quality standards. Not to mention (okay, well I guess I am mentioning it now) that several of the collections removed from the Bicentennial Project are still getting reprocessing attention during the project or are still being imaged by our Digital Programs team. So, even though they won’t make an appearance in ACDC by our project end date, the access to these collections will still be improved via other methods.

Now for the good news. This is where we are going – by the end of our project date, we still plan to have in ACDC these additional collections/portions of collections:

Thus, my friends, I’ve summed up where we are and where we’re going and touched a bit on where we’ve been. The only questions that remain are: What will you do with all this primary source material that you’ll now be able to access online? What old questions will you answer? What new questions will you find? Whose voices will touch your heart? What links will you make from the past to the present? Where will you go with what you find?

Amanda (aka Manda) Wise Pizzollo is the Bicentennial Project Metadata Librarian at Amherst College. Manda creates metadata and metadata guidelines for digital collections pertaining to the college’s upcoming bicentennial in order to aid discovery and access of these resources. She thinks a lot about what inclusive metadata is/could be and how we can make our organizational systems work for us rather than the other way around. 
Manda uses she/her/ella pronouns and can be reached at apizzollo (at) amherst.edu