Subject Finding Aid Project

While the pandemic significantly altered our day-to-day responsibilities in the Still Picture Branch, our team adapted to the challenges presented by the work-from-home environment and bolstered our Research and Reference capabilities by increasing access to our holdings, digitally and on-site.  One of the projects we’ve undertaken to help in this endeavor is the description and tagging of our staff-generated ‘Subject’ finding aids.

In the Still Picture Branch Research Room, there’s an endless supply of ‘Subject’ finding aids compiled over the years by staff, covering a wide range of subjects in our holdings.  From Authors to Sports and so on, these finding aids act as a starting point for researchers, providing a visual aid to help guide them on their journey through our records.  With our research rooms being closed due to the pandemic, we recognized the need to replicate our finding aids in a digital capacity, one that would allow a similar starting point for researchers without being physically there.  As a result, we came up with a way to connect our records virtually, utilizing the tagging feature in the National Archives Catalog.  This feature allowed us to weave a unique thread through the records compiled in each finding aid.

With the help of staff volunteers, a large chunk of the hard-copy finding aids were digitized.  From there, we identified the finding aids that would be good candidates for the project, and with the help of our friends in Cartographic and Motion Pictures, executed a “Test Pilot” to see if the project would be a practical work-from-home task.  We saw promise with the test and decided to move forward with the project, getting the descriptions from the initial batch of finding aids into the Catalog.  Once live in the Catalog, the descriptions were tagged with unique character strings that are searchable and connect each item to their respective finding aid.  Below is an example of searching for the Aleut Evacuation finding aid.

This image shows the results of a search for the Aleut Evacuation finding aid, using the unique tag in the NARA Catalog.

To create the unique strings, we’ve combined the ‘Subject’ finding aid title with the suffix “- StillPixFindingAid”.  For example, to begin searching the tag above, enter Aleut Evacuation – StillPixFindingAid in the Catalog to return all the item descriptions associated with that finding aid.

This image shows the location of the unique tag for the Aleut Evacuation finding aid, in the NARA Catalog.

If you happen to come across a record tagged with our unique character string (or any tag for that matter), as seen in the red box above, you can click that tag to find the other associated item descriptions.

As the project goes forward, we will be describing and tagging more finding aids, and once back on-site, we will begin digitizing and uploading the images that accompany these descriptions.  Currently, item descriptions for four of these finding aids have gone live in the catalog, with 3 more on the way in early July, and dozens more on deck.

Live Subject Finding Aid Tags:

  • Aleut Evacuation – StillPixFindingAid
  • Berlin Airlift – StillPixFindingAid
  • Japanese-American Relocation – StillPixFindingAid
  • Journalism – StillPixFindingAid

Soon-to-be Live Subject Finding Aid Tags:

  • Aircraft Army C Types – StillPixFindingAid
  • Ambulances – StillPixFindingAid
  • Authors – StillPixFindingAid

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