Wilton contributes history to online archive database

The Wilton History Room is preparing five of its collections for inclusion in Western Connecticut State University (WCSU)’s Connecticut Archives Online (CAO) database.

“The CAO was created by and continues to be administered by WCSU,” said WCSU archivist and special collections librarian Brian Stevens, who was involved with the conception and specifications and continues to work on outreach and maintenance.

The database project aims to unify and simplify searching of archival holdings in Connecticut by providing a simple interface through which people can easily search and access collections from participating libraries, universities, colleges, museums, and historical societies at library.wcsu.edu/cao.

CAO staff trained Wilton History Room, Wilton Historical Society and Wilton Library staff and volunteers “to begin the work of getting the Wilton History Room finding aids online and freely available to all,” said Julie Hughes. Finding aids are documents containing detailed information about collections of papers or records within an archive.

Hughes will be gathering, organizing and converting the Wilton Library History Room’s genealogy, manuscripts, photographs, and Wilton historical information collections for the CAO database, while archivist Carol Russell will work on the history room’s Wilton Garden Society collection.

Wilton Historical Society collections and membership coordinator Nick Foster and Wilton Library community engagement and information services manager Michael Bellacosa are also involved in contributing Wilton’s archival holdings to the database.

“With guidance from CAO liaisons Martha Smalley and Brian Stevens, we will revise our current finding aids to meet Society of American Archivists (SAA) standards and format our data appropriately for conversion to HTML,” said Hughes.

This, she said, requires following CAO templates to develop new content for each collection.

“The major new content for each collection will be a descriptive abstract, a biography or history, a statement of scope and content, and a list of Library of Congress subject headings,” said Hughes.

In addition, existing collection inventories must be converted from Microsoft Word to Excel, said Hughes, which requires “item-by-item editing to resolve formatting problems following conversion.”

Content editing of the inventories is also needed to meet SAA standards, she added.

Hughes said the goal is to adapt Wilton collections’ “particular organizational conventions” to fit CAO templates and SAA standards in “the most logical, efficient and patron-friendly ways possible … without sacrificing essential information or functionality for history room staff along the way.”

To learn more about the CAO, visit library.wcsu.edu/cao.