2012 – Beneath the Home Page: Problem Solving with Online Repositories

Coordinator: D. Joshua Taylor, MLS
Instructor: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

See photos below.

Many people use general search engines to help them in their research but are missing the treasure trove of information that lies beneath online repository home pages. Like their “brick and mortar” sponsors, these hidden treasures are available to the educated researcher who knows how to manipulate websites to find what they are seeking.

This course will teach you how to develop a logical research plan for online searching and how to dive deep into the online collections of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the DAR Library, the Family History Library, official state archives and agencies, the University of Pittsburgh’s Historic Pittsburgh, and other university and private collections. You will also practice these skills through hands-on problem-solving exercises using case studies to solve research problems which will then be discussed in the classroom so that various approaches may be shared. The research skills learned using these internet libraries and archives should serve you well in your own genealogy.


Joshua Taylor getting ready to go on day 1
Enjoying the classroom with power in the tables


REQUIREMENTS: Bringing a laptop to this course is required. Wireless Internet will be used. You should be familiar with how your computer connects to wireless internet.

Monday (Finding Your Footing with Digital Libraries)

8:30–9:45 a.m.  A Broad Look: Online Digital Collections (Taylor)
This introduction to the course will outline the basic principles of online digital collections, their history and current trends. A discussion of the process of creating digital collections, as well as examples from major collections for historical and genealogical research will be discussed.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  What is a Digital Library? / Finding Online Digital Collections (Taylor)
What is a digital library? The concept of digital libraries have revolutionized the way researchers access materials found in libraries and archives. Explore (in detail) the process libraries take when creating digital collections and general techniques to finding digital collections suitable for genealogical and historical research.

1:00–2:15 p.m.   Diving Deeper: Online Finding Aids (Stuart-Warren)
Once upon a time there were unpublished guides, calendars, inventories, the minds of librarians and archivists, and word of mouth for learning about record collections. Today we have NUCMC, ArchiveGrid, WorldCat, ArchiveFinder, collection inventories, electronic catalogs, online lists and indexes, and other material for research planning. Learn a bit about each of these and what we can expect down the road.

2:45–4:00 p.m. The Online Catalog: Your Best Resource (Taylor)
Go inside the pathway to a library’s materials during this in-depth review of library catalogs. Techniques for searching and accessing materials will be covered as well as making the most out of mobile access and other features.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Problem-Solving Assignments  (optional)
Assignment: Develop a research plan for a current research problem of your own using at least two online repositories from each of the following categories: general libraries, state archive, university/college, and specialized library. 


Tuesday (Archives and Historical Institutions)

 8:30–9:45 a.m.  Key State Archives and Society Collections, Part I (Taylor)
This two-part session will examine online collections for a wide number of repositories in the United States including state archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, and other institutions.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Key State Archives and Society Collections, Part II (Stuart-Warren)

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Using Archives USA and Archive Grid, Part I (hands-on) (Taylor)
This two-part hands-on workshop will dive deeply into Archive Finder and Archive Grid to allow you to make the most out of the nation’s leading online catalogs of archival materials. Learn keyword searching techniques, how to read and understand results, and other techniques.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Using Archives USA and Archive Grid, Part II (hands-on) (Taylor)

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Problem Solving Assignment Help (optional)


Wednesday (Colleges and Universities)

8:30–9:45 a.m.  What’s Online at Colleges and Universities? (Stuart-Warren)
Diaries, journals, letters, photographs, historic maps, oral histories, books, and more from their college community, their special collections, the community at-large, and others supply us with an extravaganza of online resources at our fingertips. Learn ways to find these sometimes almost hidden parts of their websites.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Major Library Collections: New England Universities (Taylor)
Explore the vast resources found within the digital collections of Yale, Harvard, and other universities from the New England states relating to genealogy and family history. Records found only onsite will also be covered (in brief) as well as other regional universities.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Major Library Collections: Mid-Atlantic and Mid-Western Universities (Taylor)
From New York City to Chicago, the middle states offer some of the nation’s leading digital repositories for genealogical and historical resources. This hour will also focus (in brief) on smaller, local college collections.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Major Library Collections: Southern and Western Universities (Stuart-Warren)
From Washington state to North Carolina, North Dakota to Louisiana, California to Kentucky, the southern and western states offer great and expanding digital repositories for genealogical and historical resources. This hour will also focus (in brief) on smaller, local college collections.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Problem Solving Assignment Help (optional)


Thursday (Specialized Institutions)

8:30–9:45 a.m.  Religious Archives and Organizations (Taylor)
Whether you are searching for a member of the Baptist, Quaker, or Methodist religion, innovations in digital collections have provided tremendous resources. Collections found at university, public, and private repositories will be examined.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  The Library of Congress (hands-on) (Taylor)
Go inside the nation’s largest library as you learn how to use the Library of Congress catalog during this hands-on lab. Information on subject and name authorities, cataloging procedures, and other details will also be covered.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  State and Local Government Repositories (hands-on) (Taylor)
Learn how to access the vast numbers of records placed online at state and local government websites during this hands-on workshop. Participants will be able to pick their “favorite state” and conduct a full search for treasures hiding under a “.gov” domain.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Local Public Libraries (Stuart-Warren)
Public libraries across the U.S. have amazing collections that are often overlooked. Thankfully more of them are participating in online cataloguing, digitizing newspapers, adding online indexes to in-house vertical files, posting local photographs, digitizing books, responding to emailed questions, subscribing to databases we need, and linking to other helpful data.

Friday (Looking Ahead)

8:30–9:45 a.m.  Future Developments in Digital Libraries (Taylor)
As a conclusion to the course, we will discuss potential developments in digital libraries and collections within the near future. Emerging technologies (including cloud computing) will be discussed as they apply to the future of digital collections and their impact upon access for genealogists.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Problem-Solving Assignment Presentation and Wrap-Up (Taylor)

 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.       Institute Wrap-Up and Luncheon