Sep 26 2013

Provenance

Published by at 5:24 pm under Autographs (Provenance)

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In the last post I mentioned that my job is not all about provenance. But sometimes it is, and doing the research to both identify the owner, and provide the ability to track that information provides a great deal of value to our records.  In this case, the owner of this book on the plague was Silvester Gardiner, a Boston physician from the 18th century, and a bit of a loyalist.  In 1778, his name appeared on the proscription and banishment act, and his property was confiscated and sold at auction, including his personal collection of rare books.

Provenance is an area rich for discovery in the Digital Humanist toolkit, and recently a group of students from Swathmore created an app that visualizes the provenance of rare manuscripts in the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts.  Of course it is only possible to create that app with the metadata that had been added consistently to the collection.  In other words, if you don’t track it, you can’t find it.

Also, notice that the Wikipedia article uses a VIAF entry for authority control? If my record uses the authorized name then the possibility for linked data and “discoverability” increases, which is exactly what metadata librarians are trying to accomplish.

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