The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition
The data collected over the course of the 3 year project will enable The Bancroft Library to gain updated and more detailed information about all of its manuscript holdings, which will then be used to develop processing and funding priorities. In addition to establishing processing goals for each collection, the project will also result in improved access through full catalog records for each collection. Non-machine readable finding aids will be identified for future input and EAD encoding by the Library's Digital Collections staff. Bancroft's Electronic Collection Management System (ECMS) will be modified to serve as a collection management tool for all holdings, which will make it useful to the entire Library, including curatorial and public service staff. The survey will result in an improved collection management strategy through an improved workflow, the review of collection files, and the de-accessioning of out-of-scope materials.
Structure of Project
Project archivists use accepted survey practices to determine the scope and content and physical condition of each collection in The Bancroft Library's care. All survey information is being keyed into ECMS, a locally-developed tool used to track and report on unprocessed collections. In use by Bancroft staff since 1997, ECMS, captures information about a collection from the point of acquisition to full accessibility. ECMS records administrative and descriptive information critical for the management of our manuscript holdings, and supports the work of the acquisitions, archival, and curatorial staff in coordinating the acquisitions and processing phases. As part of the project, ECMS has been expanded to include data elements relevant to the survey instrument.
Surveyors are recording such essential information as creator/collector, subject, genre, provenance, title, date span, and size allowing for the creation of a full MARC record for each collection. As collections are examined for descriptive information surveyors also evaluate their condition. The Bancroft Library manuscripts unit has implemented the theories of Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner, and, as a result, we expect to reclassify numerous collections previously identified as "unarranged and unavailable" as being ready for consultation in the reading room. Survey archivists will note the arrangement of record series and collections as a whole, and the physical condition, in order to determine which of these can responsibly be made available for research, and to identify preservation needs for exceptionally fragile or valuable collections.
Scope of Project
Over the course of the project it is anticipated the team will survey an estimated 12,800 processed and unprocessed manuscript collections comprising approximately 55,000 linear feet of materials. The survey teams have already discovered numerous hidden treasures in Bancroft's collections. These treasures are being brought to light in the Surveyors' Blog for the enjoyment and edification of anyone interested in the project.
Marjorie Bryer, Survey Archivist
Amy Croft, Survey Archivist
Dana Miller, Survey Archivist
Elia VanLith, Survey Archivist