The archives of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum are on their way to being completely searchable via the internet, thanks to a grant the nonprofit organization received last week.
The Council on Library and Information Resources selected the museum to receive a Cataloging Hidden Collections and Archives grant of $293,000. The grant, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is the largest the museum has received in its 90 years of existence.
“It’s really going to be very helpful to us to get our archival collection to be arranged and described and catalogued,” said project manager Nancy Cole, who is also the museum’s education director. The collection of maps and charts, manuscripts, photographs and films will not itself be viewable online, but descriptions for each piece will be available, allowing the casual museum-goer to plan a more educated visit, or the serious researcher to know which of the museum’s 100 whaling logbooks would be most useful.
“We’re just so happy that we’re going to be able to get so much work done with this,” chief curator Bonnie Stacy told the Gazette. “When people search the internet, they’re going to be able to see how much fabulous stuff we have here.”
“We’ve had researchers come here from all over the world in the past,” Ms. Cole said. “Because of our maritime collection, we really have a worldwide audience.”
The application process for the grant began about a year ago and involved a preliminary round, after which a smaller group of prospects were invited to complete the final application.
“We were thrilled when they invited us to apply,” Mrs. Cole said. “Our fingers were crossed, and then we were very excited that we were chosen.”
About 45 per cent of what the museum holds in its collection has already been catalogued and described online. The grant allowed for the hiring of two people to complete the process, which is estimated to take two years. Only archival materials will be part of the project, but the museum is currently working on another endeavor to rehouse both its archival materials and its objects collections, using Community Preservation Committee funds from the towns. Collections will be re-housed into acid-free containers and folders. In creating the descriptions and the online catalog, Mrs. Cole said, people will have an idea of what they are looking for before they go physically searching through the fragile materials.
“It’s a perfect marriage of the two projects,” she said.