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Lessons learned: Collaborating to digitise Yiddish-language collections at Cornell
This paper describes a grant-funded collaboration between Cornell University Library, the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives, Digital Consulting and Production Services, and faculty members from Cornell’s Jewish Studies Program to select, digitise, describe and disseminate English and Yiddish-language records created between 1930 and 1953 by the Jewish People’s Fraternal Order division of the International Workers Order. To serve researchers in the Yiddish-language community as well as English readers, Yiddish-language documents were partially translated and transliterated to reduce the language barrier and facilitate discovery and analysis. The project required a wide variety of specialists to communicate effectively and negotiate goals, workflows and standards. As this paper discusses, responsibilities such as file and document management, metadata creation and review, and quality control are especially demanding when working with documents composed of a language and alphabet that most of the project participants do not understand. Challenges and opportunities encouraged collaborators to re-evaluate and redesign certain existing workflows, and reaffirmed the benefit of others. The online dissemination of the records has opened access to a global audience, promoting scholarly work based on the digitised records along with greater interest in related analogue collections.
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Barbara Morley is a former digital archivist at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives at Cornell University. She has also held leadership positions in the Society of American Archivists Labor Archives Roundtable and the New York Archives Conference. She earned her MLS with a concentration in archives management from the University at Albany, State University of New York, and a Digital Archives Specialist certificate from the Society of American Archivists.
Steven Calco is a research archivist at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives, where he provides reference, instruction and outreach to Cornell and the scholarly community at large. Steven holds a master of library and information science with a concentration in archival studies from CUNY Queens College and an MA in labour studies from the Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Professional Studies.
Elizabeth Parker is the technical services archivist at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives. She serves on the Inclusive Descriptive Practices Task Force, the Collection Development Task Force on Anti-Racism and Just & Equitable Futures, and the Content Collection Policy Group for Cornell University Library’s Digital Collections Portal. She holds a master of library and information science with a concentration in archival studies from CUNY Queens College, an MA in classical studies from Columbia University and a BA in history and classical studies from Colby College.