In 2007, the Archives of Michigan was awarded a National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC) Digitizing Historical Records grant. The project, named, “Thank *** for Michigan” set the ambitious task of digitizing every government-related Civil War record in the Archives collection (about 100,000 pages). The grant guidelines required minimal processing of archival collections and getting the materials to the researcher online just as they would find them in person. This meant that very little, if any, item level metadata (description, keywords, etc.) is used. Users are presented with the box of papers organized by the Civil War Unit including all the folder titles. Discovery of what is in each folder past that is up to the user. We hope to add a social tagging feature so such collections can be also described by the user.
With phase one completed (all images online and linked to the encoded archival description (EAD finding aid) it is now time to test the theory that people might rather have more content and less description than vice-versa. So the question becomes:
Would you rather have 10-20 pages of records from George A. Custer with detailed description or would you like to have access to all of the records of the Michigan Seventh Cavalry with only folder level description?
There are two ways we would like users to access the service records:
1. browse or search the collection from the EAD online finding aid. When you see [view image], clicking it will take you to the contents of the folder.
Finally, we need to evaluate the user experience. When you have conducted some searching and/or browsing, please take a moment to answer our brief survey. The results will be used to write usability reports for the granting agency. We hope in the next iteration of our website to have the finding aid on the same website as the images, that is not technically possible at this time.