Minutes, Catalogers' Discussion Group meeting,
Sept. 29, 2003

The meeting was held at the Pierpont Morgan Library's temporary quarters, at the U.S. Trust building at 114 W. 47th St. Heidi Hass, Head of the Reference Collection, opened the meeting by welcoming the 30+ attendees and giving a short talk about the Renzo Piano /Morgan Library building project, currently underway at the Library's campus at Madison Ave. and 36th St. (More information is available at http://www.morganlibrary.org/expansion/html/index.html)

Liz O'Keefe, Director of Collection Information Systems, described the cataloging issues that affected the construction of the Library's online collections catalog, CORSAIR (http://corsair.morganlibrary.org). CORSAIR contains records for all the Morgan's collections, ranging from rare and reference books to art objects, drawings, and cylinder seals. In order to integrate records for such diverse material, it was necessary to do considerable customization of the displays (for example, replacing "Author" with "Author/Artist"), and to take liberties with some sections of AACR2. For example, CORSAIR records contain GMD's such as "drawing," "seal," "painting," and "sculpture," which are more specific than the terms prescribed by AACR2. These are needed to make the nature of an object instantly apparent in the brief titles list which appears as the initial search result.

The application of AACR2 to artists' names was an issue for drawings and art objects. The curators providing the data sometimes preferred name forms that were not formulated according to AACR2; but using the non-AACR2 names would have caused conflicts within the catalog, since these names also occur in artists' letters (in the Literary and Historical Manuscripts collection) and in rare and reference books. The solution was to use the AACR2 form in the heading, but to supply the preferred variant, as well as brief biographical information (place and date of birth/death) in the 545, Biographical Information note, which displays immediately below the "Author/Artist" (MARC 100 field). Another compromise was to use headings that take the form: Anonymous, Italian, 18th cent. (this formulation is not used in AACR2 cataloging, which simply omits a heading when the artist is unknown).

In order to accommodate the specialized research needs of users, many additional indexes were created. These include indexes to the 541 (Acquisitions History) field, the 561 (Provenance) field, the 520 (Summary of Content) field, the 510 (Standard Bibliography) field, etc. It is also possible to narrow a search to a curatorial department, to all curatorial collections, or to the reference collection only.

Maria Oldal, Head of Cataloging and Database Maintenance, discussed the use of different vocabularies for subject and genre terms. These come from many different thesauri, which may have different rules for creating subheadings. It is important to establish local policies for when to use place and period subdivisions. For example, it makes sense to subdivide headings such as "Illuminated manuscripts" by place of creation and century, or "Drawings" by school and century; but not to subdivide a heading such as "Author's inscription copies," where the place and date of inscription is usually unknown and usually, unimportant. Headings which apply to virtually every item in a collection (e.g. "Rare books") should not be used; it's also a bad idea to suddenly introduce terms which have never been used before, unless you plan to go back and update the whole file. Maria noted that the Index of Christian Art's list of iconographic terms now has a MARC code, and may be used as a 650 \7 (with $2ica).

She also discussed the logistics of having MARC records created and/or updated by curatorial staff. After the initial, grant-funded period of data creation and conversion, which was mainly done by trained catalogers, the onus for maintaining the catalog and documenting new acquisitions has fallen on the curators. Five of the six curatorial departments are now entering or updating MARC records in the database. As the Head of Cataloging, Maria provides training and templates for curatorial staff working in the database, and is always available for consultation. It's important to set clear boundaries: the curators are responsible for all art historical and object related information, while Maria has the last word on how to format the data within the confines of MARC and AACR2. This frees all parties to do what they do best.

Robert DeCandido, Database Coordinator, described and demonstrated the MS Access databases he has designed for the Registrar, Photographic Rights, and Conservation Depts. All these databases are linked to the Voyager system, and pull collection information from CORSAIR; but they also contain data specific to collection management systems. The database is designed around the concept of events: all transactions (e.g. loans, photo requests, conservation reports) can be events, there are also some events that apply across departments, such as exhibitions. Customized forms and reports allow the registrar to create check lists, solicit curatorial approvals for loans, schedule courier trips, assemble crate lists, and track insurance values. Photo Rights can assemble information on an order, create an invoice, produce a work order for the photographer, and track payments and late fees for rentals within a single database. Thus all collection management functions have access to the best available collection information data; when a transaction reveals that the collection description is outdated or incomplete, it acts as a catalyst for revision of the main database.

Questions that arose during the presentation: are variant titles and former attributions included in the catalog (yes); is an exhibition history included (not yet; there is an appropriate MARC field which could be used, but for items with very long exhibition histories, it may be preferable to link to a list external to the MARC record); are the curators' records revised (not all-insufficient time, and in any case, much of the information is based on specialized knowledge, not on transcription of information on an item; in any case, revision is confined to the portions of the record that are under authority control); do the curators also work in RLIN (those whose collections include printed material do; the others do not). The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for the School of Visual Arts, at a date in November.

Submitted by Liz O'Keefe

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