When family documents are scattered in multiple repositories over many decades, it becomes a scholarly challenge to assess the scope of materials available and to create critical narratives which are complete and accurate. A potential solution to this problem is to design a scalable, extensible, standards-based framework for publishing family papers and related photographic material that exposes and unites hidden collections from multiple institutions, in a curated online environment that allows multiple access points and multiple paths of discovery.

Three Rochester N.Y. repositories — The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery and River Campus Libraries, and the George Eastman Museum — teamed together to pilot such a portal in 2014, bringing together materials documenting the history of multiple generations of Rochester’s Sibley and Watson families in the first phase of the Sibley Watson Digital Archive.

The narratives, housed in separate repositories, which will make up this archive are international, local, and intimately personal. Two narratives were chosen for the Emily Sibley Watson pilot phase due to their relatively small scope, discrete time period, and variety of materials: James and Emily Sibley Watson’s trips to Morocco in 1891 and Egypt in 1893, during which they took pictures, wrote letters, and saved menus and other souvenirs. Over time, these materials found their way into different repositories, thereby losing context and in many cases, being stripped of any identification. The collaborating institutions’ work in digitally reuniting these materials became the focus of the Sibley Watson Digital Archive’s pilot phase.

Scholars: Lu Harper and Marjorie Searl

Published by Joe Easterly

Digital Scholarship Librarian