Excerpt from the Charles S. Hamlin Papers

The Society of American Archivists defines archival records as “Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs that are preserved…as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator.”[1] These types of materials are very important for historical research, which is why materials of this nature are included on FRASER. However FRASER itself is not specifically an archive. FRASER is a digital library of U.S. economic, financial, and banking history—particularly the history of the Federal Reserve System. So any materials that are native to the Federal Reserve System or that have information supporting other items in our collection have a place on FRASER. For a detailed overview of the scope of the FRASER collection, see our Collection Development Policy.

Archival materials provide a window into the fuller story behind the published record. However, archival collections can be very complex and difficult to organize or describe. A single archival collection (or even a single box or folder within a collection) can contain a mix of corporate reports, draft memos, personal correspondence, and clippings from various sources.

The FRASER team’s biggest goal when it comes to archival materials is to make them accessible to the public in order to further economic research and education. This focus on access manifests in how we approach our metadata. To begin with, all of our PDFs have optical character recognition (OCR) in order to make them full-text searchable. Some items in our collection are lengthy and cover a wide variety of subjects; a single archival box can have hundreds (or even thousands) of individual pages. Full-text searchability lets a user pinpoint a specific piece of information without having to read through hundreds (or thousands) of pages to find it.

Excerpt from the Student Research File

The FRASER team is also moving to include descriptive abstracts in our upcoming archival collections. This serves two purposes, actually. First, they provide brief synopses for the materials to help our users find the information they need. This is especially important for archival collections that hold items with greatly varying content. Similar to why we make all of our PDFs full-text searchable, providing brief synopses can help researchers sort through the mass of materials. Second, abstracts help increase our visibility in search engines like Google. The FRASER team wants to make sure that interested researchers are able to find available content.

When the FRASER team digitizes an archival collection, we keep the digital files in the same order as they were within the boxes or folders from which they originated. The order of the materials in the boxes may have had meaning to the original owner or creator that would be valuable to historians. If the original collection has a finding aid,[2] we include the aid and add hyperlinks to different parts of the collection to help provide another method of discoverability.

FRASER’s archival materials are excellent resources you can use to understand economic history. They provide a unique view of how individuals perceived particular events in history or of how organizations adjusted their internal procedures in response to certain events. To further explore FRASER’s archival collections, click here.


[1] Pearce-Moses, Richard. A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Chicago: The Society of American Archivists, 2005), p. 28 http://files.archivists.org/pubs/free/SAA-Glossary-2005.pdf

[2] We use the finding aid provided by the repository that holds the physical materials, when available. In special cases, we have created finding aids to accompany collections on FRASER. For further reading, see: Librarian Life: Records of the Federal Reserve System

Category: Librarian Life
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