#ALTSB19 – Maryland State Archives

This past March I got to spend a few glorious days in Annapolis, working with the lovely staff at the Maryland State Archives as part of the Alternative Spring Break Program with Wayne State.

The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program is a fairly new program to Wayne State; it was started in 2013 in the School of Information Science (SIS) and is led by Kim Schroeder. ASB allows current SIS students to immerse themselves in a week-long internship at different state or national repositories (think NARA and Smithsonian) around the country and gain valuable archival and library experience.

After much anticipation and excitement (the ASB program played a large role in my selection of the Wayne State program) Cara and I were both accepted to the Maryland State Archives.

Oh, yes, Cara! Cara, is another online graduate student at Wayne State whom I have grown close to and discovered that we are “LIS twinsies” as she so fondly likes to say. We both started the program in 2018 and have similar interests in LIS and archives; whereas I lean toward digitization, user studies, and teaching with primary sources, Cara leans toward metadata, transcription, and digitization. We have had at least one class together every semester since starting the program, have collaborated on countless group projects together, and when we found out we had the opportunity to physically meet and partner-up, we jumped at the chance and requested to be placed at the same location.

Once in Annapolis, we explored a bit, got lost (multiple times) including on the first day of work (eek!), and altogether found Annapolis a beautiful and mellow city, full of history, red-brick buildings, friendly people, and Old Bay Seasoning.

Our week started on Monday, March 11th, at the Hall of Records, where we were greeted by the Director of Imaging Services, Corey Lewis. After introductions and and overview of the archives, we went to work straightaway, clearing up over 220 gigabytes of server space and removing redundant image files that very first day. To my delight, not only did Cara and I collaborate well online, we also worked extremely well in-person, moving through the clean-up and QA/QC processes seamlessly and without issues.

After the server clean up, our focus for the rest of the week was contributing to the digitization of the Chancery Records, Index 59, which includes mortgages, foreclosures, divorces, petitions, and records of infant defendants. (Yes, I did mean infant defendants). We digitized over 1,200 index cards a day and completed 10 drawers for a total of over 11,000 index cards. Each drawer required an initial review for upside down cards, staples (turns out tiny brass staples used to be a thing) and anything else that would prevent a smooth and efficient scan process. We encountered a total of nine scanning errors the entire week, leading to a 0.09% error rate. Not to toot my own horn, but…

This was an amazing experience and I must say, I feel as though I learned just as much in one week as I have in an entire archival course. To see the theories and practices that we read about in articles and hear about in lectures and see them put into practice was truly edifying. Meeting with digital archivists and the Digital Imaging Services team, observing what they do, seeing them run the microfilm, and treating us as professional equals was just the breath of archival air that I needed to keep me going as I finish up my LIS program.

Meeting with Corey and discussing current issues and trends in the field, asking all of my millions of archival questions, and learning that the Maryland State Archives base their digitization program off Australia’s (Australia, the forefront of digitization!) was a gratifying way to soak-up the practical information behind all the processes and procedures we have been learning at Wayne State over the past year.

We finished up our wonderful week of learning, scanning, dark rooms, conservation labs, QA/QC, of playing with OCR, ABBYY, finding aids, Kodak scanners, and flatbed scanners, by strolling around beautiful downtown Annapolis and having a delicious meal at the Iron Rooster.

ASB, what else can I say? Thank you for a sublime learning experience, and giving Cara and I the opportunity to return to Maryland, work in the State Archives, and bask in the awe-inspiring presence of primary source material and cutting edge technology.

Thank you to Kim, Emily, and Corey for placing us and thank you to the Maryland State Archives and the rest of the Imaging Services Department for including us and making us feel like a part of the team, even if it was just for a week. And an extra thank you to Mrs. Spang, for helping fund the program.

Here’s to hoping we will be back soon!

In case you are interested, here is direct link to Chancery Records we scanned, S1431-8 through S1431-17.


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