How to groom an EMu



The decision of the Archives & Special Collections department to invest in EMu as the preferred collection management system was clear. Firstly, EMu could store and attach multimedia files to catalogue records – a feature that amongst other things would promote the results of digitisation projects in linking them with the corresponding catalogue entry. Secondly, Axiell recognised that different institutions using this software would require different things, meaning that EMu could be changed and upgraded due to institutional need. Finally, and perhaps the most importantly, The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow was already using EMu and IMu (Axiell’s way of distributing the data held on EMu via an online interface). In this way, both staff using EMu and users interacting with the online interface could search across both Archives & Special Collections as well as The Hunterian – thus ensuring and promoting cross organisational research.

Due to various reasons, it was decided during initial talks that the first collections to be imported into EMu would be the Manuscript catalogue and the Scottish Theatre Archive (STA). My job was to investigate the ways in which these collection levels had been imported and re-arrange the data so that the proverbial shoe fitted. There were 1500 collections in the Manuscript catalogue, and 824 in the STA.

For those who have not previously interacted with EMu, what cannot be understated is the specificity of how data is entered in its fields. While previous collection management systems I had worked with had similar, if not the same fields, EMu distinguishes itself in how particularly this information is stored. This project required me to work in the summary tab focusing on the date, title, scope and content, and physical description fields; the physical description and the access tab focusing on the languages and language codes. If we take dates as an example and look at what the fields look like when opening a new record.


My project was not cataloguing material into EMu and instead of creating new records, I was greeted with the data of collections that had until now been previously held in an Access database. While information regarding the dates hadn’t been lost, it had been imported in a way that EMu was not entirely satisfied with. To illustrate how exactly EMu wanted this information formatted, let’s take the example of a collection that spans from the 1st January 1699 to the 31st January 1701. While the top box would suggest that one would enter the entirety of the date span as shown below, the ominous red suggests otherwise:


Alternatively, one may assume that in entering 1699 and 1701 that EMu would recognise that the entirety of these years were covered in its span – surely there would be no need to enter the first and last dates of the years. Alas, EMu is not impressed:


Instead, the way that EMU wishes one to input the information is in the following way. The top box labelled ‘Date(s)’ requires that only the year of the span are entered, and then the first and last date are entered in a DD-MMM-YYYY format in the earliest and latest boxes below. As such a collection that spans from the 1st January 1699 to the 31st January 1701 correctly formatted would look like the following:


This perfectly illustrates the way in which fields are designed so as the data held on these tabs are as detailed as possible. While data cleaning may not be the most glamorous job in the archival sphere, it is an extremely worthwhile venture and as such I have become successful in confidently working with a previously unknown CMS. In editing the imported information of catalogue entries, I have been forced to grapple with and now tame what at first seemed a daunting task. In the process of completing the data clean up of the Manuscript and STA collection levels, I have familiarised myself with navigation tools, found shortcuts and I am now in the process of formalising this information so that others can do the same.





Categories: Archives and Special Collections, Reflections

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