Tiaki – one year on

Please note: Following the 14 November earthquake, some unpublished Turnbull Library collection items are not currently available for use in the Reading Rooms. We've got more information about what's accessible over here.

The variety and richness of the unpublished collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library continually amaze me, even as a staff member here. Where else can you find everything from ancient Sumerian clay tablets to Burt Munro’s handmade pistons from his racing motorcycles, to Katherine Mansfield’s handwritten recipes for orange soufflé and cold water scones, to nuclear disarmament protest posters?

The Alexander Turnbull Library’s collections document the cultural heritage and taonga of New Zealand, the Pacific and Antarctica, and comprise everything from 19th century diaries and letters, right through to contemporary email files, photographs, oral history interviews, drawings, ephemera, political cartoons, and much, much more.

During his lifetime, Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull had amassed the largest private Library in New Zealand, consisting of over 55,000 books, and also thousands of paintings, drawings, prints, maps, pamphlets, manuscripts, periodicals and newspapers. The original collections as owned by Alexander Turnbull himself still remain intact today, and the collections continue to grow nearly a century later.

Reading room interior, Alexander Turnbull Library, Bowen Street, Wellington. Shows library patrons seated at tables in a window lit room.Reading room interior, Alexander Turnbull Library, 1952. Ref: 1/2-056206-F.

Alexander Turnbull had arranged his collections by format in his private residence on Bowen Street in Wellington. Following Turnbull’s death and the establishment of the Alexander Turnbull Library, each type of material was managed separately by staff in individual reading rooms.

This format-based structure was kept over the years, even when the Alexander Turnbull Library had moved from Turnbull’s residence to other sites around Wellington, and finally into the National Library of New Zealand building, where it is still located today.

Making Turnbull collections accessible

Unlike published books and serials that receive a brief catalogue record, unpublished collection materials are made discoverable through hierarchical finding aids, using archival principles of provenance and original order of collection materials. This way, descriptive records maintain the original context of the collection as it was created.

Finding aids describe materials from general to specific, starting with an overview of the collection as a whole, and then describing the parts of the collection, such as individual boxes, folders, or groupings of digital files.

Some finding aids are brief, and some are highly detailed, depending on the needs of the collection.

Unpublished manuscript materials from the Downstage Theatre Collection.Unpublished manuscript materials from the Downstage Theatre Collection, during the processing of the collection in 2014. Arrangement and Description staff analyse the materials and create finding aids for them, which are searchable in Tiaki. Photograph by Valerie Love.

As well as being searchable on this site alongside the published book collections, for over twenty years the Turnbull Library collections could also be searched separately though their own catalogue, TAPUHI.

The TAPUHI database reflected the Library’s historic structure, with separate accounts by format. This meant that manuscript materials like letters, diaries, family papers, and other types of documents were described and searchable in one account; photographic materials such as photograph albums, negatives, and digital photographs in another; drawings paintings and prints in a third; and oral history and sound collections in yet another. Each account in TAPUHI had been highly customised to support only that type of material.

As a result, a single collection might have several collection records reflecting the different types of materials within the collection.

A portion of the Barbara Hoskins collection relating to the Nimmo and Anton families.A portion of the Barbara Hoskins collection relating to the Nimmo and Anton families, Reference numbers MS-Group-2222 and PA-Group-00867. The collection comprises photograph albums, war diaries, letters, and ephemera such as dance cards and rugby tour itinerary cards for the All Blacks in the 1920s and 1950s. Family collections such as this one give insight into the daily lives and experiences of ordinary New Zealanders. Photograph by Dolores Hoy.

The Hoskins collection, as shown above, had two main group records: papers relating to the Nimmo and Anton families, MS-Group-2222; and photographs relating to the Philps, Nimmo and Anton families, PA-Group-00867.

If a researcher was interested in understanding the collection as a whole they would need to consult multiple finding aids, which could be confusing and time consuming.

Kia ora, Tiaki!

In January 2016, the Turnbull launched Tiaki, a new catalogue for unpublished collection. Tiaki means to look after or hold in trust, and the Tiaki catalogue offers researchers access to the finding aids and descriptive records for the Turnbull Library’s unpublished collections for all formats.

With Tiaki, it no longer matters what type of materials might be in a collection – they can all be described in the same finding aid. Multi-format collections described as a whole in Tiaki have the new reference number prefix of ATL-Group.

The first descriptive record created in Tiaki, detailing the Kenneth English Collection.The first descriptive record created in Tiaki, detailing the Kenneth English Collection, ATL-Group-00001. For the first time, manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera could be described in the same finding aid.

In addition to streamlining the description of collections, Tiaki offers several new features. First, Tiaki allows researchers to request material from Tiaki before they come to the Library, so materials can be ready and waiting for them in the reading rooms when they arrive, saving valuable time.

Tiaki also lets researchers view their list of requests, save descriptive records as favourites, and view the date and time that materials will be available. Access and use information is now much clearer and easier to understand. It is also easier to navigate through the hierarchy of collections to see how a box or item fits into a collection as a whole.

While Tiaki received a lot of positive feedback when it launched, there was still room for improvement. Placing a request for collection materials was still too confusing – there simply wasn’t enough information on the site to guide researchers through the process.

Make it easy, make it work

Over the past year we’ve been working to make the site more user-friendly, and on the first of December, we launched a new version of Tiaki.

The first descriptive record created in Tiaki, detailing the Kenneth English Collection.Updated Tiaki interface, launched December 2016.

The updated site makes it easier to place requests for collection materials up to six months in advance. Tiaki offers increased functionality to more easily print individual descriptive records, as well as the ability to print a list of search results. There is also more information in the Search Tips and brand new Help Requesting Items links.

The search fields themselves have been updated to be more user-friendly and retrieve better results.

Updated search fields for descriptive records and finding aids in Tiaki.Updated search fields for descriptive records and finding aids in Tiaki.

You can also search the Turnbull Library’s authority records, which provide the context for collection materials. They serve as reference tools for persons, families, corporate bodies, subject headings, places, subjects, Iwi/Hapū, and genres as they relate to Turnbull collections.

Authority records can be searched by clicking on the various icons at the top of the search panel.

Icons to search different types of Authority records at Turnbull Library.Icons to search different types of Authority records at Turnbull Library. From left to right: Name Authorities (for people, families and corporate bodies); Places; Subject Authorities (including Library of Congress Subject Headings, Ngā Upoko Tukutuku / Māori Subject Headings, and Thesaurus for Graphic Materials Headings); Iwi/Hapū names; and Genre/Form terms (Type of material).

From the authority record, you can then browse a list of related collection materials.

Name authority record in Tiaki for Maihi Paraone Kawiti with links to relevant collection items.Name authority record in Tiaki for Maihi Paraone Kawiti with links to relevant collection items.

Encoding standards

All finding aids and descriptive records available through Tiaki use the international standards for encoding, Encoded Archival Description (EAD), and Encoded Archival Context – Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (EAC-CPF).

EAD and EAC-CPF are xml-based standards of encoding to structure finding aids for the web. By following the EAD standard, all of the Alexander Turnbull Library’s finding aids share the same structure.

EAD and EAC xml can easily be shared with other institutions, and analysed in bulk via digital humanities and other data analysis tools. EAD is the basis of most aggregators of archival content, such as Europeana, Archives Hub (UK), and the Online Archive of California.

You can now download the EAD xml files for individual finding aids, and EAC-CPF xml files for our name authorities for creators, contributors, and the people, families, and organisations as they relate to the Turnbull Library’s unpublished collections.

Simply go to the record you are interested in, and select the Export EAD or Export EAC-CPF button to grab the individual xml files. Soon, the full xml for the Turnbull Library datasets as a whole will be available as well.

We want to hear from you!

As always, we are keen to hear from you! Please do tell us what you think of Tiaki, and if there are ways that we can make it better.

By Valerie Love

Valerie is the Research Librarian, Digital Materials, at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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