Campus News - August 20, 2001

Access history through online archive

By Carolyn Gonzales

Image available on OANM. Original image is from the New Mexico Pamphlet collection 1880-1961 from the Center for Southwest Research, UNM General Library.The Online Archive of New Mexico (OANM), a two-year collaborative project designed to provide electronic access to 400 years of New Mexico historical data, is now available at http://eLibrary.unm.edu/oanm.

“The Online Archive offers scholars, researchers, students and historians direct access to the inventories of more than 1,000 manuscript and archival collections on New Mexico history held in the four major repositories in the state,” says Nancy Dennis, director of Library Information Technology at the UNM General Library (UNMGL).

The National Endowment for the Humanities provided partial funding for OANM.

“In addition to the inventories, right now about 400 scanned images of documents, photographs and drawings are linked from the finding aids and we are adding more. We can also link to other collections of art and artifacts. OANM also has audio clips. You can hear Bob King talk about playing in the Pit,” says Dennis, who adds that they plan to use audio to provide access to oral histories. “We also plan to have video available,” she says.

Currently, the archival collections available on OANM are held at the Center for Southwest Research (CSWR) at the University of New Mexico; Rio Grande Historical Collections at New Mexico State University; New Mexico State Archives and Records Center in Santa Fe; and the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. UNMGL is serving as the lead institution and has provided both technical and archival personnel to bring the project to light.  “Archivists from the four participating institutions have worked hard to contribute to this important project,” says Dennis.

“The future looks very bright for adding additional materials from other institutions such as local historical societies, museums and libraries from around the state. We are building the systems infrastructure so that smaller institutions will be able to add their collections remotely without learning a lot of technical detail,” says Dennis, who adds that the UNM General Library is joining a statewide effort to train personnel from several institutions to organize, describe and scan their collections to add to OANM.

OANM is an electronic eye focused on original historical documents from around the state. OANM is a single, integrated source for searching and navigating “finding aids” to archival collections. These finding aids, usually called guides or inventories, describe archives and manuscript collections housed at research institutions in New Mexico.

OANM, also indexed in Google, will be an ideal resource in K-12 classrooms, says Dennis. “Through this portal, students and teachers will have access to primary resource materials to learn more about where they live, their ancestors and the history of New Mexico,” she says.

Dennis says that the OANM team led by CSWR Archivist and OANM Program Manager, Kathlene Ferris and Orlando Albillar, who provided the systems support, have put technology into action to bring New Mexico history into the digital age.

“The future technological direction is XML, or extensible mark-up language.  It is more efficient, provides more detailed indexing and enhanced display and is becoming a standard for electronic publishing.”

“As a person with a technical background, I am impressed with the possibilities OANM provides, but more importantly, the lasting value of the project is discovering these important collections and sharing them with researchers of New Mexico history,” says Dennis. 

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