This week in NDSA: Communication Chair Veronica Johnson discusses her experience of helping to digitize a collection at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History.
Over the summer, I worked as a volunteer in the archives department at the museum, and got the opportunity to process a collection of materials that belonged to female aviator Dorothy Darby. Darby was one of the first African American females to receive her pilot’s license in the U.S. and she lived in Detroit throughout the 1920s and 1930s. A relative of Darby’s loaned the materials to the museum to be processed and made accessible to the public.
The materials on loan consisted of a scrapbook and Darby’s pilot logbook. I was given the responsibility of scanning the documents as well as filling out cataloging sheets for each document. Once the materials were scanned, I learned how to use PastPerect, which is collection management software that holds cataloging records. I imported the materials into PastPerfect and created metadata for each document. This experience really taught me a lot about how collections are actually put together and eventually made available to the public. I also love learning about history and historical figures so I am glad I was able to learn about a female pilot who I was not aware of prior to volunteering. Volunteering at the Wright was a very educational and enlightening opportunity and I look forward to learning more about the archival field through participating in other hands on projects.