About AAS > History and Activities

Cataloging Programs

The past thirty years have seen dramatic changes in the way materials are cataloged at the American Antiquarian Society. Three decades ago, most post-1820 materials were cataloged on typed half-cards. Since then, AAS catalogers have employed a variety of computer systems in the creation of machine-readable entries. Computer-printed cards filed in the Society's card catalogs have been a useful product of these computerized records, but AAS is now making the transition away from the card catalog to the online catalog. AAS's online catalog affords readers at the Society sophisticated online access to the machine-readable records created by the cataloging staff since the 1970s. The Society's machine-readable records are also available through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), a computer network that makes detailed information on the Society's holdings available to major research libraries and to scholars around the country and abroad.

The ongoing cataloging of newly acquired materials and the gradual cataloging of previously uncataloged collections has been substantially advanced in recent years through several special cataloging projects. Such efforts, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the U.S. Department of Education, and by private foundations, are a means of providing improved access to specified categories of materials within the Society's collections.

The first such project, funded by NEH, made possible the creation of detailed collection descriptions, in both a card catalog and in printed volumes, of the Society's manuscript collections. A second project, also begun in the early 1970s, was the cataloging of previously uncataloged pamphlet literature of the 1820s. During the course of this effort, AAS catalogers created the first machine-readable cataloging records of AAS holdings. Materials cataloged were transferred to the Dated Pamphlets collection, and the catalog cards produced were filed in the Imprints Catalog, thus providing "imprints level" cataloging for the first time for materials printed after 1820. In 1978, work began on the cataloging of the Society's collection of American broadsides printed before 1877. That project was completed in 2002.

In 1980, the Society inaugurated its North American Imprints Program (NAIP). Envisioned in its broadest terms, NAIP's goal is to provide detailed bibliographical descriptions of and sophisticated access to materials published in the United States and Canada through 1876. Initially, the Program focused on books, pamphlets, and broadsides (but not newspapers, periodicals, or engraved matter) printed before 1801, whether held by AAS or by another institution. The results of this major cataloging effort have become part of the British Library's Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalog (ESTC), and are also supported as an independent database of some 40,000 records, recording the locations of over 120,000 reported copies. Concurrent with this work, NAIP staff, with U.S. Department of Education funding, have created a full catalog of the Readex Microprint Corporation's "Early American Imprints, First Series (Evans)", which reproduces in microform most of the titles cataloged by NAIP.

From 1982 through 1987, the Society was a participant in the United States Newspaper Program, a cooperative effort for the cataloging of the nation's newspapers. The Society contributed over 14,000 records to the shared database, available through the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC) and RLIN.

Additional NEH-funded projects have created cataloging records for the Society's collection of children's books and its U.S. and Canadian imprints for the years 1821-1840. An NEH-funded project now underway will create machine-readable records for U.S. imprints, 1801-1820.

- Alan N. Degutis, Head of Cataloging


AAS Online Catalog