I knew that I was walking into an ambitious project, creating a database, even a small one, is a huge feat

Arden Kirkland (Vassar College) and Elisa Lanzi (Smith College) tell students about the joys and challenges of metadata.

Lydia Wilson, student participant, Smith College, says:

The first day of the project was absolutely the most intimidating day. I knew that I was walking into an ambitious project, creating a database, even a small one, is a huge feat. When I saw the sheer quantity of images, photographs, and other materials I went into a bit of shock and started nodding my head like everyone else. I felt like I had been asked to catalog every brick of the Great Wall of China. Above that, I couldn’t believe that Nancy Rexford had built that wall brick by brick by herself. Nancy’s hard work and everyone’s enthusiasm became a huge motivation and, not only made the job a lot easier than expected, but made it an entertaining and fun experience.

After the initial shock of the amount of work, the next challenge for me was dissecting the information for each shawl. Sometimes there was so much information provided, other times none, and many times Nancy’s beautiful cursive was illegible to me. At times I felt like I hit a wall with how to phrase a description, what to add, how to catalog a specific piece, and so on, but I always remembered I was not alone. I could turn to any of the three other students and ask them for help, to balance off ideas, or maybe even to try to figure out what the card said, and visa versa. If none of us could solve the problem, there was always Arden or Elisa there who would go out of their way to help find a solution. It made the project so efficient, and it gave me confidence in my cataloging abilities.

I am very excited that I will be continuing this project through out the school year. We have been building the foundation for the historic dress database, meaning this is only the beginning. There are so many possibilities, and so many directions that this database can be taken. I truly feel that the possibilities are endless and I can not wait to create something that anyone with any level of intrest in historic dress can interact with.

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