In preparation for the upcoming Panama Canal Society Reunion in Orlando next weekend, we would like to extend a big huge THANK YOU to everyone who has helped to make this blog such a tremendous success! So far, our blog has been visited over 17,000 times! You all have enriched the collection so much by sharing your memories, stories, and information with us!
And throughout this first year of blogging, we have SO enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the Panama Canal community a little better! During some of our fabulous conversations through the blog, email, and in person, you have posed some great questions about the blog itself, so we hope this post may provide some answers.
Please keep sending your questions our way! You can reach us through the Comments section of this blog, or come see us at the Smathers Library table in the museum room at the reunion in July! We hope to see many of you there!
How am I helping?
The information collected in the comments section of the blog has given us the opportunity to update 101 object records in our collection database with information that is not available anywhere else, but from this knowledgeable community of our readers!
What happens to my comments?
After you make a comment, on a post, it is reviewed by our student bloggers, and staff members to determine what information can be used to update the object’s record. About 1/3 of all the comments made so far have been used to update a record’s metadata!
What is metadata? And What is complete metadata?
Metadata is information about an object. It could be things like a date, title, name of a person, type of machinery pictured in a photograph, material the objects is made of… just about anything. At the library, we consider an object to have “complete” or nearly complete metadata when we can identify all of the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of an object. So while we may have some information, like a photograph’s title, you can help us by commenting on posts and telling us any other information about it that may help to give a more complete picture of what the item is (or what is pictured in a photograph).
Who reads my comments?
Our student blogger and volunteer coordinator read the blog comments every day and they do read every single comment. Some other staff may also read and review comments for metadata collection.
Who makes blog posts?
The UF PCM Collection Blogger is a specialized volunteer position offered to one interested UF student, who has participated in multiple training sessions and is familiar with the content and organization of the PCM Collection. Since it started, the blog has had three student bloggers.
What should I write in a comment?
Anything! Sometimes we may ask a specific question about an image, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only information we need. Items are posted on the blog because they have little or no metadata, so any information (even if you think it seems obvious to someone who lived in the Canal Zone) can be very helpful! Whether it means identifying a person/place/thing, or explaining the job of a worker pictured in a photo, all types of information are helpful and can be used to enrich the object’s record and the collection as a whole.
So, what types of comments are most helpful– stories and explanations OR facts and information?
BOTH! So often, valuable and unique information that we can add to an object record is embedded in a story that someone tells us about the object.
Think of it this way:
A specific fact or piece of information is certainly useful. It can tell us what, who, or where something is.
A fact can tell us that this image is Edsel Ford and William Valentiner and that Edsel Ford was president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 to 1943.
A personal story or memory, on the other hand…
…can tell us what it was like to work in a Ford Motor Company stamping plant, one of the most dangerous jobs in the automotive industry. Your stories give us the “big picture” and provide important historical, social, and political context to the objects in our collection. And that is where the history and the legacy of the Panama Canal lives.
We can’t always add the full text of a comment to the object record. But we can take bits of it to fill out the metadata fields. And we can keep that text as a record that is associated with the object and maybe even kept together in the same envelope or box.
So, your comments, whether they be a small fact (like a year or a street name) or a memory of your time as a pilot, can be extremely valuable to students and researchers who are studying the Panama Canal and Canal Zone.