Brandeis Library

Alumnus Returns to Campus as University Archives & Special Collections Volunteer

May 9th, 2018 · No Comments

One alumnus is giving back to Brandeis through his volunteer work with University Archives & Special Collections.

Bruce Rosen earned his bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies in 1970 and his Ph.D., also in NEJS, in 1977. Now retired from software engineering after more than 30 years, he’s back on campus to help the Archives in their efforts to make more materials available for research.

Cataloging Materials

Rosen came to the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections last summer as a volunteer with the goal of making more materials available online and searchable. Over the past several months, he has gone through piles of boxes to catalogue materials so they appear in the Finding Aids Database.

“I spent a lot of years here in the Library as a grad student, so it’s really a kind of homecoming,” he said. “It’s fun for me, and it’s a good feeling that I’m doing something useful.”

Some of the collections that are now catalogued and accessible in the Finding Aids Database:

  • Boxes of campus directories, student handbooks, and copies of the Brandeis Review
  • Materials from when Evelyn E. Handler was the president of Brandeis University from 1983 to 1991
  • Materials on Shula Reinharz, the Jacob Potofsky Professor of Sociology and founder of the Women’s Studies Research Center
  • Materials on Rabbi Marvin Fox, who was a scholar of Jewish thought and former director of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University

Writing Software

Rosen also has written software to make old finding aids more accessible through the tool ArchivesSpace, saving the Library years of manual work.

The University Archive includes several large collections of materials from faculty members and the Board of Trustees that were acquired and cataloged prior to the introduction of archive cataloging and searching software. The contents of these collections were accessible only via a number of manually input web pages, so while they were searchable individually, they were not searchable across all collections.

A long-standing goal was to import the contents of these web pages into ArchivesSpace, but this would have taken years of manual effort; one collection alone, the Nahum Glatzer papers, contained more than 1,700 folders of material in 92 boxes.

Rosen was able to use his software skills to write a series of programs that used parsing technology to extract the data from the web pages and then wrote the data out to Excel spreadsheets. These Excel files were then imported directly into ArchivesSpace. Years of data entry were compressed into several days of programming effort and these older collections are now all accessible through the ArchivesSpace’s search tool.

Here is an example of the Board of Trustees: George Alpert collection, before and after.

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