Maryland State Archives Annual Report, 2001: Research Services

STATE ARCHIVES

ANNUAL REPORT, 2001

RESEARCH

Using original documentary sources, the Research Department works to interpret, preserve, and improve access to Maryland history. The foundation of the Department is collective biography developed to document the lives and careers of individuals who have shaped the history of Maryland. The primary focus is on biographies of the men and women who have served in Maryland State government. In addition to State government officials, biographical research broadens to cover special topic areas highlighting significant contributions from federal, county and local government officials, Maryland women, African Americans, Native Americans, military personnel, teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers, and others. To reach the widest possible audience, the staff prepares all research results for publication on the Archives' website and produces print media as needed.

BIOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH

This year Research compiled the first Biographical Directory of the Speaker's Society of the House of Delegates. This online roster of members contains biographical profiles of each current and former delegate, as well as photos. The biographies are available to the general public through the Archives' website, while a password-protected version with private contact information was created for Speaker's Society members.

INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH

In 2001, the Research Department initiated several key research projects, including the first ever comprehensive history of the Office of Comptroller of Maryland. This institutional and biographical history covers 150 years from the creation of the office of Comptroller through its evolution into a modern agency and highlights the individuals who held the office. In addition to an interactive database of research notes, Research is creating online an historical chronology of the office, placing it within the broader context of the State's history. Working in conjunction with the present Comptroller, the Archives also is helping to produce an exhibit and video to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the office in February 2002.

COMMISSION TO COORDINATE THE STUDY, COMMEMORATION, & IMPACT OF SLAVERY'S HISTORY & LEGACY IN MARYLAND

Research also supports the work of the Commission to Coordinate the Study, Commemoration, and Impact of Slavery's History and Legacy in Maryland (Chapter 316, Acts of 2000). This research is designed to identify and maintain relevant library and archival resources by production of catalogues and maintenance of on-line databases. Through the study of these resources, the Research Department seeks to add to the interpretation, scholarship, and understanding of the institution of slavery in Maryland, and to the collective biography of African Americans in Maryland. In addition to the Commission, the Department also provides historical research support to other State agencies and offices, such as the Office of Attorney General and the Office of Governor, on an "as needed" basis.

In conjunction with the Commission to Coordinate the Study, Commemoration, and Impact of Slavery's History and Legacy in Maryland, Research is gathering a complete set of Coleman Directories and placing them online in a searchable format.  These rare directories officially were titled, The First Colored Professional, Clerical, Skilled and Business Directory of Baltimore City with Washington, D.C. and Annapolis annex. Compiled by Robert W. Coleman, they were published from 1913 to 1946 and are an invaluable source in the study of Maryland history, containing biographical sketches of African-American professionals as well as advertisements for African-American owned businesses. In fact, the directories already are being mined for information by University of Maryland law students of the Race and the Law seminar, one of our student outreach initiatives.

Additional Projects.

INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Student outreach is an increasingly important function of the Research Department, and a vital part of the Archives' educational mission. This department oversees an extensive summer internship program and coordinates the work of student volunteers throughout the academic year. Through this initiative, students receive hands-on training and insight into the operation of a working archival repository, while the staff gains not only research assistance, but also fresh perspectives on their policies and procedures. Student outreach is an educational partnership through which both students and staff gain a deeper understanding of Maryland's historical resources.

During the 2001 Summer Internship Program, Research designed and mounted an online exhibit for the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Before this exhibit was placed online, access to the Women's Hall of Fame was limited to a commemorative plaque and a collection of paper files housed at the State Law Library in Annapolis.  Now, the biographies and images of the women are available to anyone throughout the State and around the world via the Archives' Museum Without Walls.

CHALLENGES AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Until this fiscal year, Research has been comprised of only one permanent state employee. A second permanent employee started in November 2001 to work exclusively on Slavery Commission research. With the additional assistance of one, and now two, contractual archivists, the department has maintained a high level of production and quality. The work undertaken by the staff requires strong research and writing skills, coupled with a working knowledge of Maryland history, law, and government. In addition, research archivists must develop an advanced understanding of the primary documents and information management systems at the Archives in order to perform the detailed work assigned. These requirements, coupled with the long-term nature of projects undertaken, necessitate the retention of highly skilled employees. Conversions of the contractual staff to permanent research archivist positions would provide the stability these positions require.

Since the Research Department is not fully funded, staff must secure outside funding related to special projects, such as the Comptroller's project, Women's Hall of Fame, Women in the Judiciary, and the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Clerks. While the products of these funded projects are certainly valuable to the understanding of Maryland history, the availability of funding drives the priorities for research. Therefore, basic, less "glamorous" work goes undone. The department would benefit from a baseline of General Funds which would allow it to address its most elemental needs: a new interactive biographical database which would automate some of the HTML work which now is completely manual; a renewed "Legislative History Project" initiative to review and research methodically all former government officials and publish biographical materials online; and the aforementioned funding for staff conversions. The research staff is small in relation to its large agenda, and must spend valuable time in search of funds to fulfill its basic mission.

Finally, due to space constraints in the Hall of Records building, the entire research staff is not able to be seated together as a department. Offices are overcrowded and managers have little or no privacy to meet with staff on personnel matters or with customers or service providers. This problem is only amplified during outreach programs when additional workspace for students is required.This problem is certainly not unique to Research, rather it is a problem for all departments. The responsibilities of the Archives and the number of staff have outgrown the confines of the current building and a new building or new addition is needed, if we are to maintain the current workload.

Maryland State Archives