Date:December 16, 2013

Jews in America – Charleston College

Soviet_Jewry_Liberty_BellThe American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History host the Jews in America project. The goal of the project is to create a gateway to Jewish heritage artifacts at institutions across the United States. Four teams were tasked with finding Jewish heritage collections whose data fits the goals of the project. My team selected the Charleston College Low Country Digital Library, which has a rich collection of oral histories and papers from American Jewry in the Charleston region. We selected collections from LCDL that best fit the Jews in America vision, harvested metadata and URLs from the collection and delivered the data to AJHS for inclusion in their database. The Charleston collection was one of two projects selected for inclusion in the Jews in America repository.


We began with a list of potential tasks:

  • Contact interested historical societies
  • Explain the project outline and scope to them
  • Discover their interest level

The College of Charleston had been involved with AJHS previously and were familiar with the Jews in America project. According to AJHS, they had been one of the partners working with AJHS to apply for a grant for the portal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which they ultimately did not receive. Since then, AJHS had continued to seek smaller amounts of funding, but Charleston had not been involved and needed to be updated that there was a new website platform and that AJHS was interested in obtaining their metadata for it.

We contacted Dale Rosengarten of the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection to follow up on her interest in continuing the project. Dale confirmed that she was interested and put us in touch with Heather Gilbert, the project coordinator for the Lowcountry Digital Library.

The next steps for us were to:

  • Discover the working status of their metadata (format)
  • Evaluate the importance and relevance of the repositories surveyed
  • Select collections to include

The Lowcountry Digital Library contains a number of items in its Jewish History Collection, including a series of oral histories of Charleston area residents and a collection of papers from Martha Bauer from the Holocaust Archives Project. Additional collections that might fit the Jews in America project include the Charleston Chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, the William A. Rosenthal Judaica Collection and other collections within the Holocaust Archives Project. The goal of the Jews in America project is to document the condition and complexities of the American Jewish diaspora.

While the oral histories fit the criteria for the Jews in America project, since they were recorded in Charleston and consisted of interviews of members of the Jewish community there, the Martha Bauer Collection was less clear-cut. Martha Bauer donated papers relating to research of her family’s emigration from the Czech Republic. This collection includes images and documents that were not created in the United States. Our advice was to include records that either were created by a Jewish American or where the creator has significant ties to a Jewish American, e.g., a photo of a grandparent or a letter written to a Jewish American. Unfortunately, the creator of some of the items such as old photographs was not always clear. We decided to include all items in this collection, since omitting the items created outside the U.S. or where the creator was not easy to determine would remove a large part of the story of a Jewish American woman’s quest to understand her family’s journey to America.

The next step for us was to:

  • Acquire raw data- standardize it through working with AJHS

Once we selected the collections we were interested in ingesting to the Jews in America project, we set up a conference call with Heather Gilbert to request the datasets. We encountered a slight challenge upon discovering, through a web search, an OAI harvester for the Charleston collection: unfortunately, Heather informed us that this dataset was incomplete. Charleston had recently reorganized its content and requested that we use Excel spreadsheets that she would send us and append the records with the updated URLs.

According to correspondence with Heather, since the original communications with AJHS (from January of 2012), the Lowcountry Digital Library migrated from CONTENTdm to Fedora Commons, using MODS metadata  The new digital library can be found here: They also added a number of Jewish Heritage Collections since 2012, some of which may be relevant to the Jews in America Project. Heather explained that the new system is no longer able to export metadata via OAI-MPH and that they would send us record data in Excel.

Heather provided a description of some of the collections that the College of Charleston has in its Jewish Heritage Collection. The William A. Rosenthall collections contains mostly European content and a lot of the collections have content from a variety of geographic origins. She cautioned that without funding, they may not be able to help us parse out records that are American in origin.

Christine from AJHS forwarded four datasets that she felt fit the criteria for the Jews in America project. The remaining projects may need to be evaluated for inclusion on an item by item basis. We worked with included the following collections:

  • Jewish History Collection: Oral History
  • Holocaust Archives Project: Martha Bauer Collection
  • Zionist Organization of America

Mapping Metadata Fields to Jews In America

Having received the raw data, our next tasks were to:

  • Prepare Excel file for ingest
  • Prepare the ingest mapping

The Jews in America website is built on a Collective Access platform. To ingest records from the College of Charleston format into the Jews in America database, we needed to review the data fields from each institution to determine how they would map. We used the following metadata map:

College of Charleston Jews in America
Title Title
Creator Not used in Jews in America, but evaluated to determine the relevance to the Jews in America collection.
Date Date
Subject – Topical Subject
Subject – Personal or Corporate Name Subject
Subject – Geographic Subject
Description Description
Contributing Institution Source
Rights Rights
Preferred Footnote Citation Not used
S.C. County Not used
Digitization Specifications Not used
Date Digital Not used
Type Not used
Format Not used
Media Type Not used
Language Not used
Resource Locator Resource Locator

We added the following fields:

New Field Description
IDNO Item URL at the Lowcountry Digital Library
AltID Item URL at the Lowcountry Digital Library

The completed spreadsheets for ingest can be found at: