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Automating Army Hislory

Kathryn Davis

Rcscareh is the essenIX of the lIislQrian's WQI't.. Sui sina: suC«$fllt rcliearch is Ikp\!ndcnt UIX'" the

and ReconJs Administration. and the National P:lrk Servic.:--each l>f which possess subslan!ial holding!:

availability of soun:e

Iocaling and having

of intereS! to Anny

Access 10 such a

access to rclcvanl sou= is vital. Unfortunately the process of rmding pertinc:nt 5OII=S is often a lengthy onc:. especially if historians must rely on traditional

meano; of locating

Valuable research time


sJlCnT simply searching the holdings of reposi.

tories in the hope of finding u!:Crlll

If a

net"ior!<; would save historians tremendous amounu;of time. reduce costs. and enable Ihcm to kecp abrcasl of new collections as they become available. ReganJlcss ofwhco such a nctwol't. becomes available. t.hc Anny nec<ls 10 become aware ofclcctmnk means forbriug ing hi!>!oriaru and 50111"CC materials togt!hcr.

quicker. morc efficient way of locating 5OIIn:c: materi· als existed. historiano; WQuld be able: to inve5t more time on what thc:y do best-<);amining•.malyzing. and

The Mill

Several yean ago the U.s. Anny Military HiStory

explaining historical information.

l1Icre is a wealth of material for Army historians

within the

many libraries. museums, and his


(Oneal coltectiollS--lhc problem is deciding where to seareh. While lherc have been tentative efforts to aUIoma!e access to t.hcsc resources. the Anny histori cal community oflcn must still rely on wolll of mouth. occasional printed finding aids. telephone calls, cun· ning, and plain old inSlirlCltu locate pertinent materi als. Until recently little !hought W;iS given to making iteasierfor Army historians by providing them with an economical. efficiw! way of localing source materials ",ittwlul hav ing to leave their offices.

T«hnol og,y to thl'

With the proliferation o f computen throughout

lhe Anny and the growth of on·line catalogs. d.1ta bit:;es. and electronic firiding aids, Anny historians are now in a position 10 access vast holdings of aUlOmated

5OIIn:c: materials. Existing technology Anny hIstoriCal communltytOllCtwork

enables the many auto

maled systems.

Historians can easily tap into such a

InSlitutc (MH I) faced automalion ch.allcngcs very similar to the ones now facing the enUre ATmY hislOri· caloommunity. E!:tahlishcd In 1%7. the inS!itute·s stated mission is to ''racililatC and encourage the offi· cial and unofficial usc and study of mil iury by I.hc acquisitions, conccntratkm, pI"CSCrvation. organi· ution and disposition of materials rela\ing to the military leiPCCts of histury.,. TI!csc malerials include books. guvernment documents. military puhlic:nions. periodicals. diaries. letters. memoirs. photogntphs. maps. posters. 5hefi music. oralhistorics. and audio visual productions. Since its cstablislunent MHI ha.« 3C<.juiml materials at a phenomenal rate. requirtng immcru;c effort just to physically handle, Mn. and catalog I.hcm. AttiffiC8 the innux of material was!iO overwhelming !hat a l;ll"gc percentage was simply SCt aside 10 be organited at a later date. This expedient, of course:. resulted in considerable backlogs ofmatcrials awaiLing processing. thereby denying ac cess 10 key soun;es. All eonccmcd soon became aware thaI the tl"3ditional methods used to control the inSti_ tU1l!·s eollcctloru; and provide infonnation to patrons

network using a personal computer ....ith a telecommu nications software package and a modem. 1llC possi bilities for such a system seem endles8. An opcralion

wcre no longer adequate. [n sheer


turned In automation to improve control over its 00[

lections and services 10 ilS CUSIOmCTli.

could be as simple as "black boxing·· existing

AUlOmaled SYSlemS gradually were introduced at

together 10 provide electronic mail, file



bcgiMing in 1976 withpanicipaJion inthe

remote log_in capahility. or

complex ali providing a

central data base contalning all of the Anny's


00 a maioframecomputer with thecap;!

On·Line Cataloging Library Center (OCI.C), an Inler national cataloging resource sharing IICtwnrk. 111;5 innovation Wlei followed in 1985 with the develop·

bllity of on·lIne full_text retrieval. Furthennore. this electronic resource-sharing network could interface with selected noR·Dep<ll\Jl\cnl OfDcfCTW:: institutions. such 38thc Library ofCongress. the Naliooal Arehives

ment and implementation of the Carlisle Tri-Library System (CATS), an on·line: cill\log shared hy the three libraries on Carlisle Barracks. Next, MHI crealed a

local IICIWOrk of mul\iuso;r computcrs (Intel 310s)


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