Collective Access: Technical Info

The gateway to our Girl Scout archives!
The gateway to our Girl Scout archives!

As mentioned previously, we are embracing technology and turning to Collective Access software to inventory and manage the Nation’s Capital collection.

We are very fortunate to have a council information technology team that has embraced this project and helped us to get up and running.

What Is Collective Access?

Collective Access is a suite of free, web-based applications that “work together to provide a seamless cataloging, collections management and collections publishing platform.”  The core cataloging app is Providence, while Pawtucket offers web-based searching and Tiverton offers a map-centered user interface.  Collective Access also offers a Configuration Library comprised of custom templates and record forms developed by other users.

VPS: The Host

A very basic setup requires a computer server on which to install the Providence application and hard drive storage space for the data.  Since the council system is Windows-based and CA uses the Linux operating system, it is easier to find an outside company with Linux to host the application and our data.  Council helped us set up a Virtual Private Server (VPS) through an Internet service provider.  For about $50 per month, we have 300 GB, divided into 50 GB for the database and 250 GB for storage.  We can access the program from anyplace with an Internet connection–the council offices, our homes, etc.  In the future, the Council may host the program itself, but for now, this arrangement works.

Roundabout: The Templates

Our Council IT guru also installed the Configuration Library from the Roundabout Theatre Company in Manhattan.  I selected this library after researching the many, many configuration schemes available on the CA site.  It’s really a very good fit.  Roundabout has costumes, props, and scripts, while Girl Scouts have uniforms, gear, and handbooks. Plus, Roundabout has a way-cool archivist, Tiffany Nixon, who is a tremendous ambassador for Collective Access.  She graciously met with me and gave me a full tour of her system for Roundabout.  Take a look at the Roundabout Archives website to see what Collective Access can do!

Carpet Diem, Part 2

Recap: We had to empty out the archives storage space while the Council office gets new carpet, so we “seized the day” to reorganize our space.

Today my husband installed the new Elfa shelving that he configured for the archives “pod” space at the Council headquarters.

He added high, ventilated shelves to hold our assorted Hollinger Metal Edge boxes.

Elfa shelves can be easily adjusted for height.
Elfa shelves can be easily adjusted for height.
Mark is an expert with Elfa shelving. (Really. You should see our closets at home!)
Mark is an expert with Elfa shelving.

Mark also adjusted the existing shelves to the same height as the plastic storage tubs (66 qt Sterilite ClearView Latch from Target) I used to group similar objects and boxes.

We will add two more shelves later.
We will add two more shelves later.
With standardized tubs, we can fit more items in and hopefully locate them more easily.
With standardized tubs, we can fit more items in and hopefully locate them more easily.

We kept one existing bookshelf and added a built-in hanging rod for uniforms.

We moved most of the items back into the pod, but others will have to wait until we have additional shelves for the baker’s rack.  They are stored at the council equipment site in Virginia.

Looks like we need new labels for some of our boxes.
Looks like we need new labels for some of our boxes.
There also is an additional high shelf where we will put empty boxes and other supplies.
We have a second hanging rod that we can use if needed, but we would need to adjust the shelf height first.
We have a second hanging rod that we can use if needed, but we would need to adjust the shelf height first.

With the current Elfa sale at the Container Store, the cost of the new shelving was just under $200.

Thanks Mark! You’re the best!

Carpet Diem, part 1

Plans for the new Nation’s Capital Resource Center have been delayed yet again, so instead of packing for our future storage site it looks like we will stay in our storage “pod” at the council headquarters for most of 2014.

However, plans to re-carpet the headquarters — plus a good post-holiday sale on Elfa shelving at the Container Store — have given us an opportunity to rethink and maximize the space we have now.

Currently we have two unmatched bookcases and a large metal “baker’s rack.”  The baker’s rack is good quality and very sturdy, but it is out of proportion with our mixed assortment of plastic storage bins and various Hollinger archival boxes.  Each shelf is stacked two or three boxes high and as many deep.  It is quite the adventure to excavate to the lower depths of the pod and I’ve always made sure to take a buddy in case I fall in!

Step 1: My architect husband measured the pod.  He had never visited the council office before and was astonished to discover that our storage room has only three walls–and one of those is made of curved glass blocks.

Step 2: Completely empty out the archives pod and desk area. Luckily, all this is happened during Winter Break. Four girls from my troop spent a day at Council and managed to clear the pod entirely. They even took apart and reassembled the baker’s rack in the temporary storage area. What a great team-building exercise!

The girls disassembled the pod shelving.
The girls disassembled the pod shelving.
They reassembled the shelving in the storage area.
They reassembled the shelving in the storage area.

Step 3: Evaluate the materials and determine how to group boxes as well as what furniture configurations will work and what won’t.

A very small sample of our storage needs.
A very small sample of our storage needs.

Next…..see the results!

Tea for Teen Troop at Peirce Mill

A few weeks ago my teen troop visited the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital main office, where they learned about career opportunities for professional Girl Scouts, discussed how exhibits are curated, and discovered some of the treasures held in our archives. Then they went south on Connecticut Avenue, made a left onto Tilden Street NW, and visited Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park. Barely a mile from the Council office is a delightful retreat that is a perfect place to relax after a rough week of exams.  It is also an important landmark in the history of Girl Scouts in Washington, DC.

Rock Creek runs behind the mill along a popular jogging and biking trail.
Rock Creek runs behind the mill along a popular jogging and biking trail.

On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house in the old stone mill. Grace Coolidge, wife of Vice President Calvin Coolidge, was on hand for the ribbon cutting.  Peirce Mill operated as a grain mill from the 1820s until 1897, when the main shaft broke.  Park administrators permitted the first tea house on the site in 1905, and several different ladies operated the concession before it was offered to the Girl Scouts rent free in 1921. The main floor was used as a tea room, while the cook lived on the second floor.

Peirce Mill, circa 1940s.
Peirce Mill, circa 1940s.

I am yet to find any photos of the inside of the tea house, but the May 1922 issue of American Girl described the charming decor:

The interior of the Mill has been entirely done over, with the walls a colonial yellow and the tables and chairs painted a dull blue.  Trim little curtains of yellow edged with blue fringe, and yellow and blue candles on the tables give a cozy effect to the big room. … Coffee chocolate, toasted muffins and marmalade, hot waffles and maple syrup are among the delicacies which are serviced at the Tea House.

Newspaper accounts especially praised the tea house for its “Harding waffles.”  Apparently presidential “waffling” has not always been a cause for criticism!

The tea house patio was located on this side of the mill.
The tea house patio was located on this side of the mill.
The interior is small and dark, but comfortably cool even in a Washington August.
The interior is small and dark, but comfortably cool even in a Washington August.

Unfortunately, the Peirce Mill tea house was not as successful as the one operated at Haines Point, but the council continued to use the building for leaders’ meetings and training sessions for many years.

Today, Peirce Mill is operated by the National Park Service.  Teen Troop 2890 thanks the staff of Peirce Mill and Steve Dryden of Friends of Peirce Mill for their hospitality.  For more information, see Steve’s book on the history of Peirce Mill.

 

GSCNC Antiques Road Show

The GSCNC Annual Meeting on April 13, 2013, included the council’s first Girl Scout Antiques Road Show. Members were invited to share their Girl Scout treasures and the stories behind them. The Archives and History Committee helped identify a few curious objects. We hope to repeat the Road Show next year and have better audio for the 2014 video!