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Emma, the Catablog

By Maggie Schreiner

Posted on May 6, 2019

By Julie May and Maggie Schreiner

Today, we announce the retirement of Emma, an interactive catalog of the archives and special collections held in the Othmer Library at Brooklyn Historical Society. For the last ten years, the staff at BHS have held Emma in high regard for the function it offered and the stepping stone it represents. Emma included basic records that described individual archival and special collections, and linked out to fuller, more complete descriptions such as finding aids and inventories when they were available. It was built using WordPress blogging software, hence we called it a catablog.  Before launching this catablog, there were only five finding aids available to researchers online, the number of online finding aids quickly grew to over 1,400 under the leadership of Chela Scott Weber.

Emma-Screenshot
Screenshot of Emma, circa 2016.

As BHS transitioned to our new website, the Library and Archives staff made the decision to retire Emma after a decade of dedicated service. The finding aids which were originally made accessible through Emma are now available with more robust search options through a partnership with New York University in the Finding Aid Discovery Portal. The new website also gave us the opportunity to integrate content from Emma into our new Research & Collections pages. You can find our research guides on our new website here, all of which have been updated and expanded to reflect the current status of our collections. Many unique library materials, such as our land conveyance and atlas collections, are described in a new Library Collections research guide. We’ve also posted several new research guides, on LGBTQ+ history, Neighborhood Change and Gentrification, Waterfront Businesses and Manufacturing, and Ferries.

Although Emma is no longer maintained or updated, you can still browse old versions of Emma on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. If you are having trouble finding any information on our website, please contact [email protected].

In case you were wondering, the catablog was named after Emma Toedteberg, who was BHS’s librarian for more than 50 years. She began as an assistant librarian in 1869, just a few years after the society was founded, and was promoted to Librarian in 1889, serving until shortly before her death in 1936. Even though both Emmas are retired, we will still remember them fondly.

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