Breaking down NINES genres

Like most finding aids, NINES offers users various options for constraining searches. You have the choice of  adding other search terms, phrases (exact searches can be completed by putting the phrase in quotation marks), names, or even a date (in YYYY format). But on the right-hand side of your search screen, NINES offers a number of other possible facets to explore: by federation (NINES and/or 18thConnect), resource, access, or genre. Clicking on the values in this sidebar helps you craft a more exact search: for example, it is possible find all reviews that mention poetry in NINES that are free-culture (that is, they are freely accessible to all).

show genresNow that the NINES search index has surpassed 950,000 objects, genres have also emerged as a useful tool for browsing the material when an exact search isn’t your goal. Every contributor of metadata to NINES (library, scholar and commercial provider alike) is required to offer at least one genre designation for every object they share. This is the one controlled vocabulary within NINES, implemented as a way to get a a sense of the scope of each archive we aggregate, as well as a method of searching/browsing. The pie chart at the top of this post shows a breakdown of all the genres in relation to each other (see also the individual charts below).

The largest, by far, is the Citation genre, which specifies objects (like MARC records) that are placeholders for a larger document. Because of our partnership with the Lilly Library, the University of Virginia Special Collections Library and the Bancroft Library, a great deal of NINES objects remain citation-only. Our hope, when adding these records was (and still remains) to gradually add the full text of each of these items as they are digitized by their home institution. Letters are also a large part of the NINES index, with 113,160 identified so far. Travel, Life Writing and Visual Art are other front-runners, offering a broader context for the more literary resources NINES has peer reviewed in the past 5 years.

Genres in NINES are not perfect descriptors for the objects we aggregate: some archives submit rigorously detailed genre information (including three or four for one object) while others contribute the requisite one per object. They are generated automatically from scripts examining the subject headings in MARC records, which provides a speedy method but not so exact as the discriminating scholar. However,  when used globally they can provide a useful way into a large body of material –  or more specifically,  insight into the kinds of materials that inform any given site in NINES.

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