NOTES ON THE INVENTORY OF THE ALEX HELM COLLECTION

Peter Millington

[13th May 1994 - First drafted]
[26th August 2000 - Converted to HTML]



INTRODUCTION

These notes relate to the computerised inventory of Alex Helm's collection of folk plays, folk dances and related customs. This was compiled by Ervin Beck in 1982.

To make the inventory easier to read, I have converted the text from all capital letters to mixed upper and lower case, using a computer program. I have also ironed out many of the minor formatting inconsistencies. Sample pages from the newly formatted inventory are attached. In printing it out, I have used layout and differing type styles to distinguish between the various fields rather than use the field labels.

I also used programs to automatically compile indexes for each of the fields. However, I came to the conclusion that the only indexes worth printing out were for Short Title Keywords, Authors, Journal Titles and Years. Sample pages are attached.

Indexes for the other fields either contained too many trivial terms (e.g. in the comments), or had too many entries under each term to be usable (e.g. in the References field). Nonetheless, indexes for these fields in purely electronic form have been useful in identifying inconsistencies and clerical errors.

I have made a small number of corrections to the data on items relating to Nottinghamshire, and likewise added a few comments. However, the project has expanded greatly since then. Automatic indexing revealed numerous minor inconsistencies and situations where standardisation is needed. I have also received a long list of amendments and suggestions from Cawte which should be considered side-by-side with these notes.

It makes sense to merge all these amendments and change them at the same time. I also feel it is important that interested parties should agree standards and a plan of action before continuing. I have therefore made no further changes.

THE MAIN INVENTORY

THE INDEXES

In all the indexes, the lists of reference numbers under the terms are simply sorted alphanumerically. As a result, for instance, page "200" might appear before page "60" in the list. However, except for the Short Title Keyword Index, I made sure that at least the volume numbers came out in the correct order.

SUMMARY OF POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS

  1. A matter of principle needs to be decided. Should the inventory faithfully record what is actually written in the Helm Notebooks, or should we correct, complete or enhance the information when necessary. For instance, where Helm has an incorrect or incomplete bibliographic reference, should we correct the error and/or add the missing information if it is known?

    My own view is that we should amend details when appropriate, but retain the original form as much as possible. With significant changes, an explanation should be added to the comments, together with the initials of the personal making the change.

  2. Cawte has suggested several improvements to the numbering system - e.g. to distinguish between seemingly identical items on the same page. It should be possible to accommodate most of these, provided that are concise.

    For retrieval purposes, there is probably no need to distinguish between similar items on the same page, but it could be important when it comes to citing items from the collection.

    Using lower case letters rather than capitals to indicate "recto" & "verso" page references would be easier on the eye, and occasionally save space in indexes. The same could apply to "A", "B", "C", etc.

  3. The remaining mixed upper and lower case errors should be identified and corrected.

  4. I agree with Cawte's suggestion that occurrences of "Helm Notes on..." should be reduced to read "Notes on..."

  5. In the Short Title field (or any other field in which stopwords are omitted from indexes) certain stopwords should be tied to preceding words using underscore characters to preserve meaning in index terms - e.g. "Isle_of Man".

  6. In the Short Title and Comments fields, the abbreviations "N.", "S.", etc., should be expanded to "North", "South", etc.,

  7. In the Short Title and Comments fields, county abbreviations and/or names should be standardised, as should the use of full stops in abbreviated forms.

  8. It is unfortunate that Ervin Beck chose not to include initials with the personal names that he quoted in Short Titles. Out of context in the indexes, this often makes it impossible to distinguish between personal names and place names - e.g. "Fenton". It would be useful if initials were added when available, as well as missing full stops.

  9. Cases where the full stops have been lost from initials in the Author field need to be rectified.

  10. Possibly, the form of authors' names should be standardised for each person.

  11. We need to introduce consistency in the use of initial "the"s in journal titles - either case-by-case for individual journals or for the whole list.

  12. Dates occurring in the Short Title, Title and Comments fields should be added to the Year field where they are not already present.

  13. The Comments field contains all sorts of information, which can be divided into two groups; (a) information which it is not worth indexing - e.g. cross references, paginations, notes on bibliographic accuracy, etc., and (b) items which it would be useful to index - e.g. lists of dance tunes, names of informants, etc.

    Some of the indexable items could be included in the Short Title or added to Publication Details. However, we should consider having a separate field for added indexing terms. This would be a more appropriate way handling, say, the longer lists of songs and dance tunes.

Appendix - Indexing Stopword List

&
+
-
--
---
----
A
ABOUT
ABOVE
ACTED
ADDED
AGO
ALEX
ALL
ALSO
AM
AN
AND
ANYONE
APP
APP.
APPEAR
APPENDIX
ARE
AS
AT
BACK
BE
BEFORE
BETWEEN
BY
C
CF
CF.
CIRCA
CITES
CO
CO.
COLLECTED
COME
COMMUNICATED
COMPARE
COMPARED
CONT
COPIED
COPY
CORRECTLY
CR
CR.
DATED
DATES
EARLIER
ED
ED.
END
ENDING
ETC
ETC.
EXTRACT
EXTRACTED
EXTRACTS
FOOTNOTES
FOR
FORMERLY
FORWARDED
FROM
FURTHER
GIVEN
HELM
HERE
HIM
I
IDENTICAL
ILLEGIBLE
IN
INCLUDED
INCLUDES
INDECIPHERABLE
INSERT
INTENDED
IS
ITEM
ITEMS
ITS
LABELLED
LAST
LETTER
LETTERS
LIKELY
MANY
MISC
MISC.
MOST
MOSTLY
MS
MS.
MSS
MSS.
NEAR
NO
NO.
NOT
NOTE
NOTES
NR
NR.
OF
ON
ONLY
OR
OTHER
PAGE
PAGES
PER
PERFORMED
PERHAPS
PLUS
PP
PP.
PT
PT.
QUOTED
QUOTES
QUOTING
RECEIVED
RE
REF
REF.
REFERENCE
REMAINS
REPEATED
REPLY
SAME
SEE
SEEN
SENT
SIC
SIMILAR
SOME
SOURCE
STIT
SUPPLIED
TAKEN
TH
THE
THEIR
THIS
THOUGHT
TO
TWO
TYPED
TYPESCRIPT
UNDECIPHERABLE
UNIDENTIFIED
UNREADABLE
UNSIGNED
UNSPECIFIED
VARIANT
VARIOUS
VERBATIM
VERSION
VERSIONS
VIA
VOL
VOL.
WAS
WHEN
WITH
WRITTEN

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