The abstract field is one of the most flexible (and by extension, one of the most complicated) in this project. In this field, the cataloger will give a natural-language description of the map itself, noting generally the area that the map covers, the kinds of information that the map contains, and any notable features on the map itself. This will contain all of the information that is normally included in the Summary field in a bibliographic record (MARC field 520), but can accommodate much more.
Why Describe Digitized Maps?
Even though, with an online collection, users will be able to view images of the maps themselves, this is still an important field. The Abstract field offers the cataloger the opportunity to introduce phrases or keywords that would not be included elsewhere, thus providing additional access point for the map. By using this natural-language field, the cataloger also has much more flexibility than he or she does with the many controlled-vocabulary fields in the schema. For example, the Subject - Layer field uses the term "Places of Worship" in order to accommodate a variety of buildings. But in the Abstract field the cataloger can be more specific, noting, for example, that a map shows the locations of a Baptist church, or a Quaker Meeting house.
Specific Elements to Note in the Abstract Field
- Relief should be described in this field. In many cases, a statement about relief will be included in the original record. For more information about the terminology and symbology of relief on historic maps, see the Relief page in this guide.
- Native American villages, reservations, or settlements should always be noted whenever they appear on a map. The name of the tribe should be given, both in its common spelling and the spelling used on the map. For example, an Abstract for a 1778 French map of North Carolina notes, "Native American tribes shown in North Carolina include Tuscarora, Cherokee ("Cherakis"), and Hatteras ("Hatteras Indiens")." See the page on North Carolina Native American Tribes for authorized tribe names and subject headings.
- African American Churches and Schools are shown on many early county maps. These are often designated by the abbreviation "Col." for "colored." When these do show up on a map, note their appearance in the abstract. The term "African American" should be used consistently to facilitate keyword searches.