The last time I wrote about detective work in my job, I mentioned “authority work” and linked to the Library of Congress’ explanation of what it entails. Here’s another example, from earlier this week.
I began to catalog these two recently-purchased pamphlets from the 1940s:
The cataloging itself was straightforward, but a piece of accompanying information gave me pause. These mimeographed pamphlets seem to be the earliest version of a series that was published several more times over the years. Some of the later versions had illustrations by a different artist, Andy (or Van) Tsihnahjinnie.¹ These early ones were illustrated by William Morgan, better known for his work on The Navajo Language.
The information that was puzzling me came from a brief email conversation that our Head of Archives and Special Collections shared with me. He had inquired of the library at the Navajo Nation Museum whether they had any additional information about these pamphlets. Their reply indicated that while Tsihnahjinnie was Navajo, Morgan was not. This bothered me because I remembered other materials in our collection listing Morgan as a translator, and identifying his tribal affiliation, so I double-checked his Name Authority Record (NAR):
Note the three citations listed under the “Found in” section. These references can be sources that catalogers have used for information on Morgan, or other works he produced. NARs are often updated over time–this particular one was first created in 1991 as “Morgan, William, 1917-” and most recently edited in 2011 to add the death date and citation for the Anthropological Linguistics article.²
After a little more investigation, I discovered that the confusion lay with the second citation attributed to Morgan. Human-wolves among the Navajo (1936) is a monograph in the Yale University Publications in Anthropology series. It was not listed in the bibliography of Morgan’s works in the Anthropological Linguistics article. I was beginning to suspect it was authored by a different William Morgan, but I needed proof. I also needed a way to narrow my searching, since “William Morgan” is a common name, with well over 100 different NARs. I checked our stacks copy of Human-wolves among the Navajo–no foreword, afterword, or any ‘about the author’ information at all. I checked several of my “go to” reference sources³ without luck. Standing in our Reference stacks after checking American Indian Biographies, I had one of those “Hooray for browsing!” moments when I spotted Native American Folklore, 1879-1979: An Annotated Bibliography.
A “William Morgan” was listed, along with six of his published works. They included Human-wolves among the Navaho and ended with ‘The Organization of a Story and a Tale’ by William Morgan with a preface by Alfred North Whitehead, in The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 58, no. 229 (July-Sept. 1945) pp. 169-194. Looking up the article, I got a “Hooray for footnotes!” moment:
After a couple of dead-ends (not helped that the 1935 date turned out to be wrong) I googled Christiana Morgan, which led me to the recent biography Translate this Darkness by Claire Douglas. This was my prize: a well-researched biography identifying “William Otho Potwin Morgan” (1895-1934) as the writer of Human-wolves among the Navaho, citing the Morgan papers held in the Archives at Harvard University (his alma mater). Armed with that, I can file a request for a correction to the Name Authority Record for William Morgan, 1917-2001 to remove the citation to the work by William Morgan, 1895-1934 and in addition, to create a new NAR for William Morgan, 1895-1934.
The Five Colleges Library Consortium has begun the process for becoming authorized to participate in a “funnel project” of the Name Authority Cooperative Program (LC/NACO), which will allow us to make such changes to the NAR directly.
³Some of which include:
- The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature edited by Joy Porter and Kenneth M. Roemer (Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2005).
- Resources within Gale Biography in Context, which includes Contemporary Authors.
- American Indian Biographies edited by Carole Barrett, Harvey Markowitz, project editor, R. Kent Rasmussen (Pasadena, Calif. : Salem Press, 2005).
- Native American Authors website created by the ipl2 Consortium.