Praise Houses


Source: Image Collections Online – “Prayer house on Coffin Point trip”

I’ve talked about this before. One of the projects I’m involved with at work is adding metadata to a collection of photographs by Frank Hohenberger. It’s fun! And I occasionally blog about some of the photos I’m working on. There are two photos in the collection of praise houses. Only Hohenberger called them “prayer houses,” and his titles are sacrosanct, so we can’t edit them. We also couldn’t add a subject heading for “praise houses,” because the term did not exist in either the Library of Congress subject authority file or the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials subject list, and we can only pull terms from those two sources.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal. The terms praise house and prayer house sound fairly similar, right? So people could find the praise house images by just doing a keyword search. But it is a big deal. Praise houses are a very specific, unique thing, and no one who is searching for praise houses will think to search for prayer houses, instead. So without being able to add a subject for praise houses, a keyword search for the term won’t work (our keyword search is literal and cannot understand that prayer and praise are synonymous-ish). That means that these images, which might be of interest to folks studying African American history or the Gullah people, would not be findable. They were basically hidden from view.

So I’ve nagged and nagged and nagged, over the course of the last 5-6 years (yes, really), until I finally was able to hash out a plan of action with a SACO cataloger. I gave her all my research on praise houses, and last February, she started working on submitting a proposal to LC for a new praise houses subject heading. We didn’t expect it to pass on the first round, but it did, and it is now live.

Praise Houses

This may seem kind of wonk-ish and boring, but it is a big deal to me, personally.

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