Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Little More Reflection on the First Week

I apologize for falling behind (it’s only Week 2!!!) and not establishing a regular schedule of blog posting.

There was more to the second day of my internship than looking at Mary Ann Wells’s case file and taking in the scope of the collection. It was also the day that I moved the collection from its place in the shelving to the processing desk. This may seem a pithy event in the grand scheme of the archival experience, but actually, upon reflection, it was a significant moment. Picking up each box conveyed a wealth of information. In my effort to be careful I came to appreciate the size of each box, its weigh, the texture of the cardboard, the physical space the collection took up on the processing table (I couldn’t even fit it all on the table), and even the strain on my muscles. Moving the boxes made the Mary Ann Wells Collection my project. It was easy to gloss over the size of the collection on day one when they were all on the shelves, but now I knew these were not mere labeled boxes on a box, but full to the brim. Without this transitional experience, I don’t think I would have had the right sense of urgency to get started. That said the second week really began in the waning moments of the first.

As you may recollect from last week’s posting, the most daunting part of officially selecting the Mary Ann Wells papers for me was just getting started. I took the first baby steps with about half an hour left on Day 2 (Thursday, August 20). After pondering the assembled boxes for a good 15 minutes, perplexed as to how I could combine 3, I opened the boxes to see the existing organization. There were two boxes of slides, 3 boxes of negatives, and 3 boxes of photographs (all ordered by subject alphabetically) in the first accession. Four oversize boxes contained a chronological record of all Wells’s photojournalism for the Hattiesburg American. There were also 6 boxes of her assignment case folders arranged alphabetically by subject.

For some reason, when I started thinking about how to organize the collection, I forgot original order completely. I think the reason for that is that I momentarily forgot that I was at an archive, not in my room organizing old schoolwork. As I wrapped my mind around trying to grasp just what it was I was dealing, I really thought hard about the most logical way, not the archival method, of organizing the collection. My idea was to integrate everything into the organization Wells created for the assignment case folders. The fact that Wells and the last archivist chose to organize the boxes alphabetically pretty much made the choice for me that my processing would follow suit. Despite the fact that the preexisting organization shouted out “I’m fine,” I could not get my head around what each series of the collection would be. My first thought was that the organization of each series of the collection would be by medium, but the fact that the assignment case folders contained a mix of negatives, photographs, newspapers, and documents tossed an intellectual wrench in that idea. Below is my first plan

Series I Correspondence and Work Product
1. Date - Move all files in the 3 accessions only identified by date here and order them chronologically.
2. Alphabetical – Move all files in the 3 accessions with a title into alphabetical order.
3. Combine all untitled and miscellaneous files.
Series II Oversized Materials
Series III Books and Research Notes

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