Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 3 (September 2 and September 3)

At the end of Week 2, I finished my first box! While this was a nice milestone, it also cast a rather ominous pit in my stomach. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realize that if there are 32 boxes in a collection, and it takes me 2-3 weeks to process each box, I’d need about five more semesters to finish with the Mary Ann Wells Papers (not to mention having to write the finding aid). With the real potential that I might only actually process five or six more boxes, at the beginning of Week 3 I decided to switch my focus to Wells’s subject files. I think that these, more than the slides, negatives or photographs will be what scholars and researchers want the most when they access the collection. It is important that I remember that all my work is for naught if it doesn’t both preserve the Mary Ann Wells papers in perpetuity and improve user accessibility.

If I began working on the first box of the subject case files with hopeful optimism, by the end of Wednesday the collection bestowed upon me “enthusiastic dread.” On the one hand, I continue to enjoy my archives internship, so each day is unremittingly positive and I am ready to work hard. What Day 5 demonstrated to me is that even minimal processing is not necessarily quick and easy. I thought I could get through half the box this week, but only succeeded in processing 31 folders out of maybe 100 in the box.

Content - I knew before I started that each box of Mary Ann Wells’s subject case files contained a mix of negatives, photographs, newspapers, correspondence, and drafts. Until I got started, however, I had no idea what processing each of these mediums really meant and that, in some instances, it might take as much as 20+ minutes to process a folder.

1. Negatives – These are the most straightforward and take no time at all. For the finding aid I include how many pages and how many total images there are and whether the page holding them needs replacement in the future.

2. Photographs – I thought these would be pain-free and quick to process, but I was wrong. Last week Cindy reminded me that for each photograph that I found in the subject case files, I would need to enter it into a separate photo log. Not only did each item in the log need a title [M445-1, M445-2, etc.), but also a short description. This entry needed to be both in the finding aid and in pencil on the back of each photograph. I processed 23 photographs this week.

3. Newspapers - When Linda Matthews did her practicum this summer, the general practice with old newspapers was to photocopy the originals and then recycle them. Newspapers are highly acidic, so their preservation is not always feasible or cost-effective. However, as Cindy noted, because photojournalism in newspapers was Wells’s medium, we decided that it was important to save two copies of all oversize (legal size or above) newspaper articles. Processing newspapers was time consuming because I needed to copy the bibliographic information for each newspaper article into my notes and onto a folder marker.

4. Drafts – Mary Ann Wells typed many of her drafts on acidic continual feed paper. She also glued separate parts together. Where it was necessary, I photocopied the originals and then recycled them so.

I finished Week 3 with even more trepidation than when I began. I didn’t even fill one archival box with ten hours of work product and I was not even 1/3 of the way through the first subject case file. With this in mind, Cindy and I agreed to look next week at what I was doing and see if I needed to make a change in my processing for the remainder of the semester.

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