Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 5 (September 16 and September 17)

Wednesday was another short day, but everything worked out great. I finally finished processing the first box for Series 1 of the Mary Ann Wells papers. It took much longer than I expected, but as I’m beginning to realize, that is just how archival work is. I started this internship with the ambitious intention to process the entire collection. While I would still like to accomplish this goal, I now have an appreciation for just what “processing” really entails. At the rate I was going for Weeks 1-4, I would need the spring semester to finish this group of accessions completely. Even with minimal processing, I’m not confident I’ll be able to get the finding aid and the collection as meticulously organized as I like.

Another concern that Wednesday brought into focus was whether I was working enough to finish the internship within the allotted time. Short days the first week, an absence for the history conference in Memphis, today, and the 10 hours for Thanksgiving (plus whatever else comes up) and I’m down a significant 20-25 hours. I plan to take care of this deficit with three strategies:

1. I did all my work for Weeks three through six in longhand with pencil and paper. When I was medium processing, it was too disruptive to be going back and forth to the computer. Also, I didn’t realize until this week that there was an accessible plug in the archival room. Cindy agreed that I can use the time spent transcribing my notes into the computer against the time that I owe for the internship. I also think that as the due date for the finding aid approaches, I am going to be spending a good chunk of time writing the biography and standardizing the series/folder listing.

2. I am supposed to be getting a key for the Oral History Center. Once I get this, I’ll have the ability to work after-hours and on the weekends. The key will also give me the flexibility to change my hours up if I anticipate a shortfall at the archives and perhaps work an extra day or two at the end of the month.

3. I plan to come in for 3-5 hours on the Friday of Fall Break. This should balance out some of my half-days and give me a sustained 12-15 hours in the archives for Week 8.

Between about an hour on Wednesday and five hours on Thursday, I got a lot accomplished minimally processing this week. After plodding through 42 folders in about two and a half days, it was nice to feel (even if it was fleeting) that I made a little bit of progress. Wednesday, I processed 34 folders into Box 2 of Series 1. Thursday I worked through 70 folders and filled Boxes 3 and 4 of Series 1. The majority of folders in Boxes 2-4 contained negatives, which helps to explain how the average number of files in each box could be about 35 and why the day seemed to fly right by. I didn’t have any problems or questions (a great respite for Cindy). I did encounter my first signs of pestilence (long dead baby cockroaches), but sweeping them into the trash proved not to be a problem.

Thursday was an encouraging day. While minimal processing means someone else will probably have to finish off what I started (log photographs and oversize materials, do all the labeling of folders), the real prospect of getting through a significant portion of the collection is a nice feeling. Also, having a day where I did have to ask Cindy 100 questions was nice because it suggests that I’m starting to get my sea legs (confidence) to make small executive decisions about how to process the Mary Ann Wells Papers.

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