Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 8 (Oct. 7, 8 and 9)

This was a significant week because I began work on another series of the Mary Ann Wells Papers. On Wednesday, I finished up the six boxes of subject case files constituting Series I. This was a tremendous confidence boost because when I was not minimally processing at the beginning of the semester, finishing just these six boxes were my ambition for the whole internship. With this accomplished, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to revise my goals and aim to minimally process the whole collection by semester’s end. Series II, III, and IV are already in temporary archival folders and labeled, and therefore, besides entering the folder titles into my finding aid, more or less already minimally processed.

The process of completing Series I got the gears in my head turning for my next step. As I worked on Wednesday, it occurred to me that a fair percentage of the subject case files were newspaper articles. I estimate that their bulked added at least 3 to 4 boxes to the first series (remember I am minimally processing, so there are not marker sheets for the newspapers yet). I realized it would be a wasted effort to proceed with the labeling of archival boxes for Series II, III and IV when someday, in the future; the next archivist would insert markers and photocopies and have to renumber the entire collection to offset the sudden availability of space at the front end of Mary Ann Wells’ papers.

The solution, I decided, was to tackle her chronological archives of photographs and articles published in the Hattiesburg American and other newspapers. These were in four oversize boxes and looked to contain hundreds of pages of newspaper. The reason to tackle this set of documents, which I will from hereto forth call Series V, was that I realized a complete inventory of the newspapers could kill two birds with one stone.

1. A list of all of all Mary Ann Wells’ published photojournalistic endeavors was a rare opportunity for me to get to know the subject of my finding aid. Compiling this inventory would give me a sense of her as a journalist and a writer. Over the course of this week I found recurring exposes on small South Mississippi towns and a column written about all the interesting people that call Southern Mississippi their home. Wells was really interested in the hardships of everyday people. Repeatedly she wrote exposes on education, the arts, and the impacts of flooding on Hattiesburg. As often, however, her photojournalism showed a softer side, whether it be a mother and a daughter out for a walk at Lake Sehoy or kids at Hattiesburg parks playing. Wells also sought to connect Hattiesburg to greater international events. She succeeded particularly with an award-winning feature on Nicaragua and her interviews with Iranian-Americans following the Islamic Revolution. In summary, even scanning this list will show a research Wells’ diverse interests and professional excellence.

2. One of my tasks on the back burner is to create indexes for oversize newspapers and photographs I’ve already pulled from Series I. I think Series V can double for the newspaper index. It is chronological and I would guess about 98% complete. The archival standard for duplicates is two and Series V mostly consists of a single copy. I think all I need to do for the time being is add a column to the right of the table I created for Series V denoting the location of a second copy.

I understood that indexing hundreds of newspaper articles was going to be a tedious task. This was the perfect week I figured, however, to get started. It took me the rest of Wednesday to fiddle with how I wanted the Series V table to look and what I wanted it to include. The first two boxes I tackled were the most intense because they contained her archive of publications from 4 years of daily work with the Hattiesburg American. It took me approximately 10 hours to finish 1978 and 1979 (all of Thursday and the first 3 hours of Friday). I got started on the second box from the Hattiesburg American Friday and finished about half.

Looking forward, I am excited that Series V is going so well. There is a lot of grunt work in the near future, but tracing the chronology is great. I recognize a lot of the articles from the subject case files of Series I and know that I can take the collection one step further along than I thought was possible even a few weeks ago.

(This was the week of Fall Break and presented me with the opportunity to catch up a little. With full days on Thursday and Friday, I made up 10 hours of time, effectively covering my conference trip to Memphis September 9th and the sum of quarter hours missed here and there.)

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