I realize that March Madness (or as Tucsonans call it, March Sadness) is over, but this year basketball fever has stayed with me longer than usual. This could be due to a subconscious disbelief that Arizona’s season is actually over (we were so good to have only made it so far!). Or it could be because I just really like basketball.
Regardless of its cause, the primary symptom of this affliction is that I am currently digitizing over 200 basketball photographs from the University of Arizona Photograph Collection. Our Digital Initiatives Archivist, Erika Castaño, recently asked me to help digitize selections from the thousands of photographs that we have stored from the UA’s history. She graciously allowed me to choose which ones to work on. I greedily responded, “All of the basketball photos, starting from the beginning!”
Little did I know, our basketball collection begins in 1903. You may be surprised to learn that not even Lute Olson was around back then.
The 1915-16 basketball team. Coach McKale, after whom our basketball arena is named, is in the back row.
So far, I have scanned all of our basketball photos from 1903-1946, and I’m currently writing the metadata. As a lifelong lover of both basketball and history, I have enjoyed every minute of working on this project. Every day a new photo surprises me, whether it’s of the great McKale himself or a close-up of Stewart Udall, back when he was leading Arizona to its first-ever trip to the National Invitational Tournament in New York City. Interspersed among pictures of Arizona’s varsity team are photos of intramural champions and Greek Row teams. (Who can forget the great Phi Delta Theta dynasty of the early ‘40s?)
I hope to have these photographs available to view online within a couple of weeks. Then everyone can see what Arizona basketball was like before multi-million dollar arenas, $6 nachos, and Kiss Cams. How distant the past seems sometimes.
Mother and son, 1959. Courtesy of Rafael de la Torre.
I have had the pleasure of working on a very special event at Special Collections, Community Digitization Day, for the last several weeks, and our work came to fruition on March 4, 2017 when Special Collections staff helped digitize the precious photos and documents of Tucson residents.
Due to the history of archiving, many of the materials we currently have in archival repositories comes from people who were seen as significant or famous. The aim of Community Digitization Day is to highlight the importance of the experiences of and the contributions to history by ordinary citizens while also providing participants with high-quality scans of their images and documents so they can keep them safe from damage. Participants also got to attend a workshop given by Jae Gutierrez, photo conservator at the Center for Creative photography, on how to handle and care for their materials at home.
El Rio Market Chinese Family, 1957. Courtesy Josephine Gin Morgan.
I was able to work on a team with the Borderlands Curator, Digital Archivist, and Special Collections Administrative Assistant and found that engaging in collaborative problem solving and planning community events like these is exciting for me, even though there are so many details to account for and remember. One of my duties was to train Special Collections staff how to use the scanners, and funnily enough a news channel came by and filmed the training! On the day of, we transformed the reading room into a scanning powerhouse and had two flatbed scanners and three Flip Pal mobile scanners that can capture images in scrapbooks and even frames.
During the event, participants worked with Special Collections staff to identify places and dates in the photos, and the whole space was abuzz with stories and remembering. As we went through the day, the Special Collections staff, Library staff and students were able to build a sense of community and collaboration among themselves and with participants, which was inspiring and energizing to be a part of. I learned that the story of Tucson is as complex as our collective histories and I am so grateful that I got to see a glimpse of it at Community Digitization Day.
This semester is coming to a close in a few short weeks and I decided to take this time to reflect upon different collections I have seen in the Special Collections archive, in addition to the other repositories I have visited during the course of my time here at the U of A. Last week my LIS 550 class visited the Learning Games Initiative, an archive facility that has collected over 12,000 games and more than 100 gaming systems as well as publications and collectible items. Today we will visit the Arizona Queer Archives to further our knowledge of how the archivists there make collections accessible and work closely with diverse LGBTQ communities throughout Arizona. Each repository has a mission, purpose, and focus. From historical societies to specialized research facilities, archives hold the key to documenting cultures, communities, and individuals’ roles in the world in which we live. Even a cemetery contains records of those who are interred there and is an archive of names, dates, and familial information. Interestingly, two of my archives projects this year have taken me to cemeteries–the Riggs Family Cemetery at Dos Cabezas, Arizona and the Pima County Cemetery in Tucson.
Riggs Family Cemetery, Dos Cabezas, AZ
Unknown, but never forgotten– Pima County Cemetery, Tucson, AZ
The best part of working in archives is the people you meet— both living and departed from this Earth. Their’s are the stories that have been recorded, the stories being recorded, and the stories yet to be recorded. “Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today.”― Sara Sheridan
The exhibit panel by Trent Purdy, with photos and a flag from our collection.
I had the great fortune of visiting Hawaii for the first time three weeks ago. I was on the island of Oahu for four days, and I spent one morning at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Though the rain prevented me from going out to the USS Arizona Memorial, I was still able to explore the exhibit gallery, theater, and bookstore.
The first thing that caught my eye when walking into the second exhibit gallery was a block “A.” As many know, the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections had a semester-long exhibit last fall to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. You can still view its online companion exhibition, USS Arizona: That Terrible Day. Trent Purdy, Assistant Librarian and Archivist, curated that exhibit and was asked by the National Park Service to put together a panel on the USS Arizona and the University of Arizona to be displayed at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which attracts nearly 2 million visitors each year.
Me at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The small white structure in the background is the USS Arizona Memorial.
In addition to Trent’s exhibit panel, I enjoyed seeing one of the two bells from the USS Arizona; the other bell is located at the Student Memorial Union on the UA campus. The trip to the Visitor Center was educational and sobering; I would recommend anyone to go. Just make sure to book it in advance, as they only allot about 1,500 tickets per day. And check the weather report before you go, too.
Since my supervisor, Maurita Baldock, left us in December to go to work at the Library of Congress, I am now taking direct orders from Trent Purdy, Assistant Librarian and Archivist-extraordinaire at the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections. He’s not really barking orders but assigning me interesting writing projects that require research and fact checking—two of my favorite things! After I finished processing the Riggs Family Papers (MS 580), Trent set me onto a new processing project that is entirely different than the historical collection that I finished. Currently, I am processing more contemporary records (bulk 1970s-1980s) of a woman who worked for the City of Tucson with the Citizen Participation Council and the Model Cities Program. When I am not in my cozy basement corner sorting through the Maxwell papers,
I am writing narratives for the World War II exhibit that will be on display during the Festival of the Books. The great thing about these mini-projects is that I learn so much. The narratives I have written about are on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the destruction of the U.S.S. Arizona, and the Japanese American Internment Camps. Each assignment has taught me a great deal about Arizona’s place in World War II history.
I hope you will come and visit us at Special Collections during Tucson’s Festival of Books, March 11-12, 2017.
Last week I finished encoding the finding aid of the Robles Papers in an XML document, which is now available on Arizona Archives Online. Though I’m sad to move on from my first collection, I was excited when Veronica said she had a new collection for me to process called the Dr. Laura Cummings Pachuco/Caló Oral History Project Collection. It is a small box of 35 90-minute cassette tapes featuring interviews that Dr. Cummings conducted with nineteen people about pachuco and cholo culture in Tucson and the greater Southwest. I was beyond excited when I heard the name of the collection because I have been very interested in pachuco culture and the language forms of Mexicans and Latinx people in the United States, but also because I have been hoping to get some experience with audio/visual archiving.
Rewinding all the cassettes!
The first step was to assess the state of the collection and submit a processing proposal. The tapes are in good condition, physically, but after listening to about 15 tapes, it has become clear that many of them have quite low audio quality and some are even difficult to hear. It will be interesting to work with the Audio/Visual archivist, Trent Purdy, and learn more about how to preserve the tapes. The collection also includes some notes that Dr. Cummings took about the interviews.
Dr. Cummings’ book, Pachucas and Pachucos in Tucson: Situated Border Lives, 2009.
The oral history tapes were used as primary data for Dr. Cummings’ dissertation and book titled, Pachucas and Pachucos: Situated Border Lives, which uses an anthropological approach to pachuco culture and its associated language forms. The collection also includes two tape recordings done by anthropologist George Barker of pachucos conversing in 1947. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to listen to it, as the language form has evolved and changed with time and people don’t speak it as much. Hopefully the collection will be processed quickly so we can make some advances on cleaning up and restoring the tapes!
It is rather hard to believe that after weeks/months of processing the Riggs Family Papers (MS 580), I am finally done. I feel excited that I have totally finished a collection from start to finish, but at the same time I feel a little melancholy, as though I am leaving an old friend. I haven’t put the boxes on the shelves in the basement yet. I’m stalling. I keep looking at the eleven beautifully arranged boxes with their bright white labels declaring “Riggs Family Papers,” and I can’t help but wonder when someone will come into Special Collections and ask to look at this collection.
Susan L. Mergenthal standing by processed Riggs Family Papers (MS 580)
Processing an archival collection like the Riggs Family Papers is a journey. It is about following the systematic steps of processing — from the initial surveying, then writing a processing proposal, sorting and arranging documents and objects, labeling boxes and folders, and then, finally, describing the collection in the finding aid. Along with this final step is to encode the finding aid in an XML document that makes it computer-searchable. It has been a journey, and I have enjoyed the experience immensely. One thing is for sure, I will never forget this first collection, not just the processing steps, but the pioneers whose lives are documented and preserved for the future in eleven boxes at the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections. You can view the finding aid for MS 580 Riggs Family Papers.
Brannick and Mary Riggs with their 10 children, circa 1880. The Riggs family settled in the Sulphur Springs Valley in Cochise County, Arizona Territory in 1879; MS 580 and Box 7, folder 1.
Riggs Family Papers