A Semester In Review

As my second semester of graduate school winds down, I can’t help but feel a little sad that my time here at Special Collections is almost up. Since starting work in August, I have learned so much about what it means to be an archivist. From working events to processing collections, I have been able to experience many different facets of this field, and I hope to continue learning and growing as an archivist.

One of the last skills I learned these past few weeks was how to code an EAD. I have never done any coding before, and frankly I was feeling rather intimidated by the whole process. However, with support from my coworkers and asking a lot of questions, I managed to complete the EAD for the Sinclair Browning Papers. This collection was the first one I processed, and it was incredibly satisfying to be able to handle the material from the very first step to the very last. It is also pretty awesome to now say that I have done coding, as well. Coding is actually pretty fun.

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I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been afforded here at Special Collections. Because of this assistantship, I have found that I have a passion for the archival field, and the skills and experiences I have gained are going to help me finish out my final year of grad school. It was been a great working here, and I am definitely going to miss it.

Castro MS 417

Raul H. Castro: The Douglas Destroyer

This semester I was fortunate enough to work on an exhibit covering the life and career of Raul H. Castro, the only Latino governor of Arizona. My supervisor, Maurita Baldock, instructed me to speak to Bob Diaz, the Exhibitions Coordinator. Bob provided immediate directions to create a timeline of Governor Castro’s life. He also encouraged me to speak to Verónica Reyes-Escudero, Borderlands Curator, for additional input should he not be available. Castro Capture

Both Bob and Verónica informed me of the spreadsheet method of keeping track of the objects. I embraced the power of the spreadsheet which allowed me to document the location, the document type and a brief description of the representative item.My instructions were to make sure to cover his life supplemented with documents and objects in the collection. This was somewhat daunting as Mr. Castro had had a long illustrious career not only as governor, but served as ambassador to Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina respectively and previously he worked for the University of Arizona as a Spanish professor, the State Department when he was unable to use his newly acquired teaching degree, served as a Pima County Attorney and Superior Court Judge and was a long-time partner in the Castro and Zipf Law Firm.

Letter from Castro thanking then University President Harvill for the opportunity to work as a Spanish professor. (UA Biographical Files: Castro, Raul H.)

Letter from Castro thanking then University President Harvill for the opportunity to work as a Spanish professor.
(UA Biographical Files: Castro, Raul H.)

While attending Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University), Castro was known as “The Douglas Destroyer” because of his athletic prowess (a photo of Castro as a boxer is featured online). Another challenge I faced was not approaching an exhibit “cold” since there is also an online exhibit documenting Governor Castro’s life. I wanted to ensure the physical exhibit did not necessarily mimic the online exhibit.

Commemorative Key to the City, Ciudad de Cordoba, Argentina (MS 417, Box 22, Folder 3)

Commemorative Key to the City, Ciudad de Cordoba, Argentina
(MS 417, Box 22, Folder 3)

My first step was to research Raul H. Castro. I utilized the finding aid for his collection, MS 417, as my primary source and highlighted items of note as well as double-checking the materials against what was featured in the online exhibit. Once I had decided what materials seemed relevant, I began to curate the exhibit since I would be able to visually and physically assess the sizes and types of materials. I soon discovered some items were far too large for the exhibit case even though they were interesting pieces such as the sign for Castro and Zipf Law Firm.

Castro practiced law between his many political appointments. (MS 417, Box 30)

Castro practiced law between his many political appointments.
(MS 417, Box 30)

Thanks to teamwork, I was able to build my exhibit in the time frame afforded to me moreover I learned quite a bit about Arizona’s only Hispanic governor, Mr. Raul H. Castro.  He is inspirational having made a successful life’s journey from humble beginnings.

Cananea, Sonora, Mexico (MS 417, Box 16, Folder 31)

Castro Home in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico (MS 417, Box 16, Folder 31)

Second page of Castro's response to a student's question: What has it taken for you to be the success that you are today? (MS 417, Box 1, Folder 10)

Second page of Castro’s response to a student’s question: What has it taken for you to be the success that you are today?
(MS 417, Box 1, Folder 10)

The exhibit is currently in the Congressional Archives Room on display with many of our other political materials.

English and Spanish newspaper articles announcing Castro's gubernatorial win.

English and Spanish newspaper articles announcing Castro’s gubernatorial win.

Events at the Archive

The U of A Library Special Collections hosts a lot of really interesting events that help to showcase the variety of materials that are housed here. Some of the past events include lectures by journalists working on the border and Home Movie Day. As a Graduate Assistant, one of the facets of my position is to attend and help out at these events. Not only do I get to learn about whatever interesting topic is being discussed, but I also get to see what it takes to promote and host such events within the Special Collections space.

March 31st was an event titled “Celebrating Excellence: Women in Anthropology.” The event was a panel discussion concerning influential women in the anthropological field, including Jennifer Roth-Gordon, Stacey Tecot, Marcela Vasquez-Leon, and Mary Voyatzis. These women have wide-ranging interests within anthropology, and it was incredibly fascinating to learn about their work. From primatology to the study of Greece, the panel showcased the way that anthropology is such a varied field.

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The other topic that the anthropologists discussed was the obstacles that women in academics commonly face. It was eye-opening to hear about the way that having children or simply being in a male-dominated field that create difficulties for professional women. It was great to hear the anthropologists speak about solutions to the issues faced, and how we as the college community can try and help.

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As a woman hoping to balance a career and a family, this event was an important one to me. I feel like I learned a lot from the anthropologists, and I am inspired to continue down this academic path. It just goes to show that being a GA here at Special Collections is never boring!

Got Technical Skills?

As the semester winds down, graduate assistants here at Special Collections have had a chance to process a collection or two, worked on at least one finding aid, and collaborated on an exhibit, often setting up one on their own. This week marked the beginning of our technical training, first by attending an SAA webinar on Archival Collections Management Systems, and today with an introduction to EAD.

One of my favorite aspects of this assistantship has been the chance to combine what I learn in my MLIS classes with what I do at work every day. Last week, for example, we started talking about process and content management in Dr. Ceja’s Introduction to Archives class. Our lecture provided an overview of archival management software (both ICA-AtoM and ArchivesSpace), standards of arrangment and content, DACS, and EAD, while our homework included gaining some practical experience on ArchivesSpace by accessing our professor’s educational membership to create a resource. Thanks to that, yesterday, when the entire staff at Special Collections sat down to attend that SAA webinar, I was able to follow what was covered and take full advantage of the professional development opportunity. Same with this morning, when Maurita Baldock and Trent Purdy of Special Collections sat three of us down for an initial training in EAD.

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Having theoretical instruction closely followed by hands-on work is the best way to learn and reinforce concepts, as well as for getting a sense of how it all works together. For the next few days, I will focus on encoding the first finding aid I put together, one that also belongs to the very first collection I had the chance to process, the Adalberto Guerrero Papers. Once that is completed, I have been asked to translate and encode the finding aid into Spanish, to be later upload into the public website for Arizona Archive Online (AAO). From processing to publication, dealing with papers and code, we have the best set up for gaining current and practical archival skills every step of the way.

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Initial Processing Stages

Boxes that have been separated out by committee on which Giffords served.

Boxes that have been separated out by committee on which Giffords served.

For the past several weeks I have been working on the initial processing stages of the Gabrielle Giffords collection. After completing our first survey of the collection we developed a rough organization for the materials. The three subgroups we envisioned for the final collection are congressional activities, media files, and post January 8th. Over the past few weeks we have been conducting a more thorough survey of the congressional activity materials. This has involved research on bills Giffords sponsored and her work on congressional committee. With this information in mind we have begun to loosely categorize boxes of material for further processing.  Additional research has been conducted on other congressional collections to determine other possible organizational schemas.  An important lesson I have learned in Special Collections is that it is not always necessary to re-invent the wheel.  By using previously processed collections as a perspective to compare and contrast Giffords’ collection we are able to gain a new outlook on our organization.

The current organizational schema that will guide our processing

The current organizational schema that will guide our processing

Another important project we have begun is creating an exhibit for the Jim Kolbe collection. This has involved learning details about how to create an exhibit and locating materials in the collection for display. The collection includes a variety of objects and much work has gone into finding display materials that are both significant and intriguing.  One of the rewarding aspects of work in special collections is making these valuable materials available to the public.  In the case of the exhibit we have the opportunity to highlight not only Kolbe’s important work as a congressman but also showcase these materials to interested researchers.

Further work with the Kolbe collection has included working on locating audio visual materials that will be migrated and preserved in digital format. The collection includes many outdated media formats including VHS and cassette tapes. We have had to survey audio visual materials to locate items that may be of interest to future researchers.  This work has provided an important experience in learning how archives deal with outdated media and preserve them using new technology.

Creating an Exhibit: Congressional Archives Room

This month I have continued to work on the exhibit in the Congressional Archives Room featured in the reading room.  So far I have completed two out of the ten cases and hope to finish at least three more cases by the end of this month.  Finding new material for Ralph Cameron, Marcus Smith, Henry Ashurst, and John Murdock were especially challenging, since most of their collections did not contain any campaign materials.  My goal was to find documents that were visually engaging, and stay away from text heavy documents that were difficult to read for the viewer.

I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West! Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937) Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937)

I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West! Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937)

Once I found new items to be featured in each case, I encased each in mylar to protect the documents and photographs from any potential damage.  I spent a lot of time moving each item within each case, trying to determine the best order and placement.  Another challenge included creating depth in each exhibit case by utilizing risers and different types of stands that would prop the documents to better engage the viewer. This process took longer than I had anticipated because I had made a digital placement sheet, but later concluded that it was useless once I began to move and place items.  At the end, my case looked nothing like what I had planned.

I was able to use these wooden risers to add some dimension to the exhibit case, Ralph Cameron Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 127

I was able to use these wooden risers to add some dimension to the exhibit case. Materials from  Ralph Cameron Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 127

In the beginning stages of this exhibit, I thought a digital model would be helpful.  However, I have since discovered that more time should be allocated to physically placing the items in the case, rather than predicting where the items should go.  I anticipate that the other cases I will complete will be less daunting since I have more material to work with, but I feel more comfortable knowing that I now have established my own process to follow.

One of the cases that I recently completed that focused on Lewis Douglas. Materials from Lewis W. Douglas Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 290 Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937) I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West!

One of the cases that I recently completed that focused on Lewis Douglas. Materials from Lewis W. Douglas Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 290

Always Something to Do

One of the nice advantages of working at Special Collections is there always a task to be completed, all you have to do is ask. For instance, I was between projects one day and asked Bob Diaz, Associate Librarian, if he needed any help with his then upcoming exhibit, 100 Years of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. He was in the final stages, but needed additional books pulled from the collection. He gave me about eight different call sheets and sent me downstairs to find the books. It was quite an adventure for me as I had never really dealt with the book stacks in Special Collections. I was lost in the stacks for a while, but I persevered. I was able to learn locations of the call numbers and see some of the fun and cool materials. Thankfully, I now have a deeper knowledge of where to locate many different types of materials in Special Collections.

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Cabinet display by Bob Diaz

Cabinet display by Bob Diaz

"Discovered" while lost in the stacks. Miniature books purchased and donated by Bunny Fontana--he bought them in a quarter machine.

“Discovered” while lost in the stacks. Miniature books purchased and donated by Bunny Fontana (he bought them in a quarter machine).

Hanni, another Graduate Assistant, asked Roger Myers if he needed anything done which led to her first working on Black Sparrow Press and then I was recruited to help make the work go faster. This has been an amazing project to help process as I was an English major in my undergraduate years. I get to have my fan moments when I see manuscripts, edits, and letters by Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Bukowski, and Allen Ginsberg among many other great writers encouraged by John Martin. We have made great headway with this project and see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Correspondence from Allen Ginsberg to John Martin of Black Sparrow Press

Correspondence from Allen Ginsberg to John Martin of Black Sparrow Press

Roger Myers, Associate Librarian and Archivist, gave me the small task of locating a file on Samuel Kipnis, the first mayor of South Tucson, in Special Collections’ Biographical Files. I now have the honor of processing the materials and creating the finding aid for the small collection which consists of newspaper clippings, letters of congratulations from many political dignitaries of the time, and Kipnis’ WWI photos.

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Samuel Kipnis’ WWI photographs from Call Field, Texas