Updating the Udall Collections

Anyone who has spent time in Arizona will recognize the Udall name. An important political family, the Udalls have served as elected politicians in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon for over 100 years. In the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to update the Stewart L. Udall and Morris K. Udall Papers that are housed at Special Collections.

The Udall men
The Udall Men. Papers of Morris K. Udall (MS 325). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

One of the projects I’ve working on is processing the Downwinders addition to the Stu Udall collection. The downwinders were individuals in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah who were exposed to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these people suffered health effects such as leukemia and thyroid cancer because of this exposure. Another group included in the downwinders addition are the Navajo miners who extracted uranium from mines on the Navajo Nation after World War II. Like those exposed to the Nevada nuclear tests, these miners also suffered cancers and other diseases as the result of the exposure to uranium. These materials document Stewart Udall’s work with both of these communities to document and raise awareness of these issues before Congress.

Part of the Downwinders additions to the Stewart L. Udall Papers.

I’ve also spent some time rehousing the Morris K. Udall Papers. It is one of Special Collection’s larger collections (805 boxes!) and has been in need of some upkeep to fix spacing issues in the boxes.

My rehousing efforts of the Morris K. Udall Papers.

As my assistantship at Special Collections comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the work I’ve done these past two semesters. I’ve learned so much about processing collections and creating finding aids as well as more about Arizona history. More than anything, this assistantship has confirmed that this is the job I see myself doing long-term.

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Creating a Finding Aid

One important step in the archival endeavor is the creation of a finding aid. Finding aids provides information about how a collection was acquired, how it was processed, and perhaps most important, how the collections is organized. In my latest work from project, I have been using ArchivesSpace to create a finding aid for the Baron and Lionel Jacobs Collection. Baron and Lionel were merchant brothers from San California who were sent to Tucson by their father to open a new branch of their retail store. They found great success and soon established the first bank in Tucson, known as the Pima County Bank, in 1879. The collection includes cancelled checks, drafts, invoices, receipts, weigh bills, stationery letterheads (business), letters and other miscellaneous items pertaining to the Jacobs brothers’ mercantile and banking businesses.

A sneak peak of the Baron and Lionel Jacobs Collection finding aid I created

In terms of my physical projects at Special Collections, I finished arranging the SAWARA collection and decided to take a sneak peek at the next collection I will be processing. Consisting of only 5 boxes, this collection is significantly smaller than SAWARA so I do not anticipate in taking much time to process. The collection concerns the records of the Suprema Sociedad de Obreros Mexicanos (Sociedad Mutualista Obrera Mexicanos). As noted by Chávez (2005), “Mutualistas, or mutual aid societies, emerged throughout the Southwest and Midwest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries … by immigrant workers to help them integrate into society”. This promises to be an interesting collection and I can’t wait to begin processing these records.

Suprema Sociedad de Obreros Mexicanos. Expediente de Correspondencia. Recivida y Girada Durante la Quincena para Darle Lectura en Lasesion (La sesión).

Processing the Helen Maxine O’Callaghan papers

First: Let me remind everyone that I am thrilled to be back to work on campus. While working from home is fun, you do not have the ability to process at home and processing is my favorite task as a graduate student in Special Collections.

This semester, I began processing 5 linear feet of the Helen Maxine O’Callaghan papers (MS 730). O’Callaghan is an author known for her crime/detective, horror, mystery, and romance writing. Her crime/detective novels seem to be the first novels mentioned when you peruse her resume on Google, which makes a great deal of sense considering her “Delilah West” series won her a Private Eye Writers of America award. Not to shabby!

Here is a gorgeous photo of Ms. O’Callaghan with her beloved dogs, Molly and Mocha. Photo credit goes to Tracy Rawls, who shot this image for the novel “Going to the Dogs”.

This collection ended up being broken into three distinct series: Correspondence; Author manuscripts and other writings; and Professional development. Her correspondence includes hundreds of letters between publishers and the author, and sometimes between other authors, as well as with different author organizations. Dean Koontz letters can be found in Box 4, Folder 17, for example.

That being said, I became most interested in the multiple short stories that are included in the collection. Most of these smaller pieces include handwritten notes on them as well as show changes in the author’s writing over time. As an aspiring writer myself (who isn’t an aspiring writer nowadays?) I find these little notes by the author to herself are quite beautiful. What needs to change? What can stay the same? All of these little edits are remarkable — and the collection even includes some unpublished short stories!

I’m looking forward to processing more collections this semester, but it is going to be hard to top this collection!

Let’s Get Physical

As the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester begins the end of my time as a graduate assistant grows nearer. Working on the OSIRIS-REx project has given me the opportunity to learn valuable skills related to digital archiving, documentation preservation, metadata and project management.

Up until this point, all of the documents and other materials I have been working with have been 100% born-digital. Which means they were created digitally, versus having an original physical copy that was then digitized later. As part of my final project for my assistantship, I am working on a digital exhibit that will almost ironically focus on the physical artifacts related to the mission. Throughout the mission, that team has put out several physical branded items including traditional swag items like pins, stickers, and patches. They have also released more unique items like stress balls shaped like the asteroid Bennu and more recently OSIRIS-REx branded face masks!

I am still working on the collecting all of the items but one of my fellow teammates on the mission collected these for me and labeled them so I can begin processing them for the collection.

Here is a closer shot of the items. Some of my favorites that we can see here are number 29, the OSIRIS-REx Valentines Cards and number 6, which shows the asteroid Bennu to scale against the Empire State Building.

Here is a close up of the other half of the table. Something interesting to note about number 19, which are two stress balls shaped like Bennu is that the smoother, more circular one of the right was the original stress ball, modeled after that the team believed the asteroid to look like. When they finally arrived at Bennu and began to get more accurate images sent back they realized that the asteroid was much rockier than previously thought. Which we can see displayed on the second iteration of the stress balls.

I look forward to creating a digital exhibit this semester that highlights this unique aspect of the OSIRIS-REx mission and how looking at these materials can tell us a great deal about the discoveries that were made along the way.

New Year, New Directions

Though it has only been two weeks since the start of the semester, the new year has already brought some interesting changes to Special Collections. The most surprising was the appearance of snow! Tuesday’s cold front brought snow right to Special Collection’s front door. Although it wasn’t enough to last we couldn’t help but take a minute to enjoy the sight.

Yesterday’s “snowstorm” as viewed from Special Collections

I am also happy to report that 27 boxes and 5 months later, I am almost done processing the SAWARA collection! I spent the first months of my assistantship surveying the collection to see what kinds of materials it contained as well as drafting a processing proposal for how I thought it should be organized. After weeding through and re-foldering the many, many boxes, I am quickly approaching the end of the arranging of the collection. It’s been a lengthy process, but I am grateful for the experience and I know I will always fondly remember SAWARA as the first archival collection I ever processed.

A sneak peak of the newly arranged SAWARA collection

As my current project draws to a close I can’t help but to look forward to the new projects I will be working on this semester. There is a brand new collection currently sitting in my office that I will begin surveying in the next few weeks as well as a number of new digital projects I will be working on from home. I look forward to the wonderful opportunities the new year brings to Special Collections.

End of Year Wrap-Up: Fear and Surprise in the Archive

Friday the 13th, March 2020 didn’t seem unlucky, but little did we know it would be our last day in Special Collections for nearly six months. 

It was the last Friday of Spring Break, and the day was almost over when we were told we might not be coming back the following week. We tidied our work spaces and headed out, fully expecting to come back in a week or so. 

We didn’t come back until August.

Photo of chaos: carts and boxes everywhere in the Special Collections basement.

We returned to 13 mystery carts in the basement. Each one contained a mix of unlabeled boxes. Were they new acquisitions? Current projects? Materials to shred? The Lost Ark? The answer to life, the universe, and everything? 

Thus began our semester-long inquisition to uncover the secrets of the carts.

No one expects the Archive Inquisition!

Using our chief weapons of fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and a near fanatical devotion to respect de fonds, we slowly uncovered the secrets of the mystery carts. One held boxes of Big Little Books, small illustrated books that were first published in the 1930s. Another cart held the records of Bernard “Bunny” Fontana, a renowned anthropologist and archaeologist. A third cart held materials from the Raúl H. Castro exhibit, which opened back in January. Other carts were less clearly deciphered, and simply had a hodgepodge of materials, set down for a moment in the spring and then left alone until we returned. These were much more difficult to identify. Extensive investigation revealed that some of these boxes were, in fact, just trash. 

After four months of dedicated work, we are pleased to announce that we are down to just one mystery cart!

Dealing with a baker’s dozen of strange carts wasn’t our only task down in the basement. We have a seemingly never-ending number of boxes of sensitive materials to shred, numerous containers of new supplies to organize and put away, and even our own new processing projects to undertake.

While it was strange to add masks, gloves, quarantine flags, and mystery carts to our normal routine, it was a privilege to be back in the archives this semester. It has been a challenging year, and it was very fulfilling to support the research and instruction of our community. Searching for meaning in the mystery carts and answering research questions gave us the opportunity to dive into collections we otherwise might have overlooked, and we have a new appreciation for the collections that the university holds. This semester was certainly not what we expected back in March, but we still enjoyed our time in the archive. 

Happy holidays from the skeleton crew, and we will see you in the new year! 

Emma and Caroline, dressed as skeletons and posing in the basement.

Let’s Talk About Instruction

We’ve past the mid semester point here at the U of A but at Special Collections we’re still busy in our archival work. In my last post, I mentioned that I had finished surveying the SAWARA collection and that my next steps would be arranging and describing the collection. It is a large collection and I am still processing it, but I am happy to report that I have made significant progress. The research reports SAWARA used in their work have all been arranged alphabetically, I have weeded through numerous duplicates, and have refolded many of the file folders. I hope that I will soon finish processing and be able to move on to the next step!

An accurate representation of me and the SAWARA boxes in my office

A new project I have been working on is creating an instructional presentation for an undergraduate class. Specifically, I have been working with the different items in the Borderlands Collection to identify theme areas that highlight the different topics present in the collection. I also created a padlet activity about the collection for the students to complete after the presentation.

So far, this is where I stand in my projects. As the end of the semester approaches, I hope to finish what I have started and I look forward to the projects the new year brings.

SAWARA Processing and WFH

It has been a few weeks now since I was given the SAWARA collection to process and I am happy to report that I am steadily moving along in my task of processing the items in this collection. I finished surveying the collection last week and the next step was to create a processing proposal detailing how I thought the collection should be arranged.

It’s a good thing I get to work in the conference room because I needed seven tables to fit the SAWARA Collection once it was surveyed.
The processing proposal I created for the SAWARA Collection.

Now that I have written the proposal, I am currently in the process of arranging the collection to match what I wrote. I am organizing the collection alphabetically and chronologically, weeding unnecessary files such as duplicates, and replacing folders and boxes as needed. Once this part of the process is finished, I’ll create a finding aid that will help users navigate the collection.

One of the work from home projects I have been working on is updating the finding aids for the digital collections so that they include the links to the images in the collections. For this project, I have mainly been working with ArchivesSpace. First, I find the location of the item in the finding aid. Then, I create a digital object for the item where I add the link to the item. After creating the digital object, I add it to the finding aid and it is ready to be updated.

A digital object I created and linked to the Papers of Morris K. Udall finding aid

Working with ArchviesSpace has been a great learning experience. At first it was a bit challenging because I had never worked with (or even heard about) this application, but once I got the hang of it it got easier to create and link the digital objects.

I’ve been enjoying working on both of these projects because they have given me the chance to work with digital and physical archival collections in ways I hadn’t previously had the chance to. I can’t wait to see what other projects I’ll get to work on during my GAship.

Summer Fun as a Remote Intern for the Law Library of Congress

As part of the Masters in Library and Information Science degree here at UArizona we are required to complete an internship. I was very lucky to spend part of my summer working remotely from home on an internship for the Law Library of Congress. I was tasked with selecting a topic related to law or the government and creating a Story Map, which is basically a form of digital exhibit. While the completed Story Map has not been officially published on the LawLOC website I did want to share with you a few interesting archival documents from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library that I found while researching the Freedom of Information Act.

So, what exactly is the Freedom of Information Act? The video below does a great job summarizing its history and use but its basically an act of legislation passed to encourage and enforce government transparency and provide access to government documents by civilians.

One of the first surprising things that I learned was that the majority of the federal government was staunchly against any open government polices. While I had assumed that there would be some who were not in favor I was surprised to find that even Lyndon B. Johnson the President who signed the act into law in 1966 only did so unwillingly and under immense pressure.

President Johnson, like many other Presidents enjoyed holding public ceremonies when he signed new legislation into law. When it came to the Freedom of Information Act though he refused as you can on the document below, a memo from June 24th where the words ‘No Ceremony’ are scrawled across the bottom of the page

White House Memo from June 24th 1966 https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB194/

Another interesting example I found were these two different versions of the Statement by the President. The first one was the original version written by Press Secretary Bill Moyer and features the handwritten edits from President Johnson.

A copy of the original statement by press secretary Bill Moyer with LBJ’s handwritten edits https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB194/

Here we have the final version that was given to the press. There is a notable difference in tone between the two letters as it removes any mention of previous negative polices held by the government.

Official Statement by the President

These three documents are only a few of the pieces of archival materials that I was able to include in my Story Map. I feel that are a great example of the wealth of information that can be gleamed from working with primary sources as well as how digitization allows for greater access and use of archival materials! I look forward to sharing the completed project with you when it is made public.

Processing During a Pandemic

Processing has always been my favorite task at Special Collections. There is something powerful about arranging a collection, determining what goes into a folder, arranging and alphabetizing, or ordering chronologically — there are also 100 different ways to process a collection so it can be fun to discuss your process with others.

This semester things are different. Discussion is kept to a minimum because we limit how many people are in the archives at a given time and we spread out to social distance. Thus, most discussions happen over Slack or Zoom meetings and (honestly) just is not as fun as standing over a box with others peering into it.

I have also been working on the George Chambers papers (MS 723) which was being processed by another intern before the lockdown happened. Since Shelly is now working elsewhere, I am finishing up this collections for her — I love that she took detailed notes so I know exactly where she wanted things and understand how she decided to arrange things. This made my finishing the project a smooth transition.

The collection now consists of 13 boxes and a treasure trove of information about newspaper publisher George Chambers, as well as includes a lot of his research files. A full finding aid will be published online soon. But, since all of these materials have been handled recently (even though I wore cute blue gloves the entire time!) they now need to go into their own quarantine for a week — just to be safe.
Processing is, again, my favorite thing. So I’m thrilled that I’m back for a few hours a week to get to do what I love!