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.


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.


Samuel Kipnis’ WWI photographs from Call Field, Texas

Stepping Outside

Working at Special Collections is not all about processing, preservation, and digitizing collections; from time to time, we get to go outside and learn from colleagues as well. Over the past month, we had two such opportunities. First came the 2015 Arizona Archives Summit, held at the Tempe Historical Society, where a couple of us had our first chance to speak in front of archivists from across the state about what it’s like to get started in the field. Ofelia and I shared the podium with two other young professionals: Lauren Amundson, lone archivists at the Lowell Observatory, and Caitlen Lampman, one of the newest members of the Arizona Historical Society team. Aside from wrangling technical difficulties (lesson learned: always bring your links embedded in slides because sometimes the internet will flicker and you will stand there, wondering what happened to all your opened tabs!), we told the audience about our journey so far, shared this video about the Knowledge River graduate assistantships at the U of A, and highlighted this very blog. Once the stress of standing before an audience of 100+ was over, we were able to relax and listen to the true professionals, like our very own Roger Myers, who took part in a group presentation about collections that highlight the women of Arizona.

Summit Program  Roger_1

On February 3rd, assistant librarian Lisa Duncan, who organizes our field trips to archives around campus, led the way as we all headed to the Arizona Historical Society on a beautiful sunny day. There we were greeted by Laura Hoff and by former Special Collections GA, Lizeth Zepeda, for a behind-the-scenes tour. One of the main takeaways from all the outside time has been the importance of networking with others in the field: we who spend so much time processing papers, also need to establishing relationships with colleagues for these could eventually lead to mentorships and job leads once we graduate–friendships too, of course. For now, however, it’s time to head back inside.

Staff_GAs Photo

From left to right: Samantha Colaianni, Anne Spire, Ofelia E. Zepeda, Leah Rios, Steven Burg, Lisa Duncan, Trent Purdy, Wendel Cox (and taking the picture, Hanni Nabahe)

AZ Hist Soc_1

Laura Hoff explains the challenge of storing old newspapers in the same room as other materials.

AZ Hist Soc_3

Ending and New Beginning

This week marks the end of one collection and the beginning of another.  For the past five months I have been helping to process the collection of former Arizona congressman Jim Kolbe.  This experience has provided me with insight into the final stages of congressional collections processing.  This has included processing audio/visual materials such as photographs, photo negatives, VHS tapes, and cassette tapes.  I was also able to help process physical artifacts such as plaques, awards, and campaign buttons.  In addition I learned how to inspect previous work for accuracy, helped with the final labeling of materials, and assisted in developing a collection inventory.  The inventory will then be used to create an EAD finding aid.

Final stages of processing the Kolbe collection includes double checking work and labeling folders.

Final stages of processing the Kolbe collection includes double checking work and labeling folders.

With the Kolbe collection nearing completion I have begun work on the congressional collection of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  The beginning stages of processing has included researching her biography and congressional career.  This collection also includes material related to the fatal shooting of January 8th  2001 in which Ms. Giffords was wounded.  This event was researched in more detail so that materials found in the collection would be given some context.  Other activities have included conducting a survey of the 133 linear feet of materials.  These materials were examined and an organization was developed so that the materials could be classified and categorized for processing.  Materials have been broadly categorized as being congressional materials, materials related to January 8th, and Audio/Visual artifacts.  The initial work that is being completed will help ensure the collection can be processed quickly and accurately.

Learning about congresswoman Giffords has offered important information that will assist in processing her collection.

Learning about congresswoman Giffords has offered important information that will assist in processing her collection.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to see two very different sides of congressional processing.  With the Kolbe collection I was able to experience final stages of processing.  In contrast the Giffords collection is in the initial stages of processing.  These two experience are very different and each present unique challenges.  I look forward to seeing how the Giffords collection progresses and to seeing the Kolbe collection completed and made available to the public.  Congressional collections are known not only for their challenging nature but also for value to researchers.  I feel very fortunate to have had a hand processing both of these collections.

New Adventures at Special Collections

My name is Leah Rios and I am in my last semester here at the U of A in the SIRLS program with a concentration in archives. This semester, I have the distinct pleasure of working as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Arizona Special Collections. My position is being funded through the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, which allows me the opportunity to work with congressional records. Having spent most of my graduate career working at institutions that contain manuscript, photographic, and art collections, I am excited to learn something new.

My first week here I started reading “Managing Congressional Collections” by Cynthia Miller and “An American Political Archives Reader” by Karen Paul, Glenn Gray, and L. Rebecca Melvin to familiarize myself with congressional records. I highly recommend either of these books to individuals interested in congressional records because they both simplify the process and provide helpful, succinct descriptions of key terms and processing methods.

My other project this semester will involve revamping our exhibit space found in the Special Collections reading room that currently features Arizona congressmen and women. I will be adding new individuals to be featured, as well as updating others. I am eager to gain exhibit experience and plan to add more graphic images to attract more attention, utilize the wall space to highlight each individual, as well as display campaign or other eye-catching materials.

So far I have gone through Ralph Cameron, Marcus A. Smith, Henry Fountain Ashurst and Lewis Douglas’s archive and have already found some amazing photographs. Below you can see photographs of Ashurst with both President Roosevelt and President Nixon. It never ceases to amaze me what amazing materials can be discovered in an archive! I look forward to continually researching each individual and revealing the finished product!

Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection (AZ 002), UA Special Collections (Ashurst far left, Nixon, and two other unidentified individuals)

Photo from Lewis Douglas Collection (AZ 290), UA Special Collections (President Roosevelt center, Lewis Douglas, top row, far right)

Photo from Lewis Douglas Collection (AZ 290), UA Special Collections (President Roosevelt center, Lewis Douglas, top row, far right)

The Ins and Outs of Congressional Archiving

As the new semester starts, my work with the Jim Kolbe congressional collection is drawing to a close; soon I will be moving on to processing the Gabrielle Giffords collection. The Kolbe collection has been my first experience with congressional archiving, and I have learned so much in so short a time. While it sometimes felt a little overwhelming, I feel much more confident as I begin work on this next collection.


I think that the oddest part for me was just how large the collection was. As a congressman, Kolbe generated a lot of material while in office—emails, pictures, CDs, and speeches. While the Sinclair Browning Papers were five boxes total, each category of the Kolbe collection had many more. When faced with three carts’ worth of pictures, I had to wonder how we were ever going to be able to complete the processing before our deadline.


After sifting through piles of invitations, constituent mail, and schedules, I began to realize just how much work goes into being a political figure. I can’t begin to fathom how busy someone like Kolbe must have felt—and he was in office for twenty-one years! Working on this collection has definitely given me a new appreciation for political office. I hope that the addition of this collection to the U of A Special Collections will allow other students to learn about the intricacies of government, and maybe even to run for office themselves.


Now, as I move on to the Gabrielle Giffords collection, I’m excited to see what I will find in all those boxes. My favorite part of the archives is that element of surprise; no two days at work are the same!

Finishing a Collection


Near the end of the Fall 2014 semester, I was fortunate enough to work on the Papers and Photographs of Paul M. Roca (MS 531). In order to familiarize myself with the collection, I read the control file which contains the history of the material as it relates to Special Collections. Through the control file I learned about the Mr. Roca’s long-held interest in the history and architecture of churches in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. While browsing through the collection, I was struck by the stunning black and white photography depicting the various stages of churches and Mr. Roca’s use of maps identifying the location of the churches. An interesting characteristic of Mr. Roca’s work was that he interviewed locals and searched for the buildings even if they were long since erect as there are some photos which depict mere remnants of churches.

MS 531, Box 2, Folder 520150120_115412

Another SIRLS student, Katie Young, created a History Pin, Paul Roca Photographs of Missions in Sonora, Mexico, featuring the photographs in the collection. This project served as her capstone project for her DigIn (Digital Archiving) Certificate. She did an amazing job combining the maps and photos in her project.

My tasks were to double-check the numbering of the folders containing the 156 photographs featured in his book, Paths of the Padres through Sonora: An Illustrated History and Guide to Its Spanish Churches, to incorporate the draft manuscripts of his book, Spanish Jesuit Churches in Mexico’s Tarahumara into the collection, and to create the front matter of the finding aid. When I was assigned the project, there was a container list of the already foldered and boxed photographs featured in Paths of the Padres through Sonora: An Illustrated History and Guide to Its Spanish Churches published by the Arizona Pioneers’ Historical Society in 1967. I had to make sure the numbers of the folders and contents matched, if not, I then renumbered the items. Numbering the folders and items ensures the ability to locate a specific file rather than having to search through the entire collection.


I also processed the manuscript drafts for Mr. Roca’s book, Spanish Jesuit Churches in Mexico’s Tarahumara published in 1979 by the University of Arizona Press. The various drafts document how exhaustive the editing process is for both the writer and the publisher especially in a time when typewriters were the norm.


The container list eventually became the basis of the final finding aid for the collection. I added the front matter which provides a great deal of information about a collection. For instance, the creator’s name, the date range, the bulk date of the collection, the physical description (or size) as well as biographical information and how the information is organized are some of the features contained in the front matter.

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Soon we will be using EAD to make our finding aids online and searchable in Arizona Archives Online (AAO). I cannot wait to learn that aspect of the archival process.

Exhilaration Mostly Arrives When You Are Alone…in the Stacks.


That handwritten quote is by Charles Bukowski, most renown of the authors catapulted to fame by Black Sparrow Press, the Santa Rosa-based publishing house whose partial archive resides at UA Special Collections. Half way through fall semester, soon after I had finished processing my first two collections, I was approached by archivist Roger Myers, who suggested I finish rehousing the Black Sparrow Collection and complete its finding aid. Two thirds of the 500+ published works’ files had already been rehoused and organized, but the remaining ones awaited still in the folders in which they had been received. It took about two months to rehouse those in acid-free folders and boxes, and to save time, I began to draft the finding aid as I went as well.

The collection, acquired over 20 years ago, began arriving to the UA Special Collections in installments since the early 1990s. John Martin, founder of Black Sparrow, was savvy enough to create this archive as authors were being published (1966-2002) with the intention to later capitalize on its value. In the introduction to his Catalogue 140, titled “In Our Time,” Martin explains his driving force was to “develop a genuine poet’s press for the poets themselves,” for which he focused on Avant garde American poetry in an effort to provide “a good cross section of American poetry today” (BSP, 1970).

BSP_stacks1    BSP_stacks4

The exhilaration alluded in the Bukowski quote began for me as I started opening each of the brown manila folders. Within each were all sort of materials relevant to the production of individual tomes, from manuscripts drafts, to cover art sketches and photographs, to correspondence and, on average, four copies of the book in question (usually 3 hardcovers and one paperback edition). Some of the files contained Christmas letters or special limited edition poems bound and distributed among faithful followers of the Press. The authors I came across included Diane Wakoski, Wanda Coleman, Gerard Malanga, John Fante, Fielding Dawson, Laura Chester, John Yau, D.H. Lawrence, and of course, Charles Bukowski.

BSP_books1    BSP_Malanga_artwork

BSP_books4    BSP_Bukowski4

In preparation for writing the collection’s finding aid, I have been spending time perusing its control files and asking Roger about the process behind acquiring this collection. As it turns out, portions of the Black Sparrow Press archive can be found among the Special Collections holdings of five other institutions: University of Alberta (1966-1970), Pennsylvania State University (1967-1974), Emory University (1966-2002), the University of California at Berkeley (1970-2002), and at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico (1967-1976). Looking over the way others institutions have organized their portions of the collections has been helpful, and it will inform the organization of our own, since the main goal is to make it as accessible to researchers as possible. This finding aid will be unlike the other two I have tackled, much larger in scope and with many other considerations to keep in mind. According to Roger, it should take about a week to complete. Finishing this project that has been in the works at Special Collections for such a long time will be bittersweet for me, for it signals that my time alone in the stacks, surrounded by the work of these poets will no longer be a regular part of my day. Good thing I can always come and visit, now that I know what is there.