Picture This

Now that the addition to the De la Torre collection has been processed, I am stepping away from completing the update to the finding aid and its translation to Spanish, but only for a few days. To make sure we are on schedule to officially release the digital exhibit, as well as preparing to display some of the physical materials themselves, I am currently focused in digitizing some photographic selections and adding them to their corresponding online exhibit pages. This is how the process unfolds:


  1. Choosing the photo.

Due to having so many interesting documents to highlight, the Cristeros in Sonora page of the exhibit ended up a little text-heavy, however the recent addition to the collection gave us more photographic options from which to choose. After consulting with Borderlands Curator, Veronica Reyes-Escudero, we decided that Cristero General Luis Ibarra was the perfect person to showcase in that page, especially as he appeared in this photo (one on left), standing next to Alfonso De La Torre, the one family member with experience as a soldier in the movement.


  1. Digitizing to specifications.

Special Collection’s Digital Initiatives Archivist, Erika Castaño, graciously provided me with a crash course on the basics, including an overview of the university’s digitization policy, the required digital image formats and standards for each kind of item, and the digital reproduction workflow.  After spending some time getting acquainted with the specific Photoshop commands, I created a master TIFF file, and a lower resolution JPEG to be used in the actual exhibit.

Online Exhibit

  1. Uploading to Omeka and adding metadata.

Next, one must add the images to the Omeka archive and, one by one, include all pertinent and available metadata in the Dublin Core menu item. Once this is done, the next step is to add the images to the proper exhibit pages and, with a click of a button, make them public. The process is fairly simple, although it does require research for the description of the images. Take the sample photo: we had a copy in the original collection, but it was thanks to the recent addition, which grouped photos by family member, that we were able to positively identify the young man standing next to General Luis Ibarra as Alfonso De la Torre.

Cristeros in Sonora

  1. Publishing (and editing when necessary).

A challenge I have encountered with the final product, even as I diligently follow instructions for each step of the workflow, is that the photographs will sometimes have parts of them cut off when published within the individual pages. This might require playing around with the dimensions of the JPEG version of the image, perhaps even with the code, to make sure no one’s head is cut off by the template layout—something that remains for now a work in progress.

There you have it—an elegantly simple, if somewhat multi-step, process.

Processing a Collection: The Basics

My name is Vanessa Nava and I am one month into my graduate assistantship here at University of Arizona’s Special Collections. I began my graduate education last spring and quickly realized I have a passion for archives. After beginning this semester with some foundational readings in archival practice, I am now two weeks into processing my first collection.

I was assigned a collection that is small and straightforward to develop the skills necessary to process larger collections. The Mary Roby Papers are comprised primarily of biographical materials, such as scrapbooks, photographs and memorabilia.

Roby 40s

Mary (Pavlich) Roby and friends, 1947-1948

Mary Roby (1926-2012) was hired by the University of Arizona as an athletics administrator in 1959 and remained here until her retirement in 1989. During her 30 year tenure at the university, she was a champion for women’s athletic programs and propelled women’s sports from the intramural level to the Pac-10 Conferences. She was a full professor who published, presented and served on numerous athletic committees. In 2003, the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center was named in her honor.

Roby Gymnastics

The naming ceremony of the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training center, 2003

To begin processing the collection, I first began by surveying the material and taking brief notes to determine how best to organize the collection at the series level. I established that there were five series and titled each folder in every series, maintaining the original order of the documents contained within. The folders were then arranged in order of  series chronologically by the earliest date noted in the folder title.

Roby 50-60s

Mary Roby, 1950’s-1960’s

I am currently completing the finding aid for this collection and have so far finished the majority of the work with the exception of access terms. I will then send the completed draft of the finding aid to my supervisor for approval. Processing my first collection is a hands-on way of learning new skills – and it’s exciting and fun!

Archiving Adventures Ahead

My name is Abigail Lopez, and this academic year I am privileged to be working with the University of Arizona’s Special Collections. I am halfway through my studies in the SIRLS program. Last year I completed a graduate assistantship with the Pima County Public Library system. This year I am very excited to learn how to work with primary sources.

Las Posadas 2I was thrilled to start processing my very first collection called “Las Posadas” last week. The collection is about Tucson’s Carrillo Elementary School’s long tradition of re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem in a procession based on an old yuletide custom.

Las Posadas 5

Images of Miss Marguerite Collier.

Las posadas was first adopted by Miss Marguerite Collier in 1937 to build students’ pride on their Hispanic heritage, and has become an annual celebration for its students and the Old Barrio community as well.

The collection has been a lot of fun to work on. There is cute children’s artwork, pictures and newspaper clippings from 1943-2007. We can see how different generations celebrated this event, and how our Tucson community values tradition.

Although the semester began with some great readings by Mark Greene, Barbara Jones and May Chan on topics such as archiving values, deaccessioning, and processing, including the U of A processing manual, I have found out there is no better way to learn how to process than to actually practice.  That’s when you really learn what types of decisions you will need to be making and questions you need to be asking.  It is a gratifying, yet scary feeling to know that I am working on a project that will record our past.

Las Posadas 4This was the perfect small collection to introduce me to the wonderful world of archives – and help me get into the Holiday spirit!

I will end this week’s blog with one of my favorite quotes:  “The archive: if we want to know what this will have meant, we will only know tomorrow.”   –Jacques Derrida

Hanni pic1

Housing Decisions

A new academic year means a new set of graduate students at Special Collections—at least for the most part. After spending two semesters working as graduate assistant, I am back for another year, this time as ARL/SAA Mosaic fellow. My job will be similar in many ways, except that I will be expected to move through assignments at a faster pace and my day will be split between working on projects and attending meetings, much like many of the department archivists are expected to do. Since this internship is meant to provide a taste of what the profession is really like, I welcome the challenge.

My first project is an addition to the De la Torre collection, which documents the family and their involvement with the Cristero movement in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century.

This collection’s very special family photos will soon be digitized and added to a virtual exhibit currently under development. The De la Torre addition is about 1.5 linear feet and counts with over 50 photographs, most of them black and white. Consulting with Ritzenthaler’s Photographs: Archival Care and Management in regards to housing guidelines and found that I should consider the following:

  • Condition, format, size and value of the photographs
  • Type and amount of use and handling they receive
  • Space, financial, and staff resources
  • Need to maintain original archival order

Hanni pic2Since about half of the photographs are in an album, those will stay together; the loose photographs will remain as they were originally, sorted based on family groupings, following the most common protocol. They will all be stored vertically, including the few larger ones that are mounted on cardboard. To minimize curling, I’ll make sure not to place too many photos in the same envelope, but since they are all in very good condition, I will forgo the use of Mylar. Due to the constraints in time, I will describe them at the series level, based on the family grouping they portray. This ought to make it easy for both researchers and family members wanting to access the collection to reminisce. Once that is done, the next step will be to digitize.

Learning the Profession

Over the past several weeks we have continued to process the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  In particular we were able to finish processing the legislative aspects of the collection which include staff files, committee files, speeches, and other materials.  The aspects of the collection related to the January 8th shooting are now being processed.  The bulk of January 8th material consists of newpaper clippings and correspondence.

This shelf was full of boxes and is now almost empty as materials have been processed.

This shelf was full of boxes and is now almost empty as materials have been processed.

Processing the Giffords collection has allowed me to partake in archival processing in a new and exciting way.  Because of the experience I have gained over the past year I have been more active in planning how to process the collection.  I have conducted research into other congressional collections and using my new skill set I’ve participated in conversations about processing in a much more integral way.  I have been able to provide input on how to process the committee work Giffords completed as well as how to handle post-January 8th materials.

The end of spring semester provides an opportunity to reflect on a year of unique work experiences.  When I look back on having processed the Clarion Records in August I realize how much my knowledge and skills have improved over the year.  I have had the opportunity to create archival exhibits, learn to process notoriously challenging congressional collections, participate in outreach, and contribute to the special collections blog.  Each of these experiences has provided opportunity to gain new and valuable skills as well as learn more about the archival profession.

The majority of my time this year has been spent doing congressional collections processing.  The Jim Kolbe collection allowed me to learn the skills I needed to take a stronger role in planning how to process the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  This exemplifies how pivitol my time at UA special collections has been to my growth in archival processing.  Each collection I have processed has allowed me to gain more skills that I can then use to take a more active role in processing other collections.

Plans for processing the Gabrielle Giffords collection.  I was glad to have played a role in developing this organization.

Plans for processing the Gabrielle Giffords collection. I was glad to have played a role in developing this organization.

From Apprentice to Pro

As the semester wraps up, we graduate assistants are either ready to move on to the real world post-graduation or, as in my case, stick around for another year of Special Collections fun. Lisa Escobedo Duncan, assistant librarian and former Knowledge River Scholar, was our go-to mentor for processing of congressional collections. Lisa recently landed a position as Archivist and Special Collections Librarian with the ID Weeks Library at the University of South Dakota, where she will head the archives, oversee the Oral History Center, provide outreach to diverse communities, work on digital projects with members of the staff, and supervise a staff of three. Sad as we all are to see her go, we were curious to find out all we could about how she approached the job search, interview, and salary negotiation. Always the mentor, Lisa was only happy to share.


Lisa’s Tips:

Job Search: Keep an eye out for job openings every day. Spends 5-10 minutes on a site like Archives Gig and focus on job descriptions that are appealing and locations that you can handle living in—having roots in those places makes you an attractive candidate too. Consider timelines: if you need a job by summer/fall, best to start looking by Nov/Dec, since 4-5 months is a typical wait period in academia. Don’t pass up jobs even if you don’t feel fully qualified or if something in the title turns us off; you just never know. Make sure your resume/CV and cover letter are flawless and, above all, don’t obsess. It will happen when it will happen, sometimes right away, but more often it will test your patience.

Resume/Background: Employers are looking for multiple years in one place, experience supervising staff/student workers, variety and challenge level of the projects you’ve worked with (being in charge is important too), experience with born-digital materials as well as software like CONTENTdm, DSpace, Archon, etc. Go after internships, just make sure to network, network, network—it usually comes down to who you know. Work hard and be ready to pay your dues: the dream job may not come for many years, so temp, work part-time, apply to residency programs, volunteer, do what you have to gain enough experience to appeal to employers out there.

Interview: The first round will be over the phone or Skype, by committee members. Be ready with examples that correspond to the skills listed as required and preferred, as well as a couple questions for them too. The In-person interview setup is similar for all academic libraries: you arrive in the evening and have dinner with people from the search committee, followed by a day of nonstop meetings, a 45 minute presentation by you, and a tour of the campus and departments. You either stay the night or leave the next day. Keep your game face during rides to and from—even the people assigned to drive you will weighing in. Don’t forget to ask about salary and professional development; you will need to know this to negotiate later on.

Accepting the Job: You will likely be offered the minimum salary they can pay, but remember that universities usually have room for negotiating salary and professional development, so do some homework ahead of time. Be prepared to say what you deserve based on (1) your experience and (2) the nature of the job (know what others in similar positions make, info that is publicly disclosed for most universities). Consider whether the position offers tenure track, continuing status, or if it simply is an academic professional job. Once all is agreed upon, start date can usually be delayed by up to two months.

Thanks to Lisa Duncan for all her help this past year, for the amazing tours of local archives that she organized for us, for having the best attitude one could ask from a mentor. Congratulations and we wish her the very best in her new job!

University of South Dakota, Lisa's soon-to-be home!

University of South Dakota, Lisa’s soon-to-be home!


Wrapping Up: Congressional Exhibit Coming To A Close

I have had a wonderful semester here at Special Collections learning how to create an engaging and appealing congressional exhibit.  While my process involved a lot of trial and error in order to find a comfortable and effective work process, I know that I will be able put these skills to use later in my career.  Since my last blog post, I have worked on Stewart Udall, Morris Udall, Dennis Deconcini, James McNulty, and Jim Kolbe.  Unlike the beginning of the project, the recent congressman all had fairly large collections, which proved to be another challenge.  Whereas before I struggled with finding materials from the smaller collections which were limited and small, this time I experienced the problem of having too much to choose from.   In retrospect, I prefer working with collections that have an abundance of material, even if it takes a bit more time to decide which materials are best.

Stewart Udall Collection, UA Special Collections, A campaign poster that will be a featured image above the Udall exhibit case

As I near graduation, I am confident that I will be able to finish on time, which was a pleasant surprise.  The last step will be creating a plan for the images that will be placed on the wall above each exhibit case.  I decided that I would feature at least one photo of the individual, an item relating to their campaign, and maybe another item that is visually interesting.  While I have already chosen 1-3 items per congressman to use to introduce each person, I need to measure and determine the placement as well.  After that is complete, I will be submitting materials to our library Express Document Center for scanning and printing and finally hang the images.  The last addition I will be making to the exhibit include QR codes that will be placed on each case in order for patrons to access the finding aids of each featured congressman.  This will hopefully increase traffic for the Special Collections website and encourage others to research and access the amazing collections that are featured here.

Stewart Udall (MS 372), Morris Udall (MS 325) and Dennis DeConcini (MS 399) Collections, UA Special Collections Campaign materials from multiple congressman

Stewart Udall (MS 372), Morris Udall (MS 325) and Dennis DeConcini (MS 399) Collections, UA Special Collections
Campaign materials from multiple congressman

As my graduate career comes to a close, I am thrilled that I was given the opportunity to work at UA Special Collections.  The people I have met and the skills I have learned will no doubt assist me in landing my first professional job.  Until then, I cannot wait to see my finished exhibit and demonstrate the progress I have made.

Henry Fountain Ashurst (AZ002), UA Special Collections Ashurst featured in Hearst’s Magazine

Henry Fountain Ashurst (AZ002), UA Special Collections
Ashurst featured in Hearst’s Magazine

UA Special Collections Fun Arizona Trivia!

UA Special Collections
Fun Arizona Trivia!