We Came, We Saw, We Processed

What did you like best about being a graduate assistant at Special Collections?

Susan: I liked that I was able to put what I was learning in my classes into practice, and that it fit so well with my 550 and 640 classes. A lot of what we did with the exhibit involved working with Latinx and Native American materials, so it worked with 550.

Mark: I enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow coworkers including the other graduate assistants and supervisors.

Zazil: My favorite part was getting to know our colleagues and getting to collaborate on projects with people who are incredibly inspiring and who challenge me to do good work.


Just chillin’ outside Special Collections

Do you see yourself in archives or special collections in the future?

Susan: Can I say heck yes?!

Mark: Possibly, still up in the air. I guess I should say yeah, because I could see myself there.

Zazil: I think so! Everything about this job made me want to keep working in archives.

How do you think your time at Special Collections has impacted your growth as an information professional?

Susan: Very positively. It has helped me verify that this is the path that I want to take, because I feel so passionate about preserving the human record.

Mark: It’s helped me understand both sides of research, both being a grad student and working in the archives where I’ve assisted professors and other students with reference questions.

Zazil: I think it’s taught me that I can be really good at something that I put effort into. This is my first information-type job, and I feel confident that I can move forward in the field.

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The Special Collections graduate assistants with their supervisors

What was your favorite thing to listen to while processing?

Susan: I didn’t always listen to something. Sometimes I just listened to the ghosts in the stacks. Thinking about the voices in the archives.

Mark: The voices of the past.

Zazil: I liked to listen to Rihanna.


Susan reminding us to behave.

What was your favorite memory from Special Collections?

Mark: Hmmm

Susan: Oh gosh. May I share more than one? Road trips to Tempe to visit the Arizona Archives Alliance summit and symposium, Veronica taking us to AHS for research for the exhibit, and Veronica taking us to lunch at La Indita.

Mark: We have no other memories.

Susan: Don’t be absurd.

Zazil: lol

Susan: Laughing about Joseph Howard in that crazy picture. Zazil making us take the plastic off the portraits down in the basement.

Zazil: Those portraits were so terrifying!! My favorite memories are just of us geeking out about archives and exploring different aisles and collections in the basement.

Mark: I liked putting the exhibit cases up with Trent, Roger, and Susan and perusing the stacks for inspiration.

Susan: There are just so many good memories!

Thanks for a wonderful year!–Zazil, Mark, and Susan

Knowledge River Annual Meeting


A couple of Fridays ago, Mark and Zazil we were asked to present at the Knowledge River Annual Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to bring together students, faculty, alumni, and board members to talk about the state of the program and to highlight the current cohort’s progress. Yesterday, they sat down to talk about their experience.

Zazil: What was your favorite part of the meeting?

Mark: Lunch!! Cheesecake pops!

Zazil: I liked the mango dessert thingy better. What about our presentation?

Mark: What would you say?

Zazil: I thought it went well! Do you think the audience liked it?

Mark: Yeah, I think they really enjoyed it. Especially when they saw the photos you had from Community Digitization Day (CDD).

Zazil: That’s true, they did like those.

Mark: Also, when you showed the picture of the little boy with his mother and then showed the picture from CDD of him as an older man now.

Zazil: That was fun! I had gotten to see that comparison when I met him, and I wanted to share it with the group.

Mark: I also liked how you tied in what you were currently working on with the audio tapes and some of the classes we’ve taken like 550 and 557.

Zazil: How do you think those classes in particular prepared us for the job?

Mark: They were the first ones that showed me the power of community-based archives, which ties in with both the CDD and the Pachuco/Caló tapes.

Zazil: That’s so true! We had a whole unit in 550 about community-based archives and how radical they can be in terms of complicating and reclaiming history.

Mark: Dr. Jamie Lee has also done a good job in that class by showing how fuzzy the line can be between archival experts in institutions and community historians and leaders.

Zazil: Yeah, that was huge for CDD because we were interacting with members of the community and they were coming into Special Collections with their treasures. It was a moment that I had read about in Identity Palimpsests, which is a collection of stories about ethnic and community archiving initiatives in the US and Canada.

Mark: Exactly. I also enjoyed talking about how LIS 540 tied into my main collection, the Joseph E. Howard Papers.

Zazil: What was the biggest take-away from that class?

Mark: Everything. Mostly because when I first started this job I didn’t know much about Special Collections, so it was nice to have a class that was teaching me theory alongside a job that was showing me everyday applications.

Zazil: Do you feel like it’s been a crash course?

Mark: Uhhh yeah, but like I said the 540 class helped relieve a little pressure from having to know all the terms like appraisal and acquisition; even just learning the history of archives and processing was helpful in understanding what I was doing on a daily basis.

Zazil: I think a crowd favorite was when you played the frog video.

Mark: Yeah, how many people were in that room, like 40?

Zazil: Yeah, maybe 30.

Mark: Out of those 30, none of them raised their hands when I asked them if they knew who Joseph Howard was. But after showing the video, about 80% of them said they recognized that song, “Hello, My Baby!”

Zazil: Why is that song so popular?

Mark: ‘Cause it was on Looney Tunes. Also it’s a good song.

Zazil: That’s big. That’ll launch a song into stardom.

Mark: Especially considering that song was written in 1899—two centuries ago! And people still recognize it.

Zazil: History is so dope!

Shoot! Time’s Almost Out (Blog: Deadline Edition)

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.


This image of the 1903-04 team is the earliest basketball photo in our UA Photograph Collection.

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.

Community Digitization Day


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.

Community Digitization Day 2_1  CDD 2During 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.


Archive Spaces and Places

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       IMG_7112

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

What to Do in Oahu


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 Arizonathe 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.


Join us for the Festival of Books!

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,

Pearl harbor map.jpgI 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.