That’s OLD News!

Old news equals digitization projects in Special Collections – for newspapers, that is!  These past two weeks I have been assisting our awesome archivist with groundwork for the potential digitization of deteriorating newspapers held at the library.  Mind you, this is before acid free paper, so the need for preservation is a pressing issue at this time.  My duties included going through various collections and identifying different elements from the papers found, such as the name of the paper, date, publisher, number of pages and issues held, amongst other criteria. The newspapers have been primarily from the Southwest region, including northern Mexico.  This project has been as close to time travel as it gets for this Nogalian. With local issues ranging from the late 1800’s-the 1900’s I have been able to experience our history through the eyes of Arizonans and northern Mexicans.  In between counting pages I have glimpsed at our past…from the Mexican Revolution to WWII.


El Atalaya Nogales, AZ 1892

While handling brittle newspapers was nervewrecking, learning how to use microfilm machine was enlightening.  I had never utilized it before, and although it was not difficult to do so, it was a good learning experience since I have a feeling it will not be the last time I either use it or show someone else how to.IMG_4929

There were a couple of issues that I especially liked.  A June 1922 issue of El Fronterizo from Tucson, AZ


El Fronterizo Tucson, AZ June 1922

had a picture of the publishing company’s printing press which was very neat.  The headline was equally as interesting, reading that a man would be hung in Nogales, AZ.  I guess I didn’t realize when public hangings stopped in the Old West.  The 16 de Septiembre issues, which marked Mexican Independence Day, were beautiful.  They had pictures of Hidalgo, the national anthem and winning candidates crowned queen of the festivities, for example.  The Oasis from Nogales, Arizona, my hometown, had a great border story that depicts the relationship the two neighboring cities have.  A particular paper that caught my eye was El Fronterizo from Tucson, AZ that was published in Spanish, but had an English section.  It also contained an interesting story about fossils form an unknown giantesque animal found in Sonora that would be turned over to the University of Arizona for further study.  From world news to local prominent families in the socials and local business advertisements, this project has been a tour of my community’s past!



Cool in Tucson’s Archives

In this blog we discuss our every-day work processing collections, digitizing materials, and making these accessible to the public at large. From time to time, we are lucky to meet the creators of these collections, most often during a special event. Donors themselves on occasion drop by to see us on campus, as was the case earlier this week when former Arizona Congressman, Jim Kolbe, stopped by to examine the amazing job completed last summer by archivist Lisa Duncan and her team of apprentice archivists on the 231 boxes containing his collection.

Photo by Anne Gunn

Then there are the times when archivists make the trek and visit donors at their homes, to appraise or pick up collections. A week ago I was fortunate to be invited along as curator Veronica Reyes-Escudero paid a visit to Elizabeth Gunn, our latest donor. Gunn’s papers will join the research collection of Women Mystery Writers that highlights contemporary Southwestern authors who write primarily about female protagonists. Other authors already in this collection include J.A. Jance, Betsy Thornton, Sinclair Browning, Donis Casey, and Rebecca Cramer.

Ms. Gunn and her daughter invited us in and told us of the rewarding time they had shared as they boxed the author’s papers, which included not just manuscripts and revisions for her novels, but also those for the many travel stories Gunn had sold over the years to various publications and which described her visits to locations throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. Currently working on a book, Gunn allowed us to photograph her in her office, which she was so proud to have after many years of working on stories in small, cramped spaces. “Every woman should have a room of her own; I finally got mine,” Gunn told us, with a twinkle in her eye. For the author, that room required shelves for her books, a comfortable chair, and most important of all, shutters to cover the view and a blank wall in front of her writing space, both to help her stay focused while she works.

Curator Veronica Reyes-Escudero photographs Elizabeth Gunn

Curator Veronica Reyes-Escudero photographs Elizabeth Gunn

Ready to be Processed

Gunn, originally from Minnesota, has two series of books: the Jake Hines mysteries that take place in her Midwestern hometown, and the five titles about Tucson police detective Sarah Burke. After admiring the marketing materials she took along at book shows and her extremely well-organized files all ready to go in boxes, we loaded up Veronica’s SUV and headed back to campus.

Once unloaded, the boxes made a stop at the receiving station, got labels and are now awaiting their turn to be processed. Who will be the lucky archivist apprentice to take Gunn’s papers to their final resting place in our shelves? Who will write the finding aid and encoded it online? Stay tuned and find out!

The Final Step: Creating Public Access


Desert Mermaids, circa 1931-1937

I recently finished processing the University of Arizona Women’s Athletics and Physical Education Papers, 1917-1981. This is a fascinating collection of documents detailing the history of women’s physical education and athletics at UA. The records were created by the Department of Physical Education for Women, led by director Ina Gittings, from 1920-1955, and include documents, correspondence and photographs relating to physical education and intramural sports. A smaller segment of records outline the early history of intercollegiate athletics under the leadership of athletics administrator, Mary Roby, from 1959-1981. This collection ties in closely with the previous collection I processed, The Mary Roby Papers, 1927-2012. Ina Gittings and Mary Roby were important leaders in the creation of women’s physical education and athletic programs at the University of Arizona which ultimately led to the development of a robust women’s athletics program.


Clipping, circa 1922

After processing both the Mary Roby Papers and the University of Arizona Women’s Athletics and Physical Education Papers, I completed the final step; encoding the finding aid in EAD. Encoded Archival Description serves to allow the finding aid to be uploaded to Arizona Archives Online, an archives content aggregator. The software the University of Arizona uses, Oxygen, to encode is fairly uncomplicated, though it appears intimidating at first glance to those like myself who are new to EAD. A coworker kindly demonstrated how to use the EAD template to fill in the appropriate sections, while being mindful of open and closed tags in each section. The software also has a terrific feature which informs you of a mistake as it happens by turning a small green box to red, if an error is detected. This helpful feature allowed me to correct errors immediately and continue on successfully.

After encoding the two findings aids from the collections I processed, the finding aids were uploaded to Arizona Archives Online where they are now live and keyword searchable.

EAD screen capture

EAD screen capture

The Mary Roby Papers (MS 553) and the University of Arizona Women’s Athletics and Physical Education Papers (MS 555) are important collections concerning women’s history from the early part of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century. These collections reflect the social mores of a different era and mark the shift in attitudes toward female athletes that resulted from the dedication and persistence of Ina Gittings and Mary Roby. It was an honor to process these collections and create access for those interested in viewing the materials.

Finding Finding Aids!

Getting lost in a collection is divine…getting lost in trying to find it is wasted time! 

For the past month I have been processing an addition to the Henry “Hank” Oyama Papers.  He was a pioneer in bilingual education in the Tucson area.  He started as an educator for Pueblo High School, then moved on to Pima Community College where he continued his involvement in the bilingual education movement. oyama It was a very appropriate collection to work on given my next assignment:  translation.  After processing my first two collections and getting everything approved by our archivist, I moved on to the next big step, making the collections available to the public. I got the opportunity to go down in U of A history and add my name to the  Encoded Archival Descriptions (EAD’s), which makes the collections searchable online on Arizona Archives Online (AAO)collageThat wasn’t the toughest part, amazingly, it was a bit more challenging to translate the 15 page finding aid from English to Spanish.  Although Spanish is my native language, I still had to look up specific terminology.  Thank goodness for my more experienced collogues that directed me to the best sources; nothing like working alongside a bunch of information specialists, right?  I will be creating a Spanish EAD for this same collection next.  There will be some extra coding involved for those special characters.  I am very excited to be part of projects that match my interests.  I am hoping to Spanish FAwork with the Latin/Hispanic community after graduation and it is very humbling to be working under such great mentors.  My translation is being revised at this time, so I hope it doesn’t come back with big red marks….  Everyday I learn something new and discover new professional possibilities.  My assignments for next semester are equally amazing, and  I cannot begin to imagine what I will be able to do by the end of next Spring!

With an Eye to the Future

Now that the digital and physical exhibits for the De la Torre Papers have been completed and that we’ve enjoyed the well-attended reception, it is time to return all manuscripts and photographs to their appropriate boxes, to be stored in the stacks and await a future researcher request. Such is how days unfold in the archives, a mix of preserving the past and planning for the future, and which got me thinking about what is in store for us, who have recently begun on this path.

Packing It Up

Working at Special Collections, MLIS students get to experience various aspects of the archivist’s job. However, while there is much we do not get to officially do, we can watch from the sidelines and learn about the key roles we have to look forward to as me advance in this profession.

Maintaining community relationships and building trust

Much as we may enjoy spending our days processing box after box of historical treasures, one day we’ll be expected to go out into our communities and build trust. Trust, which does not grow overnight or via email and social media interaction alone, takes time, consistency, and genuine care. Trust requires that we reach out to our general public, but also to potential donors and high profile members of our community. As apprentices, we can take advantage of receptions and public events to attentively observe our mentors and supervisors and learn from them.

LVF Exhibit

Collaborating and contributing within, and beyond, our field

As students, many of us have attended conferences, symposiums and workshops. Soon, we will be reaching out to colleagues, to collaborate in projects that will stretch us as well as our field, going beyond being spectators to become presenters and organizers ourselves. Special Collections is quiet this week since three of our archivists are in Portland presenting at the Western Historical Association. Times like these are perfect for engaging mentors and supervisors, to inquire and listen, while it’s still fresh in their minds, about what has worked and what has not, how to handle long-distance collaborations, tips for navigating informal gatherings of peers, and about professional events that match our interests.


Joining the conversation

We learn much by doing, but also by talking things out. Bouncing ideas of one another can give us a sense of the culture in different archives, bring us up-to-speed with issues currently occupying the profession, and connect us with like-minded archivists that could become future collaborators. One way to join the conversation is provided by SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable; they hold twitter chats about three times a month (on days that end with 5). You can join by following their twitter account, @Snap_Roundtable, or by monitoring the #snaprt hashtag. To learn more, read this.

Tune in for the next one on October 25 @ 5pm (AZ Time) where the focus will be managing digital special collections and university archives.

Tune in for the next one on October 25 @ 5pm (AZ Time) where the focus will be managing digital special collections and university archives.

Relationships, collaboration, conversations–we may have come into this profession for the artifacts, but ultimately it is people who remain at the heart of the archives. We’d be wise to keep an eye on that.

Archival quality boxes housing the Mary Roby Papers

Contain Your Excitement!

I submitted the final draft of the Mary Roby Papers finding aid to my supervisor, Maurita Baldock, and received her stamp of approval so the collection should be on the shelf in the stacks soon! I will also have an opportunity to encode the finding aid based on EAD.

Completing the finding aid for the Mary Roby Papers was an exciting experience as I learned the various components that comprise a finding aid such as the abstract, access terms, biographical note, scope and content note and container list. Because I had developed intellectual and physical control over the collection, writing this was not too difficult. When I received the collection, I surveyed the material closely and, during processing, I placed documents in folders with succinct descriptions. I then placed the folders into containers in chronological order. Containers are acid-free, archival quality boxes that house items in the collection. Once the folders were arranged in containers I proceeded to number them.

Labeled folders

Labeled folders

Doing so facilitated the process of composing the finding aid. The finding aid (or collection guide, as it is also known) serves to allow end users, such as researchers, to have a grasp on the contents of each container and folder without having to rifle thorough them unnecessarily.

The Container List

The Container List

The container list section of the finding aid details each series and folder, with descriptions, to guide the researcher to the appropriate box and folder in which items such as documents, photographs and objects have been placed.

When I first received the Mary Roby Papers they were somewhat disorganized and lacking structure. After seeing the collection through processing and finishing up with the documentation of the container list, it is satisfying to see how my time and effort working with this collection has paid off to make it accessible to the public in a way that is orderly and easy to navigate.

Every Archivist should be an Exhibitionist!

The purpose of archival preservation is to provide access for future use, and what better way to promote our collections than to actually show people what we’ve got!  In the month of September I learned our wonderful archivists’ secret trades for creating displays and exhibits.  UA Special Collections created a beautiful display showcasing some of our most valuable items from Mexico for the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) grand opening of their Center for Mexican Studies on campus.  The display, which ended up being more like a small exhibition, was a trip through history as it consisted of items ranging from 629 A.D. to the 1980’s.  It was a great complement to their presentations, while a great opportunity to promote research materials.

Codice 2All CodicesMaximillianDe la Torre

Creating this exhibit was not an easy task, though, and consisted of much more than just laying things out for others to see. Manuscripts There was plenty of research done to find eye catching, yet relevant material of historical and cultural importance. “Document, document, document!”  was the best policy when removing items from collections for display.  Placeholders were set in folders and post-its on items to ensure we could track where they were removed from.  There were so many details to think of while handling material; I had to constantly remind myself to wear gloves and to place Case 3adequate support when opening books and keep to certain items in the vault until display time due to security and the effect of temperature changes.  I also had to create labels for each of the items and figure out how to fit all of the material in the display case.  All display

It was so amazing being able to look through so many photographs, manuscripts and books, albeit nerve racking.

The event ended in success!  It was incredibly fun and plenty gratifying as I saw part of the exhibit on Twitter:

This project introduced me to another side of archives that I was not familiar with and reminded me archiving is not just about processing.  I took this assignment a step further and searched for job opportunities creating displays because I enjoyed it so much and found that I could make a career of this with Pixar, for example.  Everyday at Special Collections awakens my passion for archives.

A wise person once said “chose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius.