A Life of Service

I returned from winter break on January 13th and was immediately put to work implementing the final touches on our exhibit highlighting the collection of Congressman Jim Kolbe. My supervisor and I had already selected the items that were to placed in the exhibit before the break and had certain items enlarged to maximize visual appeal. After returning from break the next step was to purchase frames for the materials used in the display. We chose simple, matte black frames, in varying sizes, for the display of Congressman Kolbe’s materials. After cropping and framing the photographs and letters, my supervisor hung the exhibit on vertical panels in the reading room.  I also created labels for most of the items hung and despite some unforeseen issues with the labels curling inward, the exhibit looks terrific!


Next, I took some time to spruce up Kolbe’s congressional display case featuring more of his photographs, documents and souvenirs. With guidance from my supervisor, I added more materials to the display case, including photographs. I then created all new labels for the congressional display case to correct an error in which the font previously used did not match the other labels in the display. With the case in order, the exhibits were ready just in time for the reception in Congressman Kolbe’s honor on Thursday, January 21st.

display 3

I was fortunate to have been invited to attend the reception for Congressman Kolbe.  At the event, University of Arizona Provost Andrew Comrie spoke to the crowd, as well as Representative Martha McSally who introduced Congressman James Kolbe. Kolbe stated that donating his papers to the University of Arizona preserves Arizona’s political history and the history of the people of the state. During the reception, Congressman Kolbe’s former staff were also honored, many of whom have continued to pursue a career as congressional staffers with other Arizona political leaders.

Kolbe Special Collections Selects04-1


The James Kolbe exhibit, “A Life of Service” Selections from the James Kolbe Papers, opened on Tuesday January 19th and the exhibit will remain on display through March 1, 2016.

Welcome Back!!

Hello everyone, hope winter break was good to you all! As they say, all good things must come to an end, so here we are hard at work again.  This semester is kind of a big deal to some of us as graduation nears.  Although that day cannot come soon enough, it also means that there is a lot to get done and even more to learn!  Time to get back on track and end winter break hibernation.

I have started this semester by completing some of the projects I started last semester. That included properly storing finished collections.  I had to make space for additions to collections, create labels and make sure working space was cleared for new projects.  I have also been working on identifying gaps between our El Tucsonense digital and physical collections.  I was happy to find that we have a couple more issues we can possibly digitize and add to the MMAP budget proposal.  That wrapped up last semester’s pending tasks.

I also had my semester check-in with my marvelous mentor, a meeting that entailed a thorough revision of my work plan and prioritizing projects. I am excited to know that I will be learning about digitization through two projects: MMAP (Mexican and Mexican American Press) and a Borderlands related photograph project.  Not everything that goes on in Special Collections are big or glorious projects, however.  Some of the tasks archivists perform are small in scale but huge in importance, such as responding to patron inquiries.  FullSizeRender (1)

This semester I am being coached on how to answer reference questions.  I have learned that being familiar with our collections is extremely useful, but not essential.  Learning to navigate through extensive resources and learning how sources respond to searches (such as plurals and synonyms) are key.  Rule of thumb says that in order to be able to help someone, one must listen them.  This is no exception, as engaging in dialogue (or emails) is how we learn what the researcher really needs.

I am saddened to think that I am only here for one last semester, but excited to see what new things I will be learning….so here’s to making it count!!

Archival Intelligence (AI) at the UA

As another semester wraps up, those of us at the School of Information are getting ready to celebrate our December graduates. Along with them, we will also recognize one outstanding faculty and one adjunct who, based on student vote, inspired us most this fall. This year I had the privilege of collecting student responses and the landslide results made me very happy indeed: one of my all-time favorite people at the iSchool will be getting a well-deserved recognition for their tireless work. And yet, happy as I am about the popular choice, it is not lost in me that those who usually get the most votes, also tend to be instructors designated to core classes and who spend time with the largest number of students.

Who gets overlooked in these evaluations and polls? I can think of at least three amazing instructors and mentors to the lucky few who get the chance to spend time here at Special Collections. They are archivists and librarians with teaching duties that are integral part of their jobs, whether before entire classes of students or one-on-one with graduate assistants. Each of them in fact embody all of three distinct forms of knowledge as coined by Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres in AI: Archival Intelligence and User Expertise (2003) and which they identified as required to work and teach effectively the use of primary sources:


Domain or subject knowledge is an understanding of the topic being researched, for example historic preservation, Jacksonian politics, or the law.

Veronica Reyes-Escudero, associate librarian and Borderlands curator, has been at the University of Arizona for over 15 years. After four years working as liaison with the English department, she shifted focus and joined Special Collections in 2004. Veronica has strong ties in the community, a deep knowledge of the region, and her Spanish language skills are hard to match. A working partner with the Knowledge River program, Veronica is a strong advocate for students, always making time to train and mentor the next generation of archivists even when her own list of duties is filled to the max. Veronica usually teaches classes that focus on our Borderlands collections or on literature; to us graduate students, Veronica is precious for the time she spends showing us how to handle materials, do holdings checks, set up displays and much more. She is as tough as she is patient, always pushing us to excellence by holding expectations high. No one can spend any time under her supervision and not leave better than when they arrived.

WendelArtifactual literacy is the “practice of criticism, analysis, and pedagogy that reads texts as if they were objects and objects as if they were texts.” This is the ability to interpret records and assess their value as evidence.

J. Wendel Cox, assistant librarian and archivist, started working at Special Collections just last October, but brings with him 20 years of teaching experience before undergraduate and graduate students of American history, American Indian history, and the history of American foreign relations. Wendel alone has taught us all at Special Collections more about assessment that many of us thought possible. After spending most of his first year creating a comprehensive tribal resource guide, his last four months went to analyzing Special Collection’s circulation, instruction and reference, interlibrary loan, document delivery and reproduction requests. Translating numbers to all form of visualization formats, Wendel has made it simple to wrap our minds around them, reminding us bookish librarians that numbers are indeed our friends

RogerArchival intelligence is a researcher’s knowledge of archival principles, practices, and institutions, such as the reasons underlying archival rules and procedures, how to develop search strategies to explore research questions, and an understanding of the relationship between primary sources and their surrogates.

Roger Myers is the Rare Books expert at Special Collections and an associate librarian and archivist in title, but in reality he is the cornerstone of our department. Roger has been in the profession for over 30 years and has what I believe to be photographic memory, for he can tell you the history of just about every book and collection held here. Getting his start as a cataloger and moving on to archivist within 5 years, he was responsible for making the Mo Udall papers accessible back in the mid-80s and overseeing installation of the department’s compact shelving. There is no reference question he cannot answer and I shudder to think how we all will get by once he leaves for sabbatical at the end of this month. A natural teacher, he never misses a chance to share what he knows, whether it is while setting up a room for one of his many lessons on the history of books, or as he unpacks the latest addition to the rare books’ vault.

Yakel and Torres defined archival intelligence (AI) based on characteristics identified to “foster the development of expertise in novices and to reinforce and extend the archival intelligence of expert users of primary sources.” Regardless of public recognition, we at Special Collections know that AI in our department is through the roof–I truly could go on about these and other staff, but having reached the word limit, I will have to leave that for another post.

Seek and Select: Creating an Exhibit

Part of my work as a graduate assistant in Special Collections is to assist with upcoming exhibits highlighting the papers of notable individuals and/or organizations. I recently received word that we will be showcasing some of the materials from the newly processed James Kolbe Papers for an exhibit and reception held in his honor.


Congressman Jim Kolbe, undated

Jim  Kolbe began his political career as a U.S. Senate Page for Barry Goldwater in 1960. Congressman Kolbe served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Arizona from 1985-2007 in the 5th congressional district (later renamed the 8th district). He is known for his expertise on trade, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I was tasked with selecting items from his collection for display in the exhibit. The first step in the selection of materials was to consult the James Kolbe Papers collection guide and make a list of potential candidates for display. Next, I pulled boxes individually from the collection to examine documents and photographs more closely. I opted to choose visually appealing materials that would honor his life of service. I then placed the items selected in mylar sleeves to protect them from damage. I also made a list of each item pulled from the collection and created a spreadsheet with the item name and location in the stacks. It’s important to think ahead when creating an exhibit to ensure that the items can be returned to their appropriate place when the exhibit closes. You don’t want to end up with a box of papers and photographs and no idea where they belong in the stacks! After creating the spreadsheet, I wrote out labels for each item in a Word document which I saved. The labels will later be printed and mounted next to the items on display to create context for the viewer. I also created a mock-up of how the display will look once completed, although it requires some reworking.


Campaign Materials

The exhibit, which opens on January 19th, will be arranged chronologically, beginning with a photo of Representative Kolbe as a congressional page and will proceed to underscore important community events as well as relationships with political leaders such as United States Presidents. The exhibit will also feature campaign materials from various elections. Although not yet complete, I’m hoping that my work with this exhibit will focus attention on the James Kolbe Papers in Special Collections and inspire access and use for students, researchers, and the general public.

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.