Souls with Wings

This morning is different. The beautiful monarch butterflies that accompany me on my drive in are few. Though the fear of hitting these alluring creatures has faded, I can’t help but miss the rising sun radiating from their fluttering wings. I am aware that a migration for survival is necessary. I smile at the thought of a border-less journey and know Mexico welcomes their triumphant return. In our culture, they are the souls of loved ones passed, and they arrive just in time for their lives to be honored with Dia de Los Muertos celebrations.   

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Photograph by Xochitl Santillan Reyna

I continue to process the papers of Curtis G. Benjamin. I take note of how the little organization that existed has faded. The folders within the boxes are no more, and I encounter different business documents across multiple subjects combined with personal papers. I am further taken by surprise when I locate a blank insurance form folded in half, receipts and a pencil within. I can’t help but think, “This is out of character for you, C.G.B.”  Clearly, this is unfinished business. Throughout the collection I have encountered photographs and letters from family and loved ones and find myself thinking of them as I attempt to piece together his dispersed narrative. I am nearing an end, and I anticipate C.G.B. nears a new beginning. My thoughts appeared to be confirmed when I stumbled across an invocation titled, A prayer for the aging. I’m not certain if C.G.B. authored this piece, but I sense he too anticipated a new beginning. Perhaps one as a monarch butterfly.                                                         

    Monarch Butterfly Clipart #1                                                                                               Monarch Butterfly Clipart #1

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Accession No. 87-129; Papers of Curtis G. Benjamin

 

Butterfly clipart: worldartsme.com/monarch-butterfly-clipart.html#gal_post_5963_monarch-butterfly-clipart-1.jpg

 

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Boxes in Boxes in Boxes

As the weeks have progressed here at Special Collections, so have I. I am still processing the John Weston Papers. I am at the point where I am arranging and foldering all of the materials in his collection, which can be surprisingly frustrating. For example, while arranging his manuscripts in alphabetical order I found another “A” titled manuscript that I had to shift all of my folders for. Luckily, I have also started on other projects to keep me sane.

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Me trying to figure out if I can fit one more folder into the box.

I have been working with our Collections Management Archivist to create a new system for our acquisitions. Basically we want a new system to help make processing our new collections easier and quicker to ensure access is readily available. This week, in implementing this new process I discovered a “matryoshka” collection, or boxes inside of boxes inside of boxes, the insanity!

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“big box, small box, flat box, shoe box” — Dr. Seuss, probably

Surveying should be a fairly quick process, maybe 5-10 minutes a box, mostly depending on the state the collection came in. When materials are in envelopes or smaller boxes, it makes this process harder.  Once you get past that though, surveying shouldn’t be too stressful, you are more or less just opening boxes and looking at stuff. When surveying you want to ask yourself, what kind of shape are the boxes/materials in? Are there any immediate preservation concerns? Mold? Insects? AV or born digital materials? Is there an order? And of course you’ll want to take a quick note of what kind of materials are in the box. For students this can be confusing, how detailed should one be? This step is really just getting a feel for what you have and what you might be able to do with it, so don’t go too crazy and take note of every item in there, just get to know your collection.

I will have finished processing my Weston collection before my next post. Until then enjoy this GIF of me dealing with the more complicated boxes that I’ve saved until the end, wish me luck. Image result for indiana jones gifs

Birds Just Want to Have Fun: The Photographs of Laurence M. Huey (MS 241)

While it is not a secret that I love birds, I will pretend that this is a fact you do not yet know about me.  But my name is Michelle and I love birds. I’m also a peristerophile (someone that loves and cares for pigeons). Now that we’ve been properly introduced… you can imagine how excited I was when I saw the following manuscript labels on a collection I was not yet familiar with:

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Photographs of Laurence M. Huey (MS 241). 

Traditionally, manuscript labels are simplistic. They’re in black and white text and include the manuscript identifier (MS 241), the name of the collection, and a box number. So, you can imagine my excitement that there was a bird waving at me, practically screaming, “Look at this collection!” 

Laurence M. Huey was the Curator of Birds and Mammals for the Dan Diego Natural History Museum from 1922 to 1962. His photographs include pictures from his trips across Baja California, the United States, Canada, Central America, and South America. Many of his subjects are birds because Huey loved birds *almost* as much as I do.

Now, I’m not sure where Huey found a single mallard duck in the middle of the White Mountains, but it is plausible. And it is adorable!

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(MS241_Box2_Folder3): Young Stephens Whip-poor-will. June 1931. (Photo N-7874).

I was also very excited when I found several different photographs of hummingbirds in their nests. If you’ve ever seen a hummingbird, you know how fast they are. You also know that trying to photograph the tiny birds is extremely stressful, and you often end up with lots of ‘dud’ photographs. Yet Huey had an amazing eye for hummingbirds, their nests, and their young.

 

Another fun photograph was titled “Little husband, little wife!” and depicts two Phimbious Gnatcatchers creating their home in Western Arizona, near the Lucky Star Mine, in Mohave County. The photograph was taken in April 1938.

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(MS241_Box2_Folder9). Phimbious gnatcatchers (N-7891).

Huey took several photographs of different birds sitting on branches. Whether flying solo or playing with friends, it is clear these birds were entertaining themselves and photographers.

Huey also enjoyed capturing birds feeding their young.

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(ms241_box2_folder18): Ash Throated Crested Flycatcher building a nest in Yavapai County, Congress Juntion area (n-7888).

Finding odd/irregular nesting locations was a bonus for Huey.

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(ms241_box2_folder18): Ash Throated Flycatchers. May 20-25, 1941 in the Congress Junction area, Yavapai County, Arizona. One bird entering a nest (in post!) and one watching for danger (n-8236).

Huey also liked to find groups of birds. As I am sure you have heard, the best things sometimes come in sets of three!

Other birds are interesting specimens because they have some amazingly unique “hairdos” that should be shared with the public.

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(ms241_box2_folder19): Yuma County, Arizona (n-7925).

This prominent crest would be passed on to another generation of adorable birds–which Huey also photographed.

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(ms241_box2_folder19): Phainopipla feeding young in Castle Dome, Yuma County, Arizona. April 21, 1935 (n-7901).

And if you think I forgot to include a photograph of several different bird nests that Huey photographed… here is the photo you have been waiting for!

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(ms241_box6_folder3): Several photographs from the collection that show different styles of bird nests. 

I hope that you now share my love of birds just a bit more. The Laurence M. Huey collection contains a large grouping of different avian photographs–I hope to intrigue you with a few selections from Box 2, which features birds from Arizona. But if you would like to go “bird watching” in the Special Collections library, there are numerous bird sightings to be had in this collection. To take a look at the collection guide, feel free to click this link: MS 241.

Archives, Bean Seeds, and a Sleeping Princess

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Sleeping Beauty illustration by Japanese artist Kinuko Y. Craft  http://www.kycraft.com/

Having just earned my BA this past May, the 2018-2019 academic year marks my first as a Graduate Assistant at Special Collections and as a graduate student. I spent the last year and a half researching for my honors thesis which focused on the importance of stories, the ways they are told, and how they are preserved. As an example I analyzed fairy tales for their rich history in oral, literary, and illustration traditions, and for their great ability to remain present in our current day.

Gentry Blog p_1My interest in archival and special collections work derives from my passion for stories and how materials of historical significance are being preserved for future generations. For my first processing project I am organizing the papers of Howard Scott Gentry (1903-1993), botanist, ethnographer, zoologist, and most well-known for his expertise on the agave plant. Through my sorting process I am beholding the work of a devoted expert in his craft. His extensive research on a vast array of plant species and attention to detail exhibits his knowledge and passion for his life’s work. Some favorite discoveries: a packet of bean seeds I found in his file labeled “Phaselus” (aka “Wild Bean”), and his manuscript titled “Jojoba the Sleeping Princess” that he wrote for the 1978 International Conference on Jojoba. In this piece Gentry personifies the jojoba plant as a sleeping princess, and like the fairy tale she needs a suitor to wake her, but instead of a prince, it is the skilled botanist who will bring her to bloom, thereby gifting the suitor with her magic oil. You can imagine my delight of finding these fairy tale-like elements within my first project, reminding me of the importance of my research, and excited for what else I will discover in the archives of Special Collections.

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Southwest Enchantments

A month ago my partner, our three chihuahuas, and I made the trek from Oregon to The Old Pueblo. Having lived in other Arizona cities for most of our lives we were excited for our Southwest return. Though only away for a short time, I realized I longed for the Southwest-scape when somewhere in California the luscious green hills evolved into a beautiful mountainous desertscape. When we arrived in Tucson we were greeted by a monsoon storm and unimaginable colors depicted only by a desert bloom. At a short distance away picturesque mountains touched the sky and a javelina pack enjoyed the vegetation. It was a sight dearly missed and it became evident more beauty and adventure lay ahead. Cactus Bloom

My first month with Special Collections has been equally as welcoming as the greeting received by nature on our first day. I am processing the papers of Curtis G. Benjamin, a University of Arizona graduate, author, and publisher who held multiple positions with McGraw Hill Inc., including that of President. I am weeks in and enjoying identifying the concepts discussed in my courses and analyzing how they come to life in the documents. At the same time, I am witnessing the book publishing industry make history in the U.S. through the historical mergers and acquisitions documented by Curtis G. Benjamin. Through the documents, I am witnessing the expansion of McGraw Hill’s international relations, and I sense the publishing industry’s concern for conglomerates taking root. Through the perspective of C.G.B., as I have come to refer to him, I am able to view some of the thought processes behind partnerships and published works that exist today. The work taking place within Special Collections leaves me feeling inspired daily. How could I not be inspired? It is truly a place of enchantments!

 

 

 

Indiana in the Archive

After a year of working at Special Collections as a Student Page I am excited to say that I, Kimberly Ramsey, am moving up in the archival world and will be finishing my last year in the Masters in Library and Information Science program as a Special Collections Graduate Assistant.

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*crowd cheers*

Working in an archive isn’t necessarily what I thought I would be doing. The Anthropology department never encouraged students to look into this field and I was so focused on being Indiana Jones that what happened to these materials after they had been collected didn’t even cross my mind, how young and naive I was. Luckily for me I’ve found my way here, call me Indy of the Archive if you’d like.

“That belongs in an archive” – Me

Now that you know a little about me, let me introduce you to my new friend, John Weston. Weston was a writer of a plethora of novels, short stories, poems, articles, plays and screenplays. Though a popular author, Weston also spent time working as a professor at different academic institutions, including the University of Arizona. There are 15 boxes of materials, and frankly they are pretty well organized, maybe he was an archivist too.

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One of Weston’s very full, yet very organized, boxes.

His materials contain correspondence, play  material, photographs, and plenty of manuscripts. Weston kept all of his drafts which, along with the correspondence, really create a story of his time as a writer and how hard he worked and struggled to create the legacy he did.

15 boxes is a lot, and arranging them will definitely take longer then I had imagined it would, but I am none the less excited to keep working through his stuff while sharing it with you.

Catch me in the basement,

Kimberly

 

Collections of Disarray: Cleaning Up and Preserving Archival Materials

The 2018-2019 academic year marks my second year as a GA (Graduate Assistant) at Special Collections, but I’ve held different student worker positions here since 2009. My plan to infiltrate the archive and make myself a permanent fixture here seems to be working.  Processing collections has always been one of the most significant tasks I’ve been given and I cannot stress enough how much I love being able to make sense of collections for future researchers, scholars, and curious patrons.

My first processing project this semester is what can only be (lovingly) described as a ‘Collection of Disarray’. This nickname refers to a collection that comes in with no clear order (everything is haphazardly piled into boxes), lots of dirt and grime, needs a lot of weeding (removing and discarding items that have no intellectual value to the collection–like an old phone bill or receipt from the grocery store), and has condition issues.

The collection I’m currently processing arrived to Special Collections looking like this:

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It is not uncommon for collections to come in without any specified order to them. After all, donors are entrusting their materials to an archive because archivists take the time to tidy up the collection: we put materials in folders, clean up any small issues, etc.

Yet this collection was unique because it had significant dirt and grime. This was likely due to storage issues (not everyone has a temperature controlled room, and you should keep in mind that lots of people keep their materials in storage sheds that aren’t dirt and/or animal proof). Thus, as I’ve started sorting these materials, I’ve had to spend a lot of time carefully wiping up dirt, bugs, and other fun treasures. It actually is *very* fun.

The collection itself also has different types of damage.

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A significant portion of this collection is letters from the 1910-1930s. The letter pictured above is family correspondence from 1921, and as you can see there are different types of damage to the letter itself. This letter had some dirt on it, which was easy to carefully wipe away. However, there are still some stain “spots” of an unknown origin. The edges also have some significant damage from an unidentified bug. I have a carcass or two that were preserved in these boxes, and I’m not kidding when I say I’m taking photos and sending them to a friend who studies bugs in order to get the true identity of the letter-eaters! You can see little areas where a bug was happily eating away at the letter (the more ’rounded’ areas). However, there are also nicks and tears in the letter (likely from improper housing and, let’s be honest, plain old age and non-archival paper).

The collection is exciting because it is giving me a chance to use different real-world techniques to get some of these materials back into shape. Cleaning dirt off, putting letters in sealed mylar, and arranging the items is proving to be time consuming but well worth the effort. And… I get to use these exciting blue gloves that make me feel like a doctor–skillfully bringing life back to a collection!

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