Hit the ground running

This is the first blog since Spring Break let up. For my own personal edification, I took it upon myself to tour with a couple repositories in northeastern Arizona and New Mexico over the break- the Navajo Nation Museum and the Institute for American Indian Arts, respectively. I was lucky enough to correspond with helpful archivists and curators who were willing to give an up-and-coming student of archival science a tour of their facilities and a talk on their collections management systems.


An artifact of my tour at the Navajo Nation Museum. The Navajo translation and dubbing of this film has gained notoriety for the NNM. This is a Star Wars themed sandpainting made to commemorate its premiere in Hollywood. Sandpaintings like this were made for each major contributor of this now beloved project. It was very cool to see this.

It was a very enlightening experience which illuminated upon the fact that a lot of archival and museum practices are, indeed, variable. As students, we seldom get to experience real-world applications by professionals of the theory that we study so intensely. The detached format of didactic teaching can be all too insubstantial if not given some real-world context. That being said, the tour was much like working here at Special Collections where it is a real treat to have professionals share their experience and expertise with students.

Aside from my Spring Break adventures, returning to Special Collections feels like I’ve hit the ground running. Perhaps I’ve enjoyed my time off too much? There are a few projects that are keeping me an assiduous archivist. Aside from responding to reference questions from patronizing researchers, I have succumb to experience new areas of duty in this sweet gig at the Special Collections 🙂


UA photographic Collection Cabinets. The UA Photograph Collection was created by Special Collections over the years from donations received from students, alumni, and University departments. This collection dates from 1885 to the present, with bulk dates between 1910-1970. It really was a great opportunity to delve into these photos- it was difficult to choose only 50

First of which, I have been tasked with digitizing 50 photographs from the UA Photographic Collection so that they can be incorporated into the online digital collection of the same name. Initially I was to familiarize myself with both the collection and the online digital collection. By doing so, I could identify and bolster themes that comprised the digital collection and at the same time cultivate other themes that were not present. Essentially this project consists of creating a selection criteria for the types of photographs that I would be digitizing, scanning and editing them, and then subsequently write the corresponding descriptive metadata for them.  It has been a really fun experience.


Old timey bicyclist. As part of this digitization project I am currently working on, I have been trying to cull photos that have a bicycle theme.



Old timey photo of library pages. An ode to librarianship is a must.


Great compositions within the UA Photographic Collection

Furthermore, there is another digitization project along the same lines that has been assigned to both Alexa and I. As it is very similar to the independent project I am working on, we are tasked with selecting and digitizing 25 photographs. The selection criteria this time will pertain to the prowess and merit of the University of Arizona. On top of the 50 photographs I have been working on, this would put a total of 75 digitized photographs under my belt- that’s awesome!!!


Selecting photos from the Andrew Ellicott Douglass collection (AZ072).

I cannot say enough how great an opportunity it is to be able to come back and work at the Special Collections. The staff members here are definitely great resources; during my time here I hope I will get to work with all of them in some capacity.

On another note, there is another thing worth mentioning. For a long time now, I have been requesting to sit-in during a donor visit and I finally had the opportunity to shadow the Special Collections Borderlands Curator during a meeting. It really was interesting to observe how a good rapport can be established and maintained- I suspect such a relationship is a testament of how well one’s interpersonal skills are formed. Special Collections does, indeed, have a first rate donor relations specialist. Everybody I work with here is first rate, without a doubt.



Processing Experience – William N. Damron, Jr. Collection


Boxes prior to being processed

One of the projects I am working on at Special Collections at the moment is processing the William N. Damron, Jr. Collection. Mr. Damron worked in theater and was a University of Arizona Alumnus. His collection consists of resumes, programs, and scrapbooks mostly consisting of his theater career. There are 15 scrapbooks which range from 1948 – 2006. Mr. Damron began with performance career at a young age, having his first dance recital in third grade and at Rincon High School he participated in the choir program. The University of Arizona was where Mr. Damron began his acting, dressing and directing career where he also received his M.F.A.


Two scrapbooks, resumes, and programs while organizing for processing.

The scrapbooks consist of newspaper clippings, thank you/congratulation cards, costume sketches, photographs, certificates, and programs. Some highlights of this collection are his opportunities to work in costume design for events like the Los Angeles Opera, the Academy Awards, and the Grammys. I look forward to making his collection accessible through a finding aid soon.


William Damron, Jr.’s backstage Pass to the 65th Annual Academy Awards.

As graduate assistants at Special Collections we get an amazing opportunity of putting the theories we learn in the classroom into praxis. It is one thing to read how to process a collection in our textbooks but a completely different experience to actual do the processing. What I have learned in my few weeks here at Special Collections is that there is no one way to process a collection. Different archivists have different methods of processing and materials demand different forms of preservation.  It has been interesting to listen and to learn these different methods from experts. It has also been a great opportunity to take what I have learned here at Special Collections back to the classroom discussion and provide depth and background to what I am are reading.

Diving into the SIROW Collection

I have been working away, sifting through and categorizing materials from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) collection. Part of the collection contained a large box full of cassette tapes. One hundred seventy-five cassette tapes later I have finally got them all put away and in order. The cassette tapes have a range of different subjects, from seminars on women and politics to topics such as feminism and national security. Most of the tapes are recorded from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s.
SIROW Cassette Collection 1970s-1980s

SIROW Cassette Collection 1970s-1980s

I found a lot of neat photographs as well within the collection. Some photographs include people and places of the Southwest primarily taken in the late 1800’s. Another set of photographs taken in the 1990’s include those involved with SIROW and Women’s Studies. There’s a great variety and it’s fun to look through.
"Our Camp at the Nutria" New Mexico, circa 1890 Photo by Ben Wittick Courtesy School of American Research Collections in the Museum of New Mexico

“Our Camp at the Nutria” New Mexico, circa 1890
Photo by Ben Wittick
Courtesy School of American Research Collections in the Museum of New Mexico

I stumbled upon a flyer for an interesting exhibit at the Arizona Historical Society in the 1980’s titled, “The Lady Takes the Wheel”. There was also a pamphlet that displayed some of the photographs for the exhibit, they were old photographs of women driving automobiles from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. I thought these were really fun (I love the look of these old-fashioned cars).
The Lady Takes the Wheel exhibit booklets for the Arizona Historical Society

“The Lady Takes the Wheel” exhibit booklets for the Arizona Historical Society

There are also a lot of newspaper clippings, some about the recruitment of women into the Mathematics and the Science & Engineering fields at the University of Arizona. There are also articles about women and the economy, visiting SIROW scholars, women’s studies conferences, documentaries on women & the Southwest, literary works, etc.
SIROW Newspaper Clippings

SIROW Newspaper Clippings

Meeting Senator DeConcini

The Special Collections offers events featuring special guests that are available to the public. The Special Collections was proud to have Senator Dennis DeConcini reflect upon his career in politics (Arizona Senator from 1977-1995) and to speak on issues pertaining to the present state of Arizona.


Senator DeConcini meeting with future public servants

In order to make these events run smoothly- especially events of this caliber- all of the staff and graduate students coordinate and share the workload together. As for the graduate students, we assisted with things like: arranging event space, welcoming guests, and  taking on other specific duties. I volunteered to man the camera and to take shots of the event, people mingling, and the Senator speaking. The turnout for the event was great and everybody had a good time.


Senator DeConcini reflecting on his career and answering questions.


Currently there is a correlative exhibit at Special Collections showcasing some presidential letters that were given to Senator Deconcini, who had helped get these pieces of legislation passed. Here is a short video made by filmaker Aengus Anderson with highlights of the Senator’s much anticipated appearance:

Students enjoying the DeConcini Presidential Letters exhibit in the reading room at the Special Collections

For information on upcoming events, check the events webpage: UA Special Collections Events