Processing and Research

Anne Spire at UA Special Collections

Anne Spire at UA Special Collections

My experiences as an Archivist Apprentice have provided opportunity to engage with a variety of different collections.  The first collection consisted of 2 linear feet of materials which pertained to The Clarion, an Arizona based women’s issues newspaper which ran from roughly 1977 to 1991.   Items in the collection include tax documents, receipts, newspaper clippings, newspaper issues, staff files, and subscription information.   I was able to survey these materials and then draft an approach for processing the collection.  After creating several draft processing proposals and receiving helpful feedback from my supervisor I was able to create three distinct subseries to organize the collection namely, financial papers, administrative papers, and newspaper issues.  From this process I learned a great deal about best practices for naming series and subseries so as to avoid ambiguity and aid in the location and retrieval of information.  I have drafted a finding aid for the collection and will soon be encoding this finding aid so that if may be accessed digitally.

photo 1

Materials from the Clarion magazine

The second collection I have been working on is the Kolbe Collection.  This collection contains congressional materials from Representative Jim Kolbe, who represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 2007.  Congressional processing often requires sorting through large quantities of records.  The Kolbe collection contains over 330 linear feet of material.  After gaining some familiarity with the materials in the collection, I was asked to help survey and process the correspondence series with my fellow GA Samantha Colaianni.  This was an important experience in the decision making and collaborative processes involved in archival work.

Photo of Jim Kolbe and the collection processing proposal

Photo of Jim Kolbe and the Kolbe collection processing proposal

One of the features I have also enjoyed in my Archivist Apprenticeship has been the ability to participate in other archival professional duties.  I have been fortunate to conduct research and write blog reports that highlight University of Arizona Collections.  For example, we produced a blog that discussed the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I was tasked with researching collections that related to this historic event.  I located fragments of the Berlin Wall housed in Special Collections and co-wrote a post with my supervisor.  This experience provided valuable insight into the various duties archivists must complete in addition to collections processing and provided opportunity to research the rich collection held at the University of Arizona.

A piece of the Berlin Wall housed at UA Special Collections

A piece of the Berlin Wall housed at UA Special Collections


Re-processing SIROW and Researching Congressional Posters


I recently discovered that there were two unprocessed boxes for SIROW (Southwest Institute for Research on Women), so I have been reviewing those materials and adding them into the collection. SIROW was a collection that I processed last semester, which focuses on women’s studies in the Southwest. For me, this was a great experience because I got to revisit my collection again. I was able to see a different approach to its organization.

MS 518 Southwest Institute for Research on Women

MS 518 Southwest Institute for Research on Women

I realized that I had made my subject files too narrow and had trouble finding places for the extra materials. If I had more time, I would go back and broaden the majority of the subject files so that I can accommodate more materials. Future donations can also occur which is also something to keep in mind when processing a collection.

Ephemera MS 518 Box 7 F. 1

Ephemera MS 518 Box 7 F. 1

I’ve also discovered some neat materials like slides of photographs that date back to the 1860’s. Not only have I been able to re-discover new materials, but I have also been able to enhance my processing skills. I remember the first time using EAD (Encoded Archival Description) to put my finding aid for SIROW online and being intimidated by the technical skills that were involved. But now, I’m completely comfortable with EAD, which I never thought would be possible.

MS 518 Box 11 F. 8 Slides

Slides MS 518 Box 11 F. 8

I’ve also been looking through congressional records to find campaign posters, banners, flyers, and other memorabilia to be displayed on the walls of the congressional archive room. The congressmen include: Ralph Cameron, Marcus A. Smith, Henry F. Ashurst, Lewis W. Douglas, John R. Murdock, Stewart Udall, Morris Udall, James F. McNulty, and Dennis DeConcini.

McNulty MS 341 Box 17 F. 6

McNulty MS 341 Box 17 F. 7

Ashurst Speech AZ 002 Box 10

Ashurst Speech AZ 002 Box 10

McNulty Bumper Stickers MS 341 Box 17 F. 6

McNulty Bumper Stickers MS 341 Box 17 F. 7








I can’t believe that this is my last semester with Special Collections and that I will be graduating this December! It went by so fast! I am so fortunate to have been given this amazing opportunity to work on so many fun projects and work with so many inspirational people.

The Start of Something New

My only experience working within a library has been in the public sector; I’ve spent most of my working life as a page and a clerk. It was exciting when I found out that my graduate assistant position would be with the U of A Library’s Special Collections. Honestly, I had never even heard of archivists before, and after this semester, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

photo 4

When I started working here, I was given the Sinclair Browning Papers as my first project. She is a local Arizona author who writes southwestern mysteries. My degree is in Creative Writing and English, and it was so interesting to see the writing process laid out in documents from conception to publication. As a hopeful author myself, it was fascinating to see the correspondence with editors, the creation of the book cover, and Browning’s own process as she created the plots.


Once I finished with my first project, my co-grad assistant Anne and I were put on congressional collections. All semester, we’ve been working on Jim Kolbe’s papers–that is, every document, photo, and article created during his term in office. Congressional papers are very different from other types of collections, as they can concern classified information. In addition, there is such a huge amount of material that we have to be very careful that nothing important gets lost in the shuffle.


I’ve really enjoyed this peek into what it means to be a political figure. I had no idea so much work goes into being in office! I hope to continue working with congressional collections after my graduate assistant position is done. I love the fact that every day at work is different, and I’ve seen so many cool pieces of history. I’m equally as excited for next semester, when we get to start working on Gabrielle Gifford’s papers. Can’t wait!

photo 2