Always Something to Do

One of the nice advantages of working at Special Collections is there always a task to be completed, all you have to do is ask. For instance, I was between projects one day and asked Bob Diaz, Associate Librarian, if he needed any help with his then upcoming exhibit, 100 Years of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. He was in the final stages, but needed additional books pulled from the collection. He gave me about eight different call sheets and sent me downstairs to find the books. It was quite an adventure for me as I had never really dealt with the book stacks in Special Collections. I was lost in the stacks for a while, but I persevered. I was able to learn locations of the call numbers and see some of the fun and cool materials. Thankfully, I now have a deeper knowledge of where to locate many different types of materials in Special Collections.

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Cabinet display by Bob Diaz

Cabinet display by Bob Diaz

"Discovered" while lost in the stacks. Miniature books purchased and donated by Bunny Fontana--he bought them in a quarter machine.

“Discovered” while lost in the stacks. Miniature books purchased and donated by Bunny Fontana (he bought them in a quarter machine).

Hanni, another Graduate Assistant, asked Roger Myers if he needed anything done which led to her first working on Black Sparrow Press and then I was recruited to help make the work go faster. This has been an amazing project to help process as I was an English major in my undergraduate years. I get to have my fan moments when I see manuscripts, edits, and letters by Joyce Carol Oates, Charles Bukowski, and Allen Ginsberg among many other great writers encouraged by John Martin. We have made great headway with this project and see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Correspondence from Allen Ginsberg to John Martin of Black Sparrow Press

Correspondence from Allen Ginsberg to John Martin of Black Sparrow Press

Roger Myers, Associate Librarian and Archivist, gave me the small task of locating a file on Samuel Kipnis, the first mayor of South Tucson, in Special Collections’ Biographical Files. I now have the honor of processing the materials and creating the finding aid for the small collection which consists of newspaper clippings, letters of congratulations from many political dignitaries of the time, and Kipnis’ WWI photos.

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Samuel Kipnis’ WWI photographs from Call Field, Texas

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Stepping Outside

Working at Special Collections is not all about processing, preservation, and digitizing collections; from time to time, we get to go outside and learn from colleagues as well. Over the past month, we had two such opportunities. First came the 2015 Arizona Archives Summit, held at the Tempe Historical Society, where a couple of us had our first chance to speak in front of archivists from across the state about what it’s like to get started in the field. Ofelia and I shared the podium with two other young professionals: Lauren Amundson, lone archivists at the Lowell Observatory, and Caitlen Lampman, one of the newest members of the Arizona Historical Society team. Aside from wrangling technical difficulties (lesson learned: always bring your links embedded in slides because sometimes the internet will flicker and you will stand there, wondering what happened to all your opened tabs!), we told the audience about our journey so far, shared this video about the Knowledge River graduate assistantships at the U of A, and highlighted this very blog. Once the stress of standing before an audience of 100+ was over, we were able to relax and listen to the true professionals, like our very own Roger Myers, who took part in a group presentation about collections that highlight the women of Arizona.

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On February 3rd, assistant librarian Lisa Duncan, who organizes our field trips to archives around campus, led the way as we all headed to the Arizona Historical Society on a beautiful sunny day. There we were greeted by Laura Hoff and by former Special Collections GA, Lizeth Zepeda, for a behind-the-scenes tour. One of the main takeaways from all the outside time has been the importance of networking with others in the field: we who spend so much time processing papers, also need to establishing relationships with colleagues for these could eventually lead to mentorships and job leads once we graduate–friendships too, of course. For now, however, it’s time to head back inside.

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From left to right: Samantha Colaianni, Anne Spire, Ofelia E. Zepeda, Leah Rios, Steven Burg, Lisa Duncan, Trent Purdy, Wendel Cox (and taking the picture, Hanni Nabahe)

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Laura Hoff explains the challenge of storing old newspapers in the same room as other materials.

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Ending and New Beginning

This week marks the end of one collection and the beginning of another.  For the past five months I have been helping to process the collection of former Arizona congressman Jim Kolbe.  This experience has provided me with insight into the final stages of congressional collections processing.  This has included processing audio/visual materials such as photographs, photo negatives, VHS tapes, and cassette tapes.  I was also able to help process physical artifacts such as plaques, awards, and campaign buttons.  In addition I learned how to inspect previous work for accuracy, helped with the final labeling of materials, and assisted in developing a collection inventory.  The inventory will then be used to create an EAD finding aid.

Final stages of processing the Kolbe collection includes double checking work and labeling folders.

Final stages of processing the Kolbe collection includes double checking work and labeling folders.

With the Kolbe collection nearing completion I have begun work on the congressional collection of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  The beginning stages of processing has included researching her biography and congressional career.  This collection also includes material related to the fatal shooting of January 8th  2001 in which Ms. Giffords was wounded.  This event was researched in more detail so that materials found in the collection would be given some context.  Other activities have included conducting a survey of the 133 linear feet of materials.  These materials were examined and an organization was developed so that the materials could be classified and categorized for processing.  Materials have been broadly categorized as being congressional materials, materials related to January 8th, and Audio/Visual artifacts.  The initial work that is being completed will help ensure the collection can be processed quickly and accurately.

Learning about congresswoman Giffords has offered important information that will assist in processing her collection.

Learning about congresswoman Giffords has offered important information that will assist in processing her collection.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to see two very different sides of congressional processing.  With the Kolbe collection I was able to experience final stages of processing.  In contrast the Giffords collection is in the initial stages of processing.  These two experience are very different and each present unique challenges.  I look forward to seeing how the Giffords collection progresses and to seeing the Kolbe collection completed and made available to the public.  Congressional collections are known not only for their challenging nature but also for value to researchers.  I feel very fortunate to have had a hand processing both of these collections.

New Adventures at Special Collections

My name is Leah Rios and I am in my last semester here at the U of A in the SIRLS program with a concentration in archives. This semester, I have the distinct pleasure of working as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Arizona Special Collections. My position is being funded through the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, which allows me the opportunity to work with congressional records. Having spent most of my graduate career working at institutions that contain manuscript, photographic, and art collections, I am excited to learn something new.

My first week here I started reading “Managing Congressional Collections” by Cynthia Miller and “An American Political Archives Reader” by Karen Paul, Glenn Gray, and L. Rebecca Melvin to familiarize myself with congressional records. I highly recommend either of these books to individuals interested in congressional records because they both simplify the process and provide helpful, succinct descriptions of key terms and processing methods.

My other project this semester will involve revamping our exhibit space found in the Special Collections reading room that currently features Arizona congressmen and women. I will be adding new individuals to be featured, as well as updating others. I am eager to gain exhibit experience and plan to add more graphic images to attract more attention, utilize the wall space to highlight each individual, as well as display campaign or other eye-catching materials.

So far I have gone through Ralph Cameron, Marcus A. Smith, Henry Fountain Ashurst and Lewis Douglas’s archive and have already found some amazing photographs. Below you can see photographs of Ashurst with both President Roosevelt and President Nixon. It never ceases to amaze me what amazing materials can be discovered in an archive! I look forward to continually researching each individual and revealing the finished product!

Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection (AZ 002), UA Special Collections (Ashurst far left, Nixon, and two other unidentified individuals)

Photo from Lewis Douglas Collection (AZ 290), UA Special Collections (President Roosevelt center, Lewis Douglas, top row, far right)

Photo from Lewis Douglas Collection (AZ 290), UA Special Collections (President Roosevelt center, Lewis Douglas, top row, far right)