Initial Processing Stages

Boxes that have been separated out by committee on which Giffords served.

Boxes that have been separated out by committee on which Giffords served.

For the past several weeks I have been working on the initial processing stages of the Gabrielle Giffords collection. After completing our first survey of the collection we developed a rough organization for the materials. The three subgroups we envisioned for the final collection are congressional activities, media files, and post January 8th. Over the past few weeks we have been conducting a more thorough survey of the congressional activity materials. This has involved research on bills Giffords sponsored and her work on congressional committee. With this information in mind we have begun to loosely categorize boxes of material for further processing.  Additional research has been conducted on other congressional collections to determine other possible organizational schemas.  An important lesson I have learned in Special Collections is that it is not always necessary to re-invent the wheel.  By using previously processed collections as a perspective to compare and contrast Giffords’ collection we are able to gain a new outlook on our organization.

The current organizational schema that will guide our processing

The current organizational schema that will guide our processing

Another important project we have begun is creating an exhibit for the Jim Kolbe collection. This has involved learning details about how to create an exhibit and locating materials in the collection for display. The collection includes a variety of objects and much work has gone into finding display materials that are both significant and intriguing.  One of the rewarding aspects of work in special collections is making these valuable materials available to the public.  In the case of the exhibit we have the opportunity to highlight not only Kolbe’s important work as a congressman but also showcase these materials to interested researchers.

Further work with the Kolbe collection has included working on locating audio visual materials that will be migrated and preserved in digital format. The collection includes many outdated media formats including VHS and cassette tapes. We have had to survey audio visual materials to locate items that may be of interest to future researchers.  This work has provided an important experience in learning how archives deal with outdated media and preserve them using new technology.

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Creating an Exhibit: Congressional Archives Room

This month I have continued to work on the exhibit in the Congressional Archives Room featured in the reading room.  So far I have completed two out of the ten cases and hope to finish at least three more cases by the end of this month.  Finding new material for Ralph Cameron, Marcus Smith, Henry Ashurst, and John Murdock were especially challenging, since most of their collections did not contain any campaign materials.  My goal was to find documents that were visually engaging, and stay away from text heavy documents that were difficult to read for the viewer.

I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West! Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937) Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937)

I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West! Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937)

Once I found new items to be featured in each case, I encased each in mylar to protect the documents and photographs from any potential damage.  I spent a lot of time moving each item within each case, trying to determine the best order and placement.  Another challenge included creating depth in each exhibit case by utilizing risers and different types of stands that would prop the documents to better engage the viewer. This process took longer than I had anticipated because I had made a digital placement sheet, but later concluded that it was useless once I began to move and place items.  At the end, my case looked nothing like what I had planned.

I was able to use these wooden risers to add some dimension to the exhibit case, Ralph Cameron Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 127

I was able to use these wooden risers to add some dimension to the exhibit case. Materials from  Ralph Cameron Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 127

In the beginning stages of this exhibit, I thought a digital model would be helpful.  However, I have since discovered that more time should be allocated to physically placing the items in the case, rather than predicting where the items should go.  I anticipate that the other cases I will complete will be less daunting since I have more material to work with, but I feel more comfortable knowing that I now have established my own process to follow.

One of the cases that I recently completed that focused on Lewis Douglas. Materials from Lewis W. Douglas Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 290 Photo from Henry Fountain Ashurst Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 151 (Henry Ashurst and Mae West, Los Angeles, 1937) I was very excited to find this beautiful picture of the famous Mae West!

One of the cases that I recently completed that focused on Lewis Douglas. Materials from Lewis W. Douglas Collection, UA Special Collections, AZ 290