Picture This

Now that the addition to the De la Torre collection has been processed, I am stepping away from completing the update to the finding aid and its translation to Spanish, but only for a few days. To make sure we are on schedule to officially release the digital exhibit, as well as preparing to display some of the physical materials themselves, I am currently focused in digitizing some photographic selections and adding them to their corresponding online exhibit pages. This is how the process unfolds:


  1. Choosing the photo.

Due to having so many interesting documents to highlight, the Cristeros in Sonora page of the exhibit ended up a little text-heavy, however the recent addition to the collection gave us more photographic options from which to choose. After consulting with Borderlands Curator, Veronica Reyes-Escudero, we decided that Cristero General Luis Ibarra was the perfect person to showcase in that page, especially as he appeared in this photo (one on left), standing next to Alfonso De La Torre, the one family member with experience as a soldier in the movement.


  1. Digitizing to specifications.

Special Collection’s Digital Initiatives Archivist, Erika Castaño, graciously provided me with a crash course on the basics, including an overview of the university’s digitization policy, the required digital image formats and standards for each kind of item, and the digital reproduction workflow.  After spending some time getting acquainted with the specific Photoshop commands, I created a master TIFF file, and a lower resolution JPEG to be used in the actual exhibit.

Online Exhibit

  1. Uploading to Omeka and adding metadata.

Next, one must add the images to the Omeka archive and, one by one, include all pertinent and available metadata in the Dublin Core menu item. Once this is done, the next step is to add the images to the proper exhibit pages and, with a click of a button, make them public. The process is fairly simple, although it does require research for the description of the images. Take the sample photo: we had a copy in the original collection, but it was thanks to the recent addition, which grouped photos by family member, that we were able to positively identify the young man standing next to General Luis Ibarra as Alfonso De la Torre.

Cristeros in Sonora

  1. Publishing (and editing when necessary).

A challenge I have encountered with the final product, even as I diligently follow instructions for each step of the workflow, is that the photographs will sometimes have parts of them cut off when published within the individual pages. This might require playing around with the dimensions of the JPEG version of the image, perhaps even with the code, to make sure no one’s head is cut off by the template layout—something that remains for now a work in progress.

There you have it—an elegantly simple, if somewhat multi-step, process.

Processing a Collection: The Basics

My name is Vanessa Nava and I am one month into my graduate assistantship here at University of Arizona’s Special Collections. I began my graduate education last spring and quickly realized I have a passion for archives. After beginning this semester with some foundational readings in archival practice, I am now two weeks into processing my first collection.

I was assigned a collection that is small and straightforward to develop the skills necessary to process larger collections. The Mary Roby Papers are comprised primarily of biographical materials, such as scrapbooks, photographs and memorabilia.

Roby 40s
Mary (Pavlich) Roby and friends, 1947-1948

Mary Roby (1926-2012) was hired by the University of Arizona as an athletics administrator in 1959 and remained here until her retirement in 1989. During her 30 year tenure at the university, she was a champion for women’s athletic programs and propelled women’s sports from the intramural level to the Pac-10 Conferences. She was a full professor who published, presented and served on numerous athletic committees. In 2003, the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center was named in her honor.

Roby Gymnastics
The naming ceremony of the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training center, 2003

To begin processing the collection, I first began by surveying the material and taking brief notes to determine how best to organize the collection at the series level. I established that there were five series and titled each folder in every series, maintaining the original order of the documents contained within. The folders were then arranged in order of  series chronologically by the earliest date noted in the folder title.

Roby 50-60s
Mary Roby, 1950’s-1960’s

I am currently completing the finding aid for this collection and have so far finished the majority of the work with the exception of access terms. I will then send the completed draft of the finding aid to my supervisor for approval. Processing my first collection is a hands-on way of learning new skills – and it’s exciting and fun!

Archiving Adventures Ahead

My name is Abigail Lopez, and this academic year I am privileged to be working with the University of Arizona’s Special Collections. I am halfway through my studies in the SIRLS program. Last year I completed a graduate assistantship with the Pima County Public Library system. This year I am very excited to learn how to work with primary sources.

Las Posadas 2I was thrilled to start processing my very first collection called “Las Posadas” last week. The collection is about Tucson’s Carrillo Elementary School’s long tradition of re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem in a procession based on an old yuletide custom.

Las Posadas 5
Images of Miss Marguerite Collier.

Las posadas was first adopted by Miss Marguerite Collier in 1937 to build students’ pride on their Hispanic heritage, and has become an annual celebration for its students and the Old Barrio community as well.

The collection has been a lot of fun to work on. There is cute children’s artwork, pictures and newspaper clippings from 1943-2007. We can see how different generations celebrated this event, and how our Tucson community values tradition.

Although the semester began with some great readings by Mark Greene, Barbara Jones and May Chan on topics such as archiving values, deaccessioning, and processing, including the U of A processing manual, I have found out there is no better way to learn how to process than to actually practice.  That’s when you really learn what types of decisions you will need to be making and questions you need to be asking.  It is a gratifying, yet scary feeling to know that I am working on a project that will record our past.

Las Posadas 4This was the perfect small collection to introduce me to the wonderful world of archives – and help me get into the Holiday spirit!

I will end this week’s blog with one of my favorite quotes:  “The archive: if we want to know what this will have meant, we will only know tomorrow.”   –Jacques Derrida

Housing Decisions

A new academic year means a new set of graduate students at Special Collections—at least for the most part. After spending two semesters working as graduate assistant, I am back for another year, this time as ARL/SAA Mosaic fellow. My job will be similar in many ways, except that I will be expected to move through assignments at a faster pace and my day will be split between working on projects and attending meetings, much like many of the department archivists are expected to do. Since this internship is meant to provide a taste of what the profession is really like, I welcome the challenge.

My first project is an addition to the De la Torre collection, which documents the family and their involvement with the Cristero movement in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century.

This collection’s very special family photos will soon be digitized and added to a virtual exhibit currently under development. The De la Torre addition is about 1.5 linear feet and counts with over 50 photographs, most of them black and white. Consulting with Ritzenthaler’s Photographs: Archival Care and Management in regards to housing guidelines and found that I should consider the following:

  • Condition, format, size and value of the photographs
  • Type and amount of use and handling they receive
  • Space, financial, and staff resources
  • Need to maintain original archival order

Hanni pic2Since about half of the photographs are in an album, those will stay together; the loose photographs will remain as they were originally, sorted based on family groupings, following the most common protocol. They will all be stored vertically, including the few larger ones that are mounted on cardboard. To minimize curling, I’ll make sure not to place too many photos in the same envelope, but since they are all in very good condition, I will forgo the use of Mylar. Due to the constraints in time, I will describe them at the series level, based on the family grouping they portray. This ought to make it easy for both researchers and family members wanting to access the collection to reminisce. Once that is done, the next step will be to digitize.