With an Eye to the Future

Now that the digital and physical exhibits for the De la Torre Papers have been completed and that we’ve enjoyed the well-attended reception, it is time to return all manuscripts and photographs to their appropriate boxes, to be stored in the stacks and await a future researcher request. Such is how days unfold in the archives, a mix of preserving the past and planning for the future, and which got me thinking about what is in store for us, who have recently begun on this path.

Packing It Up

Working at Special Collections, MLIS students get to experience various aspects of the archivist’s job. However, while there is much we do not get to officially do, we can watch from the sidelines and learn about the key roles we have to look forward to as me advance in this profession.

Maintaining community relationships and building trust

Much as we may enjoy spending our days processing box after box of historical treasures, one day we’ll be expected to go out into our communities and build trust. Trust, which does not grow overnight or via email and social media interaction alone, takes time, consistency, and genuine care. Trust requires that we reach out to our general public, but also to potential donors and high profile members of our community. As apprentices, we can take advantage of receptions and public events to attentively observe our mentors and supervisors and learn from them.

LVF Exhibit

Collaborating and contributing within, and beyond, our field

As students, many of us have attended conferences, symposiums and workshops. Soon, we will be reaching out to colleagues, to collaborate in projects that will stretch us as well as our field, going beyond being spectators to become presenters and organizers ourselves. Special Collections is quiet this week since three of our archivists are in Portland presenting at the Western Historical Association. Times like these are perfect for engaging mentors and supervisors, to inquire and listen, while it’s still fresh in their minds, about what has worked and what has not, how to handle long-distance collaborations, tips for navigating informal gatherings of peers, and about professional events that match our interests.


Joining the conversation

We learn much by doing, but also by talking things out. Bouncing ideas of one another can give us a sense of the culture in different archives, bring us up-to-speed with issues currently occupying the profession, and connect us with like-minded archivists that could become future collaborators. One way to join the conversation is provided by SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable; they hold twitter chats about three times a month (on days that end with 5). You can join by following their twitter account, @Snap_Roundtable, or by monitoring the #snaprt hashtag. To learn more, read this.

Tune in for the next one on October 25 @ 5pm (AZ Time) where the focus will be managing digital special collections and university archives.

Tune in for the next one on October 25 @ 5pm (AZ Time) where the focus will be managing digital special collections and university archives.

Relationships, collaboration, conversations–we may have come into this profession for the artifacts, but ultimately it is people who remain at the heart of the archives. We’d be wise to keep an eye on that.


Contain Your Excitement!

I submitted the final draft of the Mary Roby Papers finding aid to my supervisor, Maurita Baldock, and received her stamp of approval so the collection should be on the shelf in the stacks soon! I will also have an opportunity to encode the finding aid based on EAD.

Completing the finding aid for the Mary Roby Papers was an exciting experience as I learned the various components that comprise a finding aid such as the abstract, access terms, biographical note, scope and content note and container list. Because I had developed intellectual and physical control over the collection, writing this was not too difficult. When I received the collection, I surveyed the material closely and, during processing, I placed documents in folders with succinct descriptions. I then placed the folders into containers in chronological order. Containers are acid-free, archival quality boxes that house items in the collection. Once the folders were arranged in containers I proceeded to number them.

Labeled folders

Labeled folders

Doing so facilitated the process of composing the finding aid. The finding aid (or collection guide, as it is also known) serves to allow end users, such as researchers, to have a grasp on the contents of each container and folder without having to rifle thorough them unnecessarily.

The Container List

The Container List

The container list section of the finding aid details each series and folder, with descriptions, to guide the researcher to the appropriate box and folder in which items such as documents, photographs and objects have been placed.

When I first received the Mary Roby Papers they were somewhat disorganized and lacking structure. After seeing the collection through processing and finishing up with the documentation of the container list, it is satisfying to see how my time and effort working with this collection has paid off to make it accessible to the public in a way that is orderly and easy to navigate.

Every Archivist should be an Exhibitionist!

The purpose of archival preservation is to provide access for future use, and what better way to promote our collections than to actually show people what we’ve got!  In the month of September I learned our wonderful archivists’ secret trades for creating displays and exhibits.  UA Special Collections created a beautiful display showcasing some of our most valuable items from Mexico for the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) grand opening of their Center for Mexican Studies on campus.  The display, which ended up being more like a small exhibition, was a trip through history as it consisted of items ranging from 629 A.D. to the 1980’s.  It was a great complement to their presentations, while a great opportunity to promote research materials.

Codice 2All CodicesMaximillianDe la Torre

Creating this exhibit was not an easy task, though, and consisted of much more than just laying things out for others to see. Manuscripts There was plenty of research done to find eye catching, yet relevant material of historical and cultural importance. “Document, document, document!”  was the best policy when removing items from collections for display.  Placeholders were set in folders and post-its on items to ensure we could track where they were removed from.  There were so many details to think of while handling material; I had to constantly remind myself to wear gloves and to place Case 3adequate support when opening books and keep to certain items in the vault until display time due to security and the effect of temperature changes.  I also had to create labels for each of the items and figure out how to fit all of the material in the display case.  All display

It was so amazing being able to look through so many photographs, manuscripts and books, albeit nerve racking.

The event ended in success!  It was incredibly fun and plenty gratifying as I saw part of the exhibit on Twitter:

This project introduced me to another side of archives that I was not familiar with and reminded me archiving is not just about processing.  I took this assignment a step further and searched for job opportunities creating displays because I enjoyed it so much and found that I could make a career of this with Pixar, for example.  Everyday at Special Collections awakens my passion for archives.

A wise person once said “chose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius.