Q & A with Maurita Baldock

Baldock-MauritaI recently sat down with Maurita Baldock, Assistant Librarian and Archivist at UA’s Special Collections Library, to ask her a few questions about her role as an archivist at an academic library. Her responses shed some light on questions that had been on my mind.

Question 1: Can you describe your position in Special Collections?

MB: My position in Special Collections is a faculty position which means that I am required to do my duties as well as scholarship and service. So, scholarship is publishing, presenting at conferences, etc.  Service is serving on committees within the library as well as within the archives profession. As far as my actual job, I do most of the accessioning. I don’t bring in all of the collections but I am the one who accessions them when they do come in. And my two curatorial responsibilities are political affairs and planetary science collections.  I also assist in supervising students, including the Knowledge River students.

Questions 2: How do you develop relationships with potential donors, do you seek out donors or do they approach you?

MB: Both. We have a great website right now which is really wonderful because in some ways that’s a great marketing tool. People often see that we collect certain materials and they then know to contact us. Those phone calls go to various people, a lot of times they come to me, and I listen to what people have as they describe it over the phone. As far as reaching out to donors, there are some donors we do approach. A lot of times it’s people that we research first or someone suggested to us, sometimes faculty members may suggest someone. In some cases it could even be the library administration making the contact. So it’s a little bit of both. We’re hoping that more donors approach us. That’s one reason why we are doing more social media. We want people to know that we are here.

Question 3: When you meet with a donor when you are accessioning a new collection how do you know what to take or do you take everything that is offered?

MB: That depends. That’s really where experience comes in. It is experience based upon learning what is historically important and you also learn what researchers want to see.  I try to be picky when we meet with the donor and say, “We will have you donate this, but not that.” But there are times when you’re in a rush or it’s just easier to take everything and then not keep material that might not be relevant.  In that circumstance we have something in the deed of gift about whether or not to return items to the donor.

Question 4: How do you discover what is historically important?

MB: I think that’s where my studies in history helped. I did have done research in archives myself which it helps you understand what researchers are often looking for. Things like secondary research – no one is going to come in to look at someone else’s research. They are coming here to look at original materials that tell you something about a specific time or place or people.

Question 5: What role does outreach play in promoting collections and what kinds of outreach efforts are in place?

MB: Outreach is becoming more and more important. The Internet is the best resource that’s out there. It’s important to have finding aids online and a social media presence to find potential researchers, to find people who might want to help fund your collections, and to reach people who might want to donate to your collection. We do exhibits and public programming and that really helps with community relations. We want everyone to have a favorable opinion of us so that they will support us and take an interest and perhaps want to contribute some of their own material to Special Collections.


Words of wisdom from a seasoned pro! Special thanks to Maurita Baldock for agreeing to be interviewed.




Dating the Undateable

Dating the undateable can be very complicated and time consuming…and I am not talking about courtship, but postcards!  Last week I had to help date some postcards from our Mexican American Border Region Photographs and Postcards Collection for a class presentation.  The topic was the border, and in Nogales, Arizona, there was a brief period of time which had an open border policy in 1960.  We had the written documentation recording the policy in correspondence between the Nogales Chamber of Commerce, Senator Udall and former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) from our collection AZ372, the Steward L. Udall Papers.


Our archivist wanted to see if we had any images of the border during that time to showcase for the students.  I was very excited to work on the project, as I thought it would be extremely interesting to see how the border has changed over the years.  On a personal note, I was excited to take a trip down memory lane, as Nogales, Arizona is my hometown.

The first step I took was identifying and separating the images of the Nogales border from other regions such as the Douglas and Agua Prieta border, in between others.  Next, I searched for dates either printed, written, or stamped on the postcard.  Unfortunately, not many were dated or had a legible postage stamp on them, and those that did were not within the timeframe I was looking for.


That led me to conduct some fun research.  There were clues in the images that could help me date them.  The first were cars, so I Googled images of the major makes (Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Volkswagen, Cadillac, etc.) and tried to date the vehicles for approximate picture Changes on Morely POEtimeframe.  I also looked at buildings that could help as well.  For example, one shot of what is now a pedestrian border crossing point on Morley Avenue, had a couple of stores and a bank.  I tried researching when a few landmarks, such as Valley National Bank, Capin’s clothing store La Villa de Paris and the store S.H. Kress and Company, were all open.  That task was taking a little too long, so I resorted to faster and more practical searches.


Growing up I remember huge, white arches crossing the border, so I researched when they were built.  It turned out that they were constructed over the Mexican port in 1962.  This placed all the post cards prior to that date.  I also found a postcard we do not have in our collection online that was ca.1960 as there was a 1960 Chevy Impala on the right.  Looking and the face of the buildings I could compare them to the postcards we had.  Again, La Villa de Paris (building on right corner) indicated that the postcards we held were earlier, sometime between 1950 and 1959.  The famous and tall standing hotel Fray Marcos in Nogales, Sonora was finished in 1950 and is a good landmark to date some of the images.

I was only able to find approximate dates to a couple images, but it gave a pretty good idea of what the Nogales border looked like from 1950 to 1959.  Although the border has undergone significant changes, they have been gradual and throughout the course of time.



A Midspring Semester’s Dream

Now that the semester is well underway, so are the events we get to attend. Last week our workspace was even more quiet than usual since most of the staff at Special Collections headed to the Tempe History Museum for the annual Arizona Archives Summit. Attending this statewide event is a great way to (re)connect with other archivists in the region and to learn about the projects they are working on or some of the interesting collections housed in their institutions; it is also an opportunity to stretch our presentation muscles and share. Almost all of us played a part this year:


Maurita Baldock presented as part of the Scandal, Conspiracy, and Magical Thinking segment that focused on collections dealing with UFOs. She talked about the James E. McDonald Papers, which are sought out for the interviews with UFO witnesses and copies of Blue Book sightings reports. Trent Purdy and Veronica Reyes-Escudero followed with lightening talks touching on the Crazy Things/Weird Stuff/Off the Wall Reference, and which for us at the University of Arizona include The Great Soul Trial collection and a live bullet, part of the addition to the De la Torre Papers that I processed last fall. The students got a chance to speak as well: Abigail Lopez was one of the Shiny, New Archivists and Their Shiny, New Projects, and I presented a poster with Arizona Historical Society archivist Lizeth Zepeda, on the translation of finding aids pilot project we are developing these days. Even our director, Steve Hussman, was there to moderate the panel Counting Things: Why, What and for Whom? that offered an administrator’s point of view.

Missing from the presentations was curator Roger Myers, but only because he stayed behind to finish setting up the exhibit Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Elizabethan Culture, companion to the Arizona State Museum’s First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare. Two days ago, on February 11, we had the opening event, a talk by Professor Meg Lota Brown, on Shakespeare’s Women. This exhibit will be open to the public through April 30, with a panel discussion scheduled for March 2, on The Texts of Hamlet: The Good, The Bad, and The Folio.


Over the past week, several student workers did their part to help Myers with a timeline, the exhibition catalog, and the labels for the books, making for a hectic yet exciting time. Those are the moments I most treasure at Special Collections: the sense of camaraderie, the frantically working together, then stepping back to enjoy the results—even if we can’t actually make the events and lectures or have to leave earlier than planned. Working here is a career highlight and, like the rest of my fellow graduate students, I deeply enjoy every day I am fortunate to be part of this very special team.

A Life of Service

I returned from winter break on January 13th and was immediately put to work implementing the final touches on our exhibit highlighting the collection of Congressman Jim Kolbe. My supervisor and I had already selected the items that were to placed in the exhibit before the break and had certain items enlarged to maximize visual appeal. After returning from break the next step was to purchase frames for the materials used in the display. We chose simple, matte black frames, in varying sizes, for the display of Congressman Kolbe’s materials. After cropping and framing the photographs and letters, my supervisor hung the exhibit on vertical panels in the reading room.  I also created labels for most of the items hung and despite some unforeseen issues with the labels curling inward, the exhibit looks terrific!


Next, I took some time to spruce up Kolbe’s congressional display case featuring more of his photographs, documents and souvenirs. With guidance from my supervisor, I added more materials to the display case, including photographs. I then created all new labels for the congressional display case to correct an error in which the font previously used did not match the other labels in the display. With the case in order, the exhibits were ready just in time for the reception in Congressman Kolbe’s honor on Thursday, January 21st.

display 3

I was fortunate to have been invited to attend the reception for Congressman Kolbe.  At the event, University of Arizona Provost Andrew Comrie spoke to the crowd, as well as Representative Martha McSally who introduced Congressman James Kolbe. Kolbe stated that donating his papers to the University of Arizona preserves Arizona’s political history and the history of the people of the state. During the reception, Congressman Kolbe’s former staff were also honored, many of whom have continued to pursue a career as congressional staffers with other Arizona political leaders.

Kolbe Special Collections Selects04-1


The James Kolbe exhibit, “A Life of Service” Selections from the James Kolbe Papers, opened on Tuesday January 19th and the exhibit will remain on display through March 1, 2016.