An Archival Au Revoir

The time has come in which I have to say a sad goodbye to the amazing archival adventure I embarked on last Fall. With just a short week away from ending my graduate assistantship with UA Special Collections, I have yet to complete my last and biggest project.  If you follow our blog, then you know that I have been working on digitizing AZSWBPphotographs for the Arizona, Southwestern and Borderlands Collection.  I have just submitted my descriptive metadata to my project supervisor and I am excited to see how I did. This has been the most challenging task I have taken on.

So far, I have encountered various issues in digitizing my Scans for digital projectselection. The first one had to do with image quality last week, which was an easy fix: re-scan.  This week I missed a step in the process of saving the photographs, which set me back a couple of hours.  Policy is to save images under TIFF format for preservation purposes.  This is because TIFF format uses a lossless compression when saving an image that allows an exact, full quality copy of the photograph.  However, we also save the images in a JPEG format to upload onto the web gallery.  This is because it uses a lot less space and is quicker to upload.  Again, it is the format that gets uploaded into the content managing system, since most people cannot tell the quality difference anyway.  This meant that I had to go back and make sure all images were saved under both formats.

Describing images was not an easy task.  I had to make sure that I could identify people, a Mexican revolutionary from a federalist, a soldier from an officer and the different railroads, buildings and cities and U.S. Army units I was looking at.  That entailed plenty of research.  Not only that, but then I had to come up with something short, accurate and clever to write about it (minus the clever part).

After a couple of days, I completed the description part and moved on to access terms. By policy, I had to use the LC TGM (Library of Congress Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms) I and II as guides for indexing visual materials.  I had never worked with this source before, so I had to browse it before beginning the task at hand.  The thesaurus had great, narrow terms, but there were two issues with it.

The first was that the format was long (United States—Army—Cavalry, 10th–People) and sometimes too narrow, such as having dates that did not match the records I was working with.  Second, it had not been used in the existing digitized photographs which meant they would not look the same and new terms would have to be approved.

We decided that using the terms already approved and associated with the collection would be best practice.  These next couple of days will be dedicated to revising metadata and finally uploading the data to CONTENTdm (our content management system) and the project will be finalized.Content dm

As I wrap up this assistantship and prepare to graduate, I realize I am going to miss working with all the rare books, facsimiles and photographs I love so much. I am thankful to Looking for a jobeveryone at Special Collections who shared their space, time and knowledge with me throughout my learning experience.

I am now ready to face the real world and find an archiving job. Wish me a happy hunting!


Parting Words

As the semester draws to a close, I have taken time to reflect on my contributions to Special Collections throughout the academic year. I, along with the other Graduate Assistants in Special Collections, presented to a room of University of Arizona librarians, archivists and students about what we have learned throughout the year and how this archives apprenticeship has impacted our lives.

before presentation
Hanni Nabahe, Vanessa Nava, and Abigail Lopez before presenting

I titled my PowerPoint, Two Semesters in the Stacks: From Clueless to Competent, because that is truly how I felt when I arrived at Special Collections in late August – painfully clueless! While the topic of archives had been addressed to some extent in one of my courses, I had little knowledge about what archivists do or whether or not it would be a good fit for me. It didn’t take long for me to develop a passion for archives!

Soon after processing my first two collections I became more confident and was requesting more processing projects from my supervisors. I wanted to gain experience in all aspects of archival work – completing gift reports, assessment projects regarding our most used collections, larger processing projects, exhibit work and digitization workflows. I wanted to experience it all. I feel this academic year has afforded me many opportunities and my supervisors have provided much needed mentorship and training to help me prepare for a career in archives.  I am grateful.

Presenting about projects I worked on thorough the year

As I discussed in my presentation, I am no longer clueless with regard to working in archives. I feel I am a competent and enthusiastic member of an amazing team and that with time and additional training, I will be able to pass along wisdom of my own. I will miss being a part of this terrific group of individuals who have shaped my life and career. Now on to new adventures!