Spooky stuff

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Haunted, edited and published by Samuel D. Russell, 1963

This is a particularly spooky October. A couple of weeks ago, Friday fell on the 13th, and it seems sort of special that this year, that date fell in the same month as Halloween. I wanted to honor this month with a post about something creepy or scary, and at Special Collections, we have plenty of items that fit the bill. I also wanted to take the opportunity to go on an archival treasure hunt, as my work processing the Chafee collection hasn’t left much time for exploring the stacks.

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Haunted, edited and published by Samuel D. Russell, 1964

After doing some simple searches on Arizona Archives Online, which any one can do to look through the vast array of holdings of several archival repositories in the state, I came across the Anthony Boucher Fanzine Collection. The collection contains zines dating from the early 1940s-mid 1970s, most of which fall into the science fiction and horror genres. One of the fanzines, called Haunted, features mysterious and beautiful lithographed covers. The publisher of Haunted, Samuel D. Russell, tells us in the editorial comments that “HAUNTED will specialize in publishing articles and book reviews about weird supernatural horror fiction, with occasional stories and poems in this genre.” The two volumes include reviews of stories by Hugh Sykes Davies, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, and original stories and poems by Alison Marmour, Shirley Windward, and Richard C. Maxwell, among others.

Come to Special Collections to find more macabre materials to get you in the Halloween mood!

 

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Minimal Processing, Maximal Learning

Since my last blog post, I’ve moved on from the Joe Carithers Papers (now open to researchers!) and onward to the John W. Murphey Records. That’s a tentative name for approximately 40 boxes of drafts, ledgers, correspondence, records, and flooring samples donated to Special Collections by the Arizona Architectural Archives. The materials show the day-to-day operations of the John W. Murphey and Leo B. Keith Building Company here in Tucson, Arizona.

Besides offering insight into mid-20th century house construction, the Murphey Records are the subject of my first attempt at something archivists call MPLP: More Product, Less Process.

 

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A snapshot of the Murphey Records in-progress, as I ‘rough sort’ through the types of materials.

 

MPLP was proposed by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner back in 2005 as a means of working through archival backlogs. Greene and Meissner suggested that archivists spend too much time organizing archival objects down to the last semiotic bit and describing the life out of every archival collection. As a result, archives are forced to make materials available at a glacial pace. The authors asserted that, far from being a credit to the profession, this obsession with perfection was detrimental to researchers, the public, and the viability of the archives in a world of budget crunches. Instead, we should ask how much processing a collection really needs in order to be useful to researchers and responsibly available to the public.

 

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A hefty ledger from the Catalina Foothills Estates, one of Murphey and Keith’s projects, dated 1935.

 

The Murphey Records are a great candidate for MPLP treatment. For instance, the records contain approximately 20 boxes of job files, all in their original folders and organized by job number. Traditionally, an archive would re-folder these materials and provide new labels, or maybe re-order them based on client names or project dates. Per MPLP, however, I’m leaving these folders as they are. Prior to digital finding aids, this might have made the records less accessible but researchers nowadays can easily CTRL+F their way through the finding aid and find the folder they need, even if they don’t know the job number.

 

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Replacing folders only as needed. Old folders (red) are seen alongside new ones (green).

 

As a wholly unscientific observation, I think a lot of archivists are detail-obsessed. We like to produce resources which are hyper-specific, visually clean, and impeccably researcher. We are also likely to be detail-paralyzed – perpetually quagmired in anxiety about making the wrong decision. MPLP asks us to balance our commitment to quality with the reality that no archival resource will ever be perfectly processed, and maybe we don’t want it to be. This can be difficult to accept, but I think it’s also a way of showing respect for the intelligence of researchers – who often come to the archives for the same reason we choose to work in them, to experience a collective of materials with complicated and contradictory interrelationships – not all of which can be described or explained by the archivist. Through my first MPLP experience, I’m learning to monitor the moments when I want to constrain or define the meaning of materials through excessive organization, and finding MPLP a useful call to share rather than master these records.

The Costs of Preservation

During my media survey, I came across hundreds of records belonging to the Southwest Folklore Collection. It was a fascinating find that sent me down the road of researching the best practices for preserving grooved media (defined as either flat discs or cylinders with grooves in them that are played back by running a needle or stylus through the groove). Many of these records contain oral history type interviews that are worthy of preservation – but as with most things, preservation is not simple or cheap.

When I first came across these records, they were stored in open containers in a paper based lined sleeve. This was a concern, since any amount of dust can stick to the grooved media, causing intense skipping 1005071044(even scratching!) when playback occurs. While an attempt was made to rehouse these record sleeves into an archival box, I soon found that the oversized paper sleeves would not allow for the records to fit within the proper archival box. Of course, I began finding other issues alongside proper housing as I started to look at individual items.

A majority of the collection includes lacquer discs. This format was predominantly used from 1920-1970s and came in varying sizes. They could also be called “acetate discs” and “laminate discs” in the industry. Preservation concerns 1005071045ainclude cracks in the coating that peels away from the core, brittleness, and plasticizer loss. Plasticizer loss is when a white, greasy powder with a crystalline appearance gets on your disc—which can lead to delamination. The white powder look is actually a fatty acid (often from fingerprints) that migrate to the disc and start a process of deterioration. Attempting to clean this can, if you’re not trained, add more damage.  I’ve included a photo (left) of one of the records that remains in an overall good condition. Yet, there are a high number of records (like the one below) that are suffering from fatty acid delamination and deterioration.

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This first wave of preservation issues is–overall–a good one. Now we’re more aware of what needs to be done to house these materials. Materials in good condition need to be removed from their current sleeves and put into new ones, then ideally should be put into a plastic casing, where they will then be migrated to a proper archival box. Materials like the one above need to be sent to specialists for cleaning and digitization to further preserve them. But… this is all at a huge financial cost. This is something faced by most archives: knowing what needs to be done, but having to make sure it can be put within the budget.

For now, I’ve helped to identify some preservation needs for these records, and now the higher ups will meet to determine if archival processing materials (boxes, sleeves, plastic record boxes, etc.) are within the budget.

Equity and Justice at AzAA

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Last year at AzAA in Tempe, Arizona.

Last October, I had the privilege of driving to Tempe, Arizona for the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) symposium, which focused on understanding the role of archivists and understanding the interconnections of staff in archival institutions. Many archivists at Special Collections are members of AzAA, and just like last year, we’re all getting excited for the annual symposium. I’m particularly excited for this year’s event because it will be focusing on issues of equity and justice, and will be featuring two out-of-state speakers working on archiving the stories and information of communities of color at historically white institutions. Local panelists Nancy Godoy-Powell, Jamie Lee and Amanda Meeks will present on their experiences working with local queer and undocumented communities in Arizona.

I find that this conference fits nicely with the work I have been doing at Special Collections. Last spring, while working on the Community Digitization Day project and while processing the Pachucos collection, I thought a great deal about archiving materials belonging to Tucson’s various and intersecting marginalized communities. I’m excited to learn more about approaching archives and archiving in a way that seeks to dismantle colonialism and white supremacy, and I’m even more eager to meet Arizona archivists involved in the same kind of work.

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Come join us at the annual AzAA symposium at Arizona Historical Society on 10/22!

download.pngThe Arizona Archives Alliance annual symposium will be held on Sunday, October 22 from 9AM to 3PM at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, Arizona. Attendance is free. Members of AzAA are provided with a free lunch; for non-members lunch is $10.

Mo Udall and Native American Rights

Special Collections is home to hundreds of collections, including the congressional records of Morris “Mo” K. Udall (D) who represented Arizona as a US Representative from May 2, 1961 to May 4, 1991. In 1976 he even threw his hat into the ring to become the Democratic Nominee for President (but was later edged out by Jimmy Carter).

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A helpful map to help locate St. John’s, Az.

As a graduate assistant working in the world of archives, I’m often asked if I ever spend a few minutes looking through collections “for fun” and the answer is of course! As a PhD candidate in the American Studies Department at the University of Arizona there are a lot of collections that catch my eye because of their relationship to Native American rights. The Papers of Morris K. Udall (MS 325) are a researcher’s dream.

“Mo” always advocated of Native American rights and was part of several groundbreaking legislative moves that reaffirmed sovereignty in Arizona, as well as throughout the United States. He was also visited many communities and took part in daily activities. Interested in agriculture, Udall even attended an FFA (Future Farmers of America) event to show his support (he also received a basket of home grown tomatoes).

Udall was an advocate for “Save the Children,” an international non-governmental organization that promotes children’s rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. Due to the economic hardships on Arizona reservations, as well as many other reservations throughout the country, Native American youth were also included in programs that offered summer programs, literacy help, healthy food options, and child school preparedness courses.

In the early 1980s, Udall advocated for Tohono O’odham water rights, citing that the O’odham relied on access to water that had been diverted. He introduced H.R. 5118 to the 97th Congress, which later became known as the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act of 1982. The act  “directs the Secretary of the Interior to deliver water supplies to the Papago Tribe of Arizona and its members in settlement of tribal and individual water rights claims in portions of the Papago reservations.” The bill re-enforced Tohono O’odham sovereignty and played a large part in later water rights cases across the country.

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Udall (far left) with John Narcho, Chairman of the San Xavier District Council (far right). They are holding a copy of H.R. 5118. (MS 325 Box 738 Folder 11)

A firm believer in strengthening relationships with Native tribes, Mo also supported tribal gaming during a time when other members of Congress were suggesting gaming would lead to higher crime rates. Udall pointed to prior legislation and treaty rights to suggest that tribes, the Pueblo in particular, should be able to game within the State of Arizona (and in other states). He supported alliances and compacting measures between the State and Tribes, but “would allow nothing to diminish tribal sovereignty” when it came to gaming (Indian Gaming: Tribal Sovereignty and American Politics by W. Dale Mason, pg 57). He made an impact in legislation that would open up gaming more broadly to Arizona tribes and would be cited in other claims as a proponent of tribal sovereignty.

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Representative Udall (center) with Jim Hena of the Tesuque Pueblo (right). Udall worked closely with Hena in New Mexico to further gaming rights and the affirmation of Pueblo sovereignty in New Mexico. (MS 325 Box 738 Folder 11).

You can look through multiple boxes of photos in the collection alongside correspondence, bills, and other documents — matching them up, you can see not only Udall’s bills, but the very people he was working to help.

Yet as a PhD candidate in the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Arizona, I’m also very aware of the fact that archival collections can often contain items that were not meant to be preserved or displayed openly. Specifically, many American Indian communities have faced challenges with museum archives that hold items that were taken without consent. Until 1990, it was next to impossible for American Indian groups to request the return of items that belonged to them–including human remains.

March 23, 1989 — Mo Udall brings H.R. 1646 to the House.  The bill is “to provide for the protection of Indian graces and burial grounds” and sets the tone for repatriation. The bill points out that there is often confusion over who should “rightfully have control or ownership over skeletal remains” and other “grave goods” or “sacred ceremonial objects.” The bill suggests that it will become unlawful for anyone to “sell, use for profit, or transport” Native skeletal remains without consent of the tribe. Any grave goods or ceremonial objects found on public or tribal land revert to ownership of the tribe. Section 6 specifically lays out guidelines for the start of repatriation.

A link to the full bill can be found here:

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July 10, 1990 — The bill undergoes several changes, making it twice as long! Yet the bill now protects more items and offers more insight into the repatriation process. The Act requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American “cultural items” to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Cultural items include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

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Above: The first page of the NAGPRA Bill introduced by Morris K. Udall.  Below: Clerical information from the Office of the Clerk regarding the acceptance of NAGPRA into law.               (MS 325 Box 235 Folder 15)

The Morris K. Udall collection contains a breadth of knowledge regarding Udall’s career. I suggest that if you’re interested in contemporary politics, you reflect on the foundation of those politics. Select a subject and then review the MS 325 finding aid — undoubtedly, Mo was likely involved in shaping today’s political agenda in every regard.