Reflections from Special Collections

As I look back on my time at Special Collections, I couldn’t be happier with everything I’ve learned and all the work I’ve accomplished. While this assistantship wasn’t my first time working with archival collections, it was the first time I processed a collection from scratch and the first time I worked with software such as ArchivesSpace. I also worked on a number of meaningful projects that have influenced how I manage records of enduring value.

            The biggest project I worked on at Special Collections was processing the SAWARA collection. The Southern Arizona Water Resources Association was a water rights organization in the 1980s and 1990s that aimed to inform Southern Arizona on water issues and gain support for the Central Arizona Project (CAP). I spent some time surveying the collection and determining the kinds of records it contained and, once that was done, determining how the collection should be organized.

Once that was done, I moved on to some basic preservation of the collection. I replaced all of the folders so that the files fit in the boxes properly and created new labels. I then worked on arranging the collection at the series and subseries level and describing the types of materials in it. I created a finding aid on ArchivesSpace that described the history of SAWARA, the scope and contents of the materials, the organization of the collection, and a container list of the different items within the collection. After exporting the finding aid, it was uploaded to Arizona Archives Online and can be accessed online. Likewise, the boxes have been moved downstairs and can be requested by contacting Special Collections.

Another collection I processed was the Sociedad Mutualista de Obreros Mexicanos records. This collection was donated in December and documents the activities of this Douglas-based organization that sought to provide aid to Mexican workers. The records span from the 1920s to 1980s and includes financial records, pamphlets, and books.

Materials from the Sociedad Mutualista de Obreros Mexicanos collection

During my time at Special Collections, we received an addition to the Papers of Stewart Udall collection. These records concerned the downwinders, or the individuals in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah who were exposed to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these people suffered health effects such as leukemia and thyroid cancer because of this exposure. The downwinders addition also included information about the Navajo miners who extracted uranium from mines on the Navajo Nation after World War II. Like those exposed to the Nevada nuclear tests, these miners also suffered cancers and other diseases as the result of the exposure to uranium. These materials document Stewart Udall’s work with both of these communities to document and raise awareness of these issues before Congress.

Materials in the Downwinders addition to the Stewart L. Udall Papers

I also worked to solve some spacing issues in the Morris K. Udall Papers. When the collection was processed, the boxes were not filled all the way and as a result some of the folders have begun to fall over. Special Collections ordered spacers to fix this issue and I have been going through the boxes to add them where needed. I have also been replacing boxes and lids that have suffered damage as a result of the spacing issues. Below you can see a box that wasn’t filled all the way, and as a result, folders were falling over. I added a spacer and now the folders are standing straight.

I also worked on a number of digital projects as part of my work from home duties. The first was creating digital objects for the digital materials that are available online through the University of Arizona Library Digital Collection and linking them to the finding aids. This was done using ArchivesSpace. I created a new digital object and added the link to the object. Below is an the digital object I created for the Morris Udall with the crew of the 1983 Space Shuttle Challenger photograph from the Morris K. Udall Papers (MS 325).

Another project was assisting Assistant Librarian/Collections Management Archivist Lisa Duncan with an instructional presentation for an undergraduate class. We wanted to highlight the Borderlands collections at Special Collections, so I organized the collections by theme and developed a Padlet activity for the students to complete using the Historic Mexican and Mexican American Press collection of historic newspapers.

Another project I worked on from home was updating the finding aid for the Baron and Lionel Jacobs collection. Using the original finding aid from the Arizona Historical Foundation, I enriched the biographical and scope & contents note, added access terms and box and folder information, as well as folder titles. I also worked on adding metadata to the Peter Goin collection on OMEKA. This included uploading the photographs, adding the title, relevant subjects, a description of the image, as well as coverage information.

Overall, I worked on a variety of projects that reflect the many collections at Special Collections. I learned about the different archival processes that determine how materials are processed, described, and preserved, as well as how archives provide instruction and access. I am very grateful to have contributed to the amazing work that is being done at Special Collections and know that I will carry these skills with me to future projects.

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