Thursday, May 9, 2019

Spring Projects at the Grems-Doolittle Library & Archives

One of our spring projects at the Grems-Doolittle Library and Archives has been a "re-inventory" of our archival collections. A previous inventory has been done, but we have new collections and have moved things around, so a new inventory is needed to document these changes. We have other goals for this project as well which include getting a better sense of the material we have, finding out how our collections have been organized, and checking to see if each collection has a catalog record in our collection management software. An added benefit of this project is that we can check on the condition of our collections and see if there are any pressing preservation or conservation issues that they are facing. We have around 200 linear feet of archival material in our collection which includes our historic manuscript collection that has documents dating as early as 1670.

Like any occupation, archivists have their own glossary of work-related terminology (see: The Society of American Archivists Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology). The terms processing, arranging and describing will be an important part of this inventory project.

Collections are donated to us in a variety of different levels of organization, some have been meticulously organized, other may have been haphazardly thrown into boxes. Processing gives order to these collections by arranging and describing them. Our collections are also rehoused using acid-free folders and boxes. Acid is inherent in wood pulp paper and can cause some serious damage to paper, so it's important to use acid-free materials when we are rehousing collections.

By arranging our collections we are giving them order. One of our main goals as archivists is to arrange the collection as close to the how the collection was originally used by the creator of the records, which is known as original order. This can be difficult as we sometimes have to make some assumptions about how the collections were organized. We also might receive a collection in complete disarray and have to try and restore its original order. In the case of organizational records, we have to examine the collection to see what types of records are included and we have to try and think like the organization. Would they mix their financial records with their meeting minutes and annual reports? Probably not, so we create series of records and separate them according to their how they were used by the organization or individual.

When we describe our collections, we are analyzing and recording details about the collection including the size of the collection, the creator, the history of the organization. The result of our description work is best seen in finding aids. One important aspect of a finding aid is the scope and content note which can help our researchers decide if a certain collection is relevant to their research. It will usually be a narrative statement that gives an overview of the types of material in the collection, significant topics or people in the collection and other relevant information. A finding aid will also usually include a container list that describes the folders in each box. The guide to the Abruzzese Society Collection is a good example of how we describe and arrange our collections.

We have already rediscovered some interesting items including a scrapbook from a service member who served during World War II and a Schenectady High School students hollowed out wooden book which was only holding a bible, photograph and letter, but who knows what it held before it came to us. Photos of these items can be seen at the end of this post.

This will be quite a project but it will be important for us to get a better idea of what our collection needs are. It will also help us in accurately locating and documenting our collections in our collection management system and it will reacquaint us with some of the interesting items that may have been overlooked.

Albert Halavin's World War II Scrapbook:

Staff Sergeant Albert Halavin posing in front of his vehicle.

Map of the Command Post

Fake Book:

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