Paper Clips

WP_20150723_14_07_23_Pro           Thanks in part to an unexpected eruption of spots covering my daughter, I was unable to update progress last week on my internship at Lewis & Clark College but alas I am back again and completing out of anti-itch lotion. What I discovered most obviously last week was the amazing assortment of paper clips that seem to exist. Paper clips are just one of many tools that archivist hardily detest because of their damaging qualities. It is therefore common practice to remove them as one goes along.

On a more serious note, coinciding with what is being discussed in my summer course, there are some complicated legal issues in the field of archives that I am still working to wrap my head around. For example, we came upon a box full of letters written to the literary estate’s author when they ran an advice column in a local newspaper. The discussion that thereafter ensued was as follows: who do these belong to? Do we really have the right to access them and call them part of the collection? Are they the newspaper’s? The senders? In the end we decided against keeping the letters, which was some semblance of a loss considering their absolute hilarity (one of which the writer claimed to work 39 hour shifts at a marshmallow tasting laboratory). When adding digitization to the situation the question of legal rights becomes even more complicated. While a donor agreement is well needed and important, it does not grant the institute legal rights (as seen in the Belfast project).  We often come across more simple instances of this when another author’s book or something of the like is included in the materials and needs to be weeded for reasons of rights. Personally, I still feel the line is a foggy and blended one. Yet, this seems the case often with the archives profession and differs greatly from main libraries. In a library any book may be acquired and treated in the same manner and with the same practice as another but in an archive each new accession (or collection) must in some instance speak for itself. Therefore, the procedure is often different and quite often evolving and changing. While this concept is nerve racking, it makes me thankful for the experience I am getting since such things are not easily learned from a book.

Hint:

This week I boxed a custom limited edition version of Author X’s most famous work that sells on Amazon for around $600.

Archival Theory: Original Order

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This week as I read Arranging & Describing by Kathleen D. Roe for my archival preservation course, my thoughts laid heavily on my experience so far at Lewis & Clark College. The main archival theory weighing on my mind is of original order. For the most part, mystery author X maintained a clearly defined order of their work. However, what is becoming clear to me as I compare what I am reading about arranging and describing and what I am actually arranging and describing is that theory is great, in theory. While archival theory is wonderful and can provide an essential foundation and standardization for the field, in practice the lines are not so clearly drawn. There are many times when material is on the fence between two organizational “bins” and I have to make a choice, which is sometimes based on theory and other times based on what I have seen in the collection. While original order is important to maintain for context, I also think it is important  to consider user experience and access as well. I’m discovering that there is a balance between theory and practice that isn’t a straight path but rather a winding and crooked road that swerves depending on every collection.

Something I am finding most useful in my interning experience is simply learning the ins and outs of a university historical collections and archives. I am not just viewing these activities but helping to accomplish them. I have been very thankful to have a mentor that happily answers my infinite amount of questions that are a key to my learning experience. This week I learned more about archival material destruction and its relationship with off site storage, the process of budget planning, digitization in liberal arts colleges, and the ever confusing archivist job market and pay.

More to come next week when I come back to talk about my experience with removing previous special collection exhibits to make way for a new display.

TID BIT/HINT OF THE WEEK

Every week I will share a tid bit including something strange or interesting I came across to provide potential hints to the identity of mystery author X!

Among the boxes and many scrambled papers in this collection we found a small scrap of paper with only the words “Courtney Love” on it and a phone number!

This week I foldered a Playboy magazine.