Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weeks Two and Three

Last week I didn’t work as many hours as I normally would because I had a doctor’s appointment. The time I did spend in de Grummond was mainly spent finishing the letters they send every year to thank the donors and provide inventory lists for tax purposes. I helped print, copy, and mail the letters. The hardest part was getting all of the addresses; they were in several different places, though they are in the process of creating an updated database of all the donors. Thanking the donors is an important part of cultivating a collection, and though we didn’t really talk about it a lot in class, I think it is one of the most important aspects of archival work, particularly for smaller archives or others not associated with universities. Oftentimes these kinds of archives depend on donors just to operate; properly thanking them gives donors an opportunity to really feel like part of the organization.

This past week I worked a lot of hours in my practicum making up for missing hours the week before. On Monday I went through the certification process to work in the stacks with the books. I had to take an almost two hour computer training program with quizzes on the Library of Congress Classification system. The program was cute (it starred a wizard librarian), but ultimately frustrating. I had to get a 100 on all four quizzes, which doesn’t sound that hard given my A in cataloging, but the program was a little complicated to use. I would think I had moved a book in arranging them in order and it wouldn’t have moved, and would thus get marked wrong. I also had to take a paper quiz. While this may seem like a lot of work just to be able to touch the books, it is very important that the people working with them know what they’re doing.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to work in the stacks this week. Along with the student workers, I have been working on a shelf read, which is going through the shelves and putting them in order. On the first day I found one that was correct number wise, at least it would have been if it had been a PZ 7 like the rest of the wall. It was actually a PZ 5, which are located in Cook Library right now, so it wasn’t even in the right building. I also found almost an entire shelf that was, while in order internally, several shelves past where they should have been. We pulled them off the shelf and put them on a book cart because putting them where they belong is going to be pretty complicated and involve moving several shelves worth of books to find room for them.

While working in the stacks isn’t traditional archival work, I’m enjoying the experience with them. It is more typically library or special collections work, and I think the broader the experiences I have in my practicum, the better off I will be when I have a real job. Even typical archives have to work with books, and the varied tasks I have been given so far have been very enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Links and Pictures

The following is the address for the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.
Last week I worked with the H.A. & Margret Rey Collection quite a bit, so I'm posting some pictures from the digital collection. The Rey collection is found online at
This is a panda gripper pet which H.A. Rey invented. It was one of the pieces which I had to replace in its folder.
Assembled panda rivet toy ("Gripper Pet"); undated
The next picture is a photograph Margret took on a beach in Brazil. When we were trying to put it back in its folder, we found that it was in the wrong place. Through some detective work involving the finding aids for the collection and a copy of a magazine, we managed to find the proper place for it and the others from that and the next folder.
Beach Umbrellas, matted black and white photograph; Undated

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Week One

       This was my first week in my archival practicum. I am working in the de Grummond Collection at USM under the curator and assistant curator.  My first day I was a little nervous because I’ve never worked in an archive before, but so far my experience has been very enjoyable. My first day I had an introduction to the collection, a tour of the places where it’s kept, and introductions to many of the people who work in the archives. I was given a crash course on the layout of the manuscript section, the main area in which I am working, which was fairly overwhelming. Like many archives, the manuscripts are kept on shelves in whichever manner the boxes will fit, so the aisles and shelves are numbered and a card system was created to assist the archivists in finding the material. As the week went on I felt more comfortable using the system to find collections, and it does in fact work quite well despite the fact that it seems both low tech and confusing. My first day I had to find places to house a few of the newly acquired collections, which definitely gave me a better overview of how the shelving system works.

         My other duties this week have mainly consisted of replacing materials in collections, by using the finding aids on the collection’s website and also through the system of paper slips which aid the curators in knowing where items came from. I can definitely see the value of meticulousness. While we learn in class the ideal, in reality these kinds of practices can become lost in the shuffle; they are extremely important in the functioning of the archive though. My final day this week consisted of helping prepare a few collections for appraisal. In class we learn how important it is for an independent appraiser to be the one to assess the value of collections. This was also stressed on Friday, though I did get to witness that it often takes the archive longer to prepare the collections than it does for the appraiser to work.