Reevaluating archives

September 7, 2010

We’ve been talking about reorganizing the archives for close to a year now.  We had what we thought of as the Colleges’ archives is what has been called the “Geneva Collection”. This collection has anything and everything we have that pertains to the Colleges and/or the local area.  It includes published and unpublished materials and is divided into mss, programs, alumni, faculty, photo, and letters files, as well as books and items such as faculty meeting minutes that have been put in binders.

The reorganization was looking like it would take the form of separating published from unpublished, and organizing unpublished into records groups.  We had quite a lengthy discussion last Friday that led me to pose the question on Twitter, “When is an archives not an archives?”

To my knowledge (I’ve only been here 7 years) nothing has been deposited in the archives from any official office. eg: trustee minutes have been gathered when someone retired or left and sent all their files to us; faculty meeting minutes are those sent out before meeting to the archivist, as faculty member (no additions or corrections); commencement and convocation programs are here because the librarians have sent them down after attending an event.  Is this really an archives?


I posted this question to the regional library list at the same time that I posted it here.  I got quite 19 responses so I thought it would be worth sharing  some of those thoughts.

Question: should we retain or dispose of old newspapers that have be microfilmed and are acidic, and/or in bad condition?  And space is needed.
Summary of responses.

retain dispose
Academic 2 1
Historians 3 3
Hist. Soc 4 1
Genealogists 2 0
Public Lib 1 1
Conservator 1 0
Total 13 6


Reasons to retain
researchers prefer
loss of microfilm or reader
degradation of microfilm
intrinsic value
our mission is to keep things
better copy or photo from the original
irreversible decision
film may be missing issues
Reasons to dispose
you’ve maintained the intellectual content
Suggestions and thoughts
  • Keep a few important artifacts (Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, etc.)
  • Make sure there are films and masters
  • Are the originals being retained elsewhere?
  • Build an addition so you have room
  • Give to another institution or sell on E-Bay
  • Keep a sample to show the condition and thus why you disposed of them.
  • RRLC is embarking on:  digitizing old newspapers from the microfilm
  • Digital files are still considered unstable. Microfilm or fiche are still preferred from a preservation standpoint

Deteriorating newspapers

August 24, 2010

We are in the process of evaluating the space we have left for archives and special collections.  At this point we have shelves full of acidic newsprint in the form of old bound newspapers.  They have all been microfilmed and we don’t let anyone touch them because they are falling apart.

If you are in the same situation, are you committed to keeping them?  Why, or why not?  I know you’re out there. 🙂  As always, any help or ideas you can give.

Back from the summer

August 18, 2010

I’m back in the archives after a summer of birding, loading hay and waiting for calves to be born.  Quite a change.  I know I haven’t be blogging regularly for quite a while, but I’m going to try to get back at it. It tends to help keep me focused and enthusiastic.

This is my fourth day back and I’m focusing on evaluating books to possibly add to our special collections.  There has been a back log in this area since before I started here in 2003. We just got started at it last year.  I’m hoping to get through what’s left before the students return. I don’t have experience in this area, but am enjoying learning as I go.  I’m getting to the point where I can quess if a book has value to us, before I check it online.

We haven’t nailed down a collection policy yet. Until I hear from the powers that be I’m looking for books published in Europe before 1801, in the US before 1840, valued at $350 or of local importance.  I’m using to look for values.

We picked out all the obviously valuable titles last year. Now I’m getting 2 or 3 volumes per book truck that meet the criteria. It’s always a charge when I run across something special.

I’d be interested to hear if any of you have other criteria for selection, or seeing your collection develop policies for special collections, if you have them.

Here’s to the new academic year. I’m sure it will be a great one!

Well Da

May 27, 2010

Sometimes it’s difficult to wake up and look at a new way to complete a task.  My great thanks to Sara Greenleaf for the wake up call.

We have a faculty member who is a John Ruskin scholar.  He often travels to Europe to “walk in Ruskin’s footsteps.”  To prepare he has had a student worker come to special collections to use the 39 vol. of the works of John Ruskin.

  • The student goes through the index and finds references to all the places the faculty member will visit.
  • Next to get out the books, usually all 39 vol. and mark the pages that require copying.
  • In the past, they were photocopied.
  • Now, I photo them on the camera stand to protect the bindings.

Along comes Sara who searches out digitized volumes on the internet.  She found all but two volumes at  Now the student gives the list of pages searched in the index to the professor and he can take it from there.  I can’t believe the number of hours of work that were just saved.

You would think that, since I do digitization projects and refer students to digital books online, that I would have thought of it.  I’m sure glad that Sara did.

I decided to handle the findings aids that are in PDF format by putting all the Notes in AT and doing the finding aid report. Under “other finding aids” I’m adding a link to the PDF version for the inventory. “The full container list can be found in the PDF finding aid available.”  I have to go into Dreamweaver to add the link.

My thought is, this will standardize the look, give the basic information, and if someone needs the container inventory, they can still get to it easily.

Finding aid revamp

April 21, 2010

Thanks to my buddy Brian McDonald (Electronic Services Librarian), most of our finding aids now look like the rest of the library webpages.  [good library branding] Check it out, Valerie Saiving Papers. It took his genius to figure out how to edit the AT style sheet and make it easy for me to add an image, if I have one.  I messed with it for a while, but no joy.  I used to do a lot of html, but never got into stylesheets and CSS, etc.

I still have 7 that are in PDF format. Some are between 16 and 86 pages, so I don’t envision revamping those any time soon.  If I need to add anything to one of those collections it might inspire me.  Nothing has been added to them since I’ve been here, so I think I’m safe.

There are also three that are in the old format that I may try to update.  One is the Holiday Cards.  It was the 1st one I did using the EAD Cookbook and I was able to add all the images.  It looks like AT doesn’t let you add images easily, so I may just leave that one alone.

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