Competency F

use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information;

In the archival studies, these principles and skills are applied when working on a particular set of documents. All of these activities on the larger scale are done at a library but the archival work shows neatly all the skills in a more manageable size. Creation, evaluation, selection and acquisition are all functions performed regularly by an archivist. While creation is first on the list, the tasks are cyclical and one informs the other. For example, first papers or documents are offered to the archive; the archivist evaluates to see whether they fit into their collection, and then selects which should be included. If there are acquisition monies, the archivist spends time acquiring documents to complete or expand the collection. In an archive, the creation of information around the individual collections is a necessity. This creation is closer to the end of the cycle after a new set of documents is brought into the archive. Once it has been evaluated, selected for inclusion, and purchased, the final product will be the organization and preservation of it. At that point, information will be created about the documents, which brings the archivist back to the creation of information, a complete circle.

Preservation and organization of archival papers is done almost simultaneously because as a box is sorted for materials that need to be stored separately (to ensure preservation) organization occurs. For example, as photographs are removed, identified and placed in proper boxes for preservation, the archivist must also note the details of where the item was located initially. This is to preserve the original order that the owner imposed. This order needs to be maintained in order to save the relationships between items because the order itself may be informative to a researcher. Items like photos or newsprint must be stored according to the preservation needs of the format. For example, newsprint is extremely acidic and must be removed from a collection to keep it from transferring to other papers. Photographs need to be kept on acid free paper and out of the light. Also, if the documents and photographs will be part of an open collection where handling is an issue, then this must also be taken into consideration. Photographs are frequently digitized for viewing and the originals put away to preserve them. This method will lengthen the life of a photograph. For a collection, each kind of media will need to be stored and preserved in a method appropriate for it as well as considering the cost and future use of the item.

For my evidence, I am submitting several works from an archival class. The first two papers are on the process of taking a box of papers and the steps that ensue. A third paper discusses archiving Internet blogs and diaries. For this class, the professor created a fictional archival collection and each student worked through the processing guidelines and documented her steps. At the end, I organized the papers and photographs digitally and created a finding aid. In Archival Processing Steps, each step and reasoning behind it is documented. It documents the process of both preservation and organization of a small collection. The finding aid for this collection is an example of creation of information or one could call it metadata for my fictional collection. The finding aid is a way to describe the collection so a researcher can review it rather than the collection itself. It has the added benefit of filtering out who actually ends up requesting the collection pieces. This will ensure the collection is not being used without good reason. Use can be detrimental to a fragile collection and some archives will not allow handling of the actual documents for this reason.

The third paper is about the question of how archivists tackle archiving the Internet. This paper addresses some of the aspects of evaluation, selection and acquisition for building a collection of Internet blogs and diaries. Researchers have learned a great deal by reviewing and studying historical diaries. There is a tremendous amount of cultural and day-to-day life information in a diary. One only has to think of the impact Anne Frank’s diary had on history. What about the diarists today? Many are using modern technology and blog software to document their particular interests and lives. Some of these blogs should be archived and saved for their cultural history value. The archivist is faced with the enormous job of evaluating, selecting and acquiring them in a digital format. In the paper, I suggest that this job would have to be narrowed in focus to be feasible. Otherwise, one would be trying to save the entire Internet which is a Herculean task.

An archivist or librarian may do all the work outlined in information organization. In a library setting, there would be monographs, magazines, movies, video games, and etcetera all chosen and organized for that particular library’s focus. The archives and manuscripts class offered one way to view the whole process on a smaller scale. A large archive would have similarly sized archival projects for the archivist. What made the archives and manuscripts class interesting was the hands-on component and the opportunity to create a complete project. Additionally, the project was excellent for illustrating these particular librarian functions while being small enough to complete within a single university course. As a result, I have a better idea of how the actual work is completed and not merely a theoretical skill.


Archival Processing Steps

Archival Processing Finding Aid

Archiving Digital Diaries