Monday, March 21, 2011

A look at a real business case study in archives

As some of you may know, I am currently in Library School, with a concentration in Archives and Records Management.  My class schedule is structured in 3 different categories - library classes, IT classes, and Archives classes.

Tonight we had a class in the UNC Wilson Library in the Rare Books Room. The guest speaker was an archivist from the Southern Historical Collection. She gave the class a presentation about the Burlington Industries collection that they accessioned back in 2006 into the library. This collection was an example of how a fairly large collection was processed as it was accessioned.

Processing is the act of collecting, preserving, arranging, and describing the materials (MY understanding of it, at least); There is a lot of debate about whether the archivists should keep the materials in their "original order," ie, as they were received - for example, if the person who created and/or donated the materials organized their files in a certain manner, should that file system be preserved as such in order to give the future users a look into the motivations of the creator? - or should those files be reorganized in such a manner as to better serve future users in locating and reviewing materials, and in preservation as well - for example, do you put them in chronological order, or by important person's name; and for preservation sake, do you remove the staples and paper clips and hanging file folders?

At the end of the presentation, she showed us some of the materials - some that that been left in their original order and some that had been reorganized. I noticed a box of photos. It looked as if the photos had been mounted on a folded cardstock in which one piece of the fold had the photograph and the other fold had a sticker on it with a typed description of the photograph. I thought that sounded like a good idea for organizing photos. I would imagine, though, that it would take up a bit more space.

I really need to get back to reading Sally's archiving tips on photographs. But there just seems like there are so many options. I did manage to get all of the photographs out of the magnetic album. I still have tons of photos that I brought home from my Mom's house that are in manilla envelops organized by category.

Back to the Burlington Industries collection. I emailed my professor and asked if they had in fact mounted them on two folded cardstock and she said they had not done anything to them at all. What I saw was what the original owners had done. I guess it's good enough preservation-wise because they kept them that way!


  1. Have they thought of photo copying the photos, as they are presented with captions, 4 to a page, using them for the files and storing the originals in a box, so they don't get light on them and get faded, or torn from people going through them....just a thought, if I understand what you are going for, in the organizing..if the public will have access to them.

  2. Hi Linda,
    I think the mission of this repository is to offer original files to the public which would be the photos themselves. Exposure to light is not really an issue for these photos because they are stored in a box. However in another set of negative books, you could see how the light had turned the plastic sleeves yellow.

  3. Ginger, I found it interesting that archivists, the experts, are debating whether materials should be kept in original order or an order that will facilitate locating and reviewing materials. I am having the same debate with myself! Now I don't feel so bad! Apparently there is no ONE right answer if the experts are debating. Whew!

  4. Hi Michelle, Yes, it is quite a conundrum these days and this is what is making it so difficult to to wrap my head around. I guess you have to decide if you think the creator's original order is important enough, then you should leave it. If not, then organize it as you see fit.