The End, and hopefully the beginning

Well, this is it! My final week at CCEPS, and thus my final blog entry. As the case is in most summers, I must ask the question, where has the time gone?!

Picking up from last week, as I began entering all of the necessary information into Archivist Toolkit, all of the front matter I needed to create has now been written and completed. These included the processing information, which was neat to recap all of the different processing decisions and methods used over the course of the summer and include the details within the Processing note. The other key remaining pieces of front matter I still had to work on were the Biography, Scope and Contents, and the Abstract. 
At first, approaching the biography, scope and content, and abstract seemed intimidating. First off, when I initially started working on the front matter, I knew that this meant writing what would be seen by all future researchers when they visit the collection’s finding aid. A bit intimidating at first. Plus, unlike most of the other pieces of front matter, there was no template for the remaining three; rather, a description of what was expected. Therefore, I had to look at other examples of a processed collection’s front matter and had to conduct my own research as well. However, writing the biography was extremely interesting, since it not only allowed me to do some research and learn more about Char Miller, but it also provided a nice way to “wrap” everything I have been working on, to provide some context for all of his materials within the collection. The Scope and Content notes also proved a valuable exercise. By the end, this process was enlightening and not nearly the daunting task it had seemed. I also learned how to wrap a text in AT, so that it would appear as an italicized title once produced in the finding aid!
This summer has truly been a unique and worthwhile experience. I learned a great deal about processing an archival collection and many of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of Special Collections. I also learned a lot about environmental history – a subject in which I am increasingly interested – merely through processing the collection of Char Miller. Despite not being able to read the actual materials in full, by perusing them in order to understand the scope and content (it is useful terminology!) of the material and then create adequate folder titles, I was able to gain an awareness of Professor Miller’s work and many of the topics he studied that I simply did not have before I started at CCEPS. And, of course, the experience proved invaluable as an introduction to working with archives and understanding the intricacies of archival processing and cataloging. It is with this experience that I hope to build on what I have learned and incorporate it into my future endeavors. Working with CCEPS has certainly enhanced my interest. The work was challenging at times, even frustrating, but overall, the benefits surely outweighed any of these concerns.
I must also thank the Special Collections staff, particularly Lisa Crane, with making sure the process never posed too much of a challenge or burden.
Finally, sharing my experiences with this blog really enhanced the overall experience and helped make the work more exciting, as I knew I had to recap the week and tried to do so in an informative and interesting manner. I look forward to hopefully gaining another opportunity in the near future, although I’m not sure there will be a blog involved again!
So, as I conclude my final day at CCEPS, I hope this will signify a beginning rather than an end. 
I hope you enjoy these final images of the collection, all boxed, labeled, and ready to go! The few boxes of different sizes contain items such as t-shirts, plaques, medals, and oversized publications. “Feels like only yesterday…” I was putting the picture of all of the stuff mixed throughout 13 miscellaneous boxes! 
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Archivist Toolkit and the final stages

Remarkably, this entry will be one of the final posts I write for this summer’s CCEPS fellowship. 

This week I worked on something completely new, signifying the final stages of processing the collection. Once I completed the foldering process, the next step was to transfer all of the info into Archivist Toolkit. Once this was done, I then had to arrange and review everything to make sure the collection was on its way to becoming ready and available for research!
This entailed many steps, some of which I am still working on currently. I had to re-arrange some of the folders and move them into different boxes, based on space availability and making sure none of the folders would either move around too much because of too much room, or become folded and potentially compromised because the box was stuffed too tight. As it turned out, there was more room in most boxes than I had foresaw initially, and therefore had to place some more folders in each, causing a re-arrangement of sorts for the folder numbers of several folders. Thankfully, I was told not to write the actual box and folder number on the folder themselves until the very end of this process. Therefore, while I had to fix a lot of the information on Archivist Toolkit, at least I then completed the folders’ titles with the appropriate information – saving a lot of hassle, erasing, and extra labor!
Now, I am working on the collection’s finding aid and Front Matter. It has been very interesting to learn as I go the proper ways in which to describe the various aspects of a collection and provide valuable details for future researchers. There is a template, thankfully, to use as a guide but I’ve had to read some of the guidelines and learn about the overall format prior to simply adding in the necessary information. This has truly provided a great learning experience in addition to the welcoming task of completing the processing of an archival collection on my own. It has also been neat to research a little further on Professor Miller’s career and notice some names of relatives, colleagues, and his published materials that I had come across multiple times while arranging the collection. 
It will be extremely exciting to write the post next week, as I should be finishing up the work and therefore able to relay all of the information and lessons I learned while processing the collection, especially creating the finding aid, which will hopefully “tie it all together.” 
Stay tuned!

Next step has arrived

I have (finally) finished the foldering process! 

All of the folder titles have been created and arranged in the appropriate boxes and series order. It was a long and thorough process, but it was essential. And now that it’s complete, it will make the remaining tasks that much easier.

— Well, it isn’t totally complete, because I still have to enter box and folder numbers on each folder. But at least they are all in proper order now! I didn’t really think I could escape the process that easily, did I? —

But, particularly the excel spreadsheet that I created at the beginning of the summer, and have been consistently updating while creating and re-arranging folder titles, proved invaluable when it came to the next step in the archival process – entering all of the necessary information into Archivist Toolkit. With the help of Lisa’s “Excel savvy” we were able to transfer a lot of the information from the excel document into Archivist Toolkit, using appropriate formulas and codes (that I know next to nothing about!)
Here is a screen shot of some examples:
Now, the Series, subseries, and folder titles are in Archivist Toolkit and I must enter the date ranges for each folder and make sure everything – all of the information for the entire collection – is correct and arranged accordingly. This includes adding descriptive notes for many folders, series/subseries, and even the collection as a whole. More on this next week…
It is exciting to begin the next step and inch closer towards the “finish line” of processing the collection. It has been pretty neat to be able to see a lot of the work I have done over the past several weeks on screen, entered into Archivist Toolkit, and becoming more and more refined until it will eventually be ready to go and accessible for researchers. Knowing the research process and what searching through archives entails, I am happy knowing that my work this summer could potentially help someone researching in the future. I look forward to the remaining tasks I have left, including creating the finding aid and writing the Front Matter, which will aid researchers interested in Prof. Miller’s work even more. 
I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone (did I say this work has been repetitive?!). It has been a really great experience in a number of ways, and although I only have a few weeks left, I am excited about what lies ahead, both in terms of finishing the work for this collection as well as incorporating the CCEPS experience in (hopefully near) future endeavors. 

Approaching the light (at the end of the tunnel)

After weeks of doing the same type of work – re-foldering, creating folder titles, and on and on again – I was surprised and rather excited when I noticed yesterday that I am up to my last box of folders that need to be created! Many times it seemed like an ongoing process with no end in sight, but alas, I can see the light at the of the tunnel.
Last week I was away conducting research in Northern California, which was fantastic. 
When I returned to continue working on the collection, it felt as though I picked up right where I left off — a good thing… but also somewhat intimidating, considering the seemingly endless work of foldering and re-foldering still ahead of me.
But, as I “plugged through” like in past weeks, suddenly there were no more boxes to grab and start anew! The box that was on the table in front of me would be the final one.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the work is nearly complete. First off, although there remains only 1 final box of folders left, I still had to create a few more of our archival-sound boxes, since the folders I have used have added up to more total space than when originally donated. This includes putting together a flat box from “scratch” which provided a fun activity amidst all of the re-foldering.
Secondly, once the re-foldering process actually is complete and all of the boxes are filled with new, archival-sound, and properly titled folders, I will move on to the next process of entering all of the information online and creating the finding aid for the collection.
I will report back in a week regarding this next step. For now, I will enjoy the prospect of working on the collection in ways other than re-foldering and not much else!
Here are a few snapshots of the boxes and their folders… almost all done and ready to go!
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Appreciating the process

Another week gone by, and more folders to create. 

The process can certainly feel repetitive at times, but as I have gone “deeper and deeper” into the collection, it is fun to see some similarities between certain folders, including overlap between topics, articles, events, etc. in order to pair them together and arrange the folders accordingly. Because Professor Miller has written extensively on contemporary issues, including weekly columns for publications such as Que Pasa (as demonstrated last week), it has been extremely interesting to notice some “hot topics” that he has written about more than others. Some examples are the contentious, and extremely relevant, debates regarding immigration laws as well as environmental issues such as climate change. Although I cannot get too carried away reading many of the articles while processing the collection, it has still been enlightening to get a grasp on the articles’ themes and in some cases see the development of important issues over several years in which Char has written. 
By simply paying attention to each folder’s contents by the titles of many articles or essays alone, I have been able to pair many folders together – by title – which should hopefully aid a future researcher in finding much of Char’s work on a specific person, topic, or theme in one “spot.” Of course, this doesn’t always work so seamlessly. Certain folders may require a specific title for a variety of reasons. 
But, getting an understanding of the different areas of expertise exemplified through Char Miller’s work, and how they have been incorporated into debates of contemporary issues and politics, has certainly brought an even greater appreciation for the work I am doing. Not only am I gaining more and more practice at processing an archival collection every day, but I feel as though I am learning something from the collection itself. That aspect has been an added bonus and a fun, enlightening way to “plug through” the repetition. 
Looking forward to seeing what comes next!

In the thick of it


This week contained a lot of repetition in the re-foldering process.
It has been really interesting to see from afar, so to speak, the various projects and writings Professor Char Miller has undertaken throughout his (ongoing) scholarly career. I am not able to deeply examine some of these works for myself, because it is my job to process the collection and make sure it is done in an organized and timely fashion, not to necessarily analyze what he has written or accomplished. However, I still get an idea of the materials within certain folders, since often I must create the new folder title based on what is inside the folder.
Sometimes the title originally given by Char works just fine, but more often than not I have to get a grasp of the folder’s contents and try to come up with a clear and simple folder title that is representative of the work but will also make a potential researcher’s life easier. 
This is especially fun for his articles written for the Spanish-language newspaper Que Pasa, which often appear in a folder with similar articles written on the same topic but in English and meant for other publications. These articles, although generally the same as that in Que Pasa, almost always contain a different title. Therefore I try to find the most relevant and significant theme of the writings and create the folder title accordingly. For these types of folders, this includes translating the titles of the Que Pasa articles. Since I don’t know Spanish, google translate has been a big help! (if only the articles were in French, I could simultaneously be improving my preparation for the language exam i need to take for my MA in the Fall! Oh well…)
Once I translate the title, with google’s help, I compare it to the English article’s title and then find the common theme throughout. In addition to the thinking required to devise an appropriate folder title, as necessary for many folders, the folders with the Que Pasa articles take the thinking a step further due to the translations. 
It’s the little things that make the repetition not so… repetitive.
Here’s an example of a clipping from Que Pasa:
Who knows, maybe I will be speaking Spanish in no time!
Next week, the foldering continues… 

Now the real fun begins!

So, it has been a couple of weeks now and the work has really “picked up!” 
Some excitement, some frustration, some fascination… all in a week’s work.

The first major accomplishment following the completion of the excel spreadsheet (which on its own I think I can consider an accomplishment as well!) was to propose my arrangement scheme for the collection. This was done once I was able to take a step back and examine all that the collection entails and how its specific organization may prove most useful.
Following my initial proposal, Lisa looked it over and helped explain why some were good as is and others were necessary to change. 
Just like I had to learn the first week, again, the key to processing a collection is making it as simple and easy to navigate for the researcher as possible. Therefore, some of the subseries I proposed were deemed unnecessary, since it would simply create more work for me as well as a potential researcher. Also, I now understand that even if a subseries is not made, certain folders can be organized together online in the Finding Aid once all the physical processing is complete. The majority of the collection consists of Char Miller’s writings. And he ha certainly written a lot! For one frame of reference, his CV (up until 2012) was 56 pages! Maybe this is more common than I think for a scholar of similar pedigree, but I still found it extremely impressive! 
Some of the other Series’ we came up with include personal materials, audio/visual materials, Pomona College, artifacts and awards, and correspondence. 
Once the arrangement plan was in order and all of his original folders were placed into archival boxes, I began the process of re-foldering everything into our own archival folders, while trying to create folder titles for each. For some of the folders I kept the same title as that created by Char (as we are told to try to keep the original order as much as possible) but for the majority of them, I had to come up with a title on my own. The purpose of the title needs to not only provide a good and clear indication of the folder’s contents but it also must maintain a certain type of “standardization” for the entire collection. 
Additionally, including a date or date range for each folder could be really tricky if the folder has a bunch of random materials, some dated, some undated, and others containing certain dates that may or may not be too relevant.
This proved most challenging for the folders of his personal materials, especially those containing materials he gathered from his family. A lot of these folders included random materials that was difficult to “place” in order to create one title that could explain all that is enclosed. 
But, I’ve been told to try and make it as simple as I can and not worry too much about these types of details – something not too easy for me, especially when working on something in which I have little prior experience! But, I will keep plugging away…
One of the more interesting things I’ve gone through so far while re-foldering was a scrapbook Char created for his mother in the early 1990s about a hurricane they experienced together. The old photographs, newspaper clippings, and primary sources of what was being written at the time proved fascinating. Plus, because the scrapbook was very old and was deteriorating in some ways, I had to replace the actual scrapbook by placing each page’s contents into a new sleeve. Overall, this part of the process was really fun!
The main focus right now for my work is to make sure all the folders are created accordingly and all of the boxes will be arranged, by series, with proper folders and folder titles, and with all of the contents either preserved correctly or separated to ensure its preservation, including older artifacts and oversized items that could be damaged in the regular folders and boxes (or could damage the folders and other materials within the box).
Hopefully the next week will bring improvement in devising folder title and date entries!
For now, here is one box that is now complete with new folders!

First week at CCEPS

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Greetings! My name is Gary Stein and I am a 2nd year M.A. student in History at CGU. 
My first week working for the CCEPS Fellowship served as a great introductory week to the type of work I will be doing over the course of the summer. As seen in the picture above, Professor Char Miller from Pomona College donated a number of boxes – of materials spanning throughout his life and career – to Special Collections in order to be processed and catalogued. (and apparently there is still more to be donated!) I welcomed the opportunity to go through this collection and process it according to archival standards. 
After hauling these boxes up to the CCEPS room, I began reading through the CCEPS documents provided to understand what Archival Processing entails and began to become acclimated with the type of work I will be doing. 
As an aspiring historian, I’ve become fascinated with archives – not only archival materials, which I have fortunately incorporated throughout a lot of my work at CGU, but also the process involved in obtaining the materials and creating a collection that researchers will be able to use in the future. In creating the collection Char Miller Papers, I hope to become familiar with exactly what that process entails. I think it will not only prove enlightening but could also provide a greater sense of appreciation for archivists and those who work in Special Collections that continue to preserve important historical materials for future generations. 
Dr. Char Miller is an historian who is currently Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona, where he first acted as visiting professor from 2007-2009. He is also a proud alum of Pitzer College. Within this collection are his various writings including his Senior Thesis, Dissertation, numerous published books and articles, and weekly newspaper and blog entries, among others. It also contains video publications and personal materials from his family.

Well, it did not take me long to begin to appreciate the work that goes into Archival Processing! 
After getting to know the type of work I will be doing this summer, I conducted an initial collection survey of each of the (12) boxes, going through the materials in each box and beginning to get a sense what type of materials are in the collection and how it will be organized, or arranged.
Because this was just the initial survey, I did not examine each folder in each box thoroughly; rather, I took some initial notes regarding each box’s contents and began proposing potential series or groupings based on some initial reactions. 
I then transferred the titles of each box’s folders into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, consisting of a brief description of the box’s contents and all folder titles, as they were created by Char himself, along with any dates he may have included in the folder titles. I also made sure to take relevant notes regarding certain folders and included them in the spreadsheet. For example, I had to take note of any newspaper clippings within a folder, because I will then need to photocopy them onto acid-free paper (once I go through each folder in greater detail later) in order to prevent any future damage to the other materials in the folder.
An important lesson I learned from my introduction to processing a collection is that it is recommended to try and keep any original titles or order that the creator of the collection (in this case Char Miller) provided. For this collection, Char in fact organized the different materials to a certain extent, which means I will have to try and keep it “as is” as much as possible, as long as it fits accordingly within the processing and arrangement plan I devise. 
At first, I was a little disappointed with this, only because I thought it would make the work simpler and perhaps not include many of the steps necessary while processing a more “haphazard” collection of materials.
But, these fears quickly went away once I really got started! I understand now that the key job of the processor is to arrange the collection in the most clear and simple way possible, so that it will be easier for researches to navigate through the materials and find exactly what they are looking for. I know as a researcher I would greatly appreciate this as well! 
Also, as I have gone through the collection initially and worked on the spreadsheet, I am gaining an invaluable knowledge of the work – even if I won’t necessarily have to complete each and every task imaginable! 
I’ve created my initial arrangement scheme based on the initial survey, organizing the collection through different series, and some subseries, and I am very excited to see if these series will in fact remain or how they will change once I begin to go through the entire collection more thoroughly. 
As a distinguished academic scholar, both in history and environmental analysis, and a contemporary writer, Professor Miller stands as a significant originator of the collection. His weekly columns mostly focus on environmental concerns, including Climate Change, and the relationship of the environment with other “hot topics” such as Presidential elections, immigration reform, and the drought in California. Additionally, the collection contains materials from Pomona college including correspondence regarding the hiring process, previous syllabi, and documents related to the development of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona, a major he helped initiate. 
The box of family materials he has donated also seem to be extremely interesting, filled with photos and artifacts!
It has been an amazing first week getting acclimated with the process, and has only heightened my excitement for what more is in store the rest of the summer!