Well, my time here as a CCEPS Fellow is nearing its end. Last week all three of us CCEPS Fellows had the pleasure of giving a presentation on what we have been doing the past semester. Giving a presentation is a fantastic way to punctuate our time at CCEPS. It allowed us to give our own insight into the work we have been doing behind the “glass wall” and what it has meant to us individually.
For me, this was a way to gain the crucial skills and experience necessary to make it to the next level in my academic and professional endeavors. My presentation centered on that Nag Hammadi portion of the IAC Collection and what I have learned from it. Going through this collection gave me the chance to learn about a religion I had no understanding of but faced it with an unbridled enthusiasm that I made a point to mention in the presentation. The eagerness I had at the beginning of the semester never waned as the end approached.
Not only was I able to learn about a subject I know nothing about but I was able to learn more about myself as a historian and archivist. I was able to test my knowledge gained in the classroom in a real setting. The setup of the program forces you to think about your next move and to not be afraid to reach out to peers or superiors when things become overwhelming. I was also able to learn and expand on my own capabilities as a student and professional.
Despite my time at CCEPS coming to an end, there is still much to be done. Not in the sense of moving boxes and organizing a collection but in the small details that remain. One thing to keep in mind is that there is always work to be done that can improve a collection and its finding aid. This improving extends beyond the collection and to an archives as a whole. An archive is more than just a storage room for history. It gives life back to forgotten histories and shows that the value of archival collections can go beyond that of the researcher and can reach the public in new ways.
Here, I have attached a direct link to my presentation should you want a brief glimpse at what I discusses:
Hello to all! First, I must apologize for my absence on this blog as our spring break was last week and it would have been unfair of me to create a post without any substance. This post will take a different tone than in my previous posts. This entry will be centered about the technical and organizational aspect of being an archivist, an often looked over area of the archiving world.
Me and my fellow CCEPS fellow, Sara, are closing in on the end of processing the IAC collection and we have discovered the second half of the archiving universe. The first half of this fellowship brought with it the excitement of learning about new areas of academia previously left out of my mind. However, the learning has not stopped, if anything it has continued in different directions. It has continued from the scholarly to the archival realm and it still contains the same level of excitement that I was able to translate onto paper (digital really). I have been able to connect to this area of the work because the German efficiency expert inside me loves the fact that I get to organize this collection in the simplest way possible, making it easy for researchers to find what they want. Since I am unable to change the world all on my own, conquering the archival world will have to do in the mean time.
O.K., so now to get down to the thick of it, the meat and bones of the Claremont Special Collections. The IAC collection is nearing its completion! We have placed (mostly) everything into neat folders and boxes just ready for research to be carried out on the extensive Nag Hammadi codices contained within.
Here you can see our folders, tucked away neatly into the proper boxes. The process was a long one but filled with interesting twists and turns that included finding pictures of Henry Kissinger looking at the pages of the Nag Hammadi codex. With the processing out of the way, I am now able to focus on developing a comprehensive finding aid. This includes taking all of the information from the individual folder titles and placing them in the correct order within Archivist’s Toolkit. This program allows for easy access to all of the finding aids for all the collections in the library. It also allows for me (or any archivist really) to fiddle around with the structure and content of the finding aid to ensure order and efficiency are achieved. With the toolkit, we are able to catalog all the files, maps, and seemingly countless audio tapes.
In the very near future, researchers will be able to look up the finding aid and find all that they need thanks to the tireless efforts of the CCEPS Fellows.
I have just realized that we have just about hit the half way point in my time as a CCEPS Fellow. While we have have finished a great deal of the IAC Collection there remains a great amount of details that need to be addressed before the collection is ready to be used by researchers. I am currently in the midst of placing everything in the proper order and preparing to write up a good finding aid for the collection. Now that I have raced you through the technical side of archiving, I can bring you to the interesting bits and pieces of history.
These small pieces of history that I have shown you are all found within the plain white boxes that adorn my work station. Last week I gave the story of Muhammad Ali, discoverer of the Codices, and that the story was incomplete. After a bit of research I was able to uncover more of his story and the reasons for which his mother burned one of the books. It seems after they were found, Ali and his brother had just placed them on some hay next to the over. Ali’s mother simply used the book as kindling for fire since the family was completely unaware of the significance of their find. While the story of Ali and his family is compelling, I would like to move on to other characters in this world.
In several pictures that I came across, I found prominent individuals visiting the small town of Nag Hammadi. These dignitaries and scholars alike came to the Coptic Museum after it was brought into the Egyptian National Museum system of support and protection. Of the most recognizable names was Boutros Boutros-Gahli, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Egypt and former Secretary General of the UN, who is also a Coptic Orthodox Christian. Unfortunately, the picture of him is only a poor photo copy as the original is in a different collection. Not to disappoint my readers, I have included a couple other pictures that garner the same interest at previous ones I have attached.
Here is a picture of the Queen of Denmark making a visit in 1962 to the Coptic Museum in Nag Hammadi.
Why Danish royalty would visit a Coptic Museum is beyond my knowledge! But I will probably do some proper research should time allow.
Next, is a picture of the Minister of the Imperial Court of Egypt. The name on the back of the photo is illegible and several attempts at Google resulted in nothing. However, that should not stop one from imaging what is being said at the moment.
I could easily pepper in more pictures, but that would just be irresponsible as I have yet to discovering the interesting stories behind them. One of those is a picture of a banner honoring then President of France, Giscard, and Anwar El-Sadat of Egypt. Once I know what is going on, I will surely pass that knowledge down to you! Just remember, big historical events are only the tip of the iceberg and the remaining pieces could be found in plain white boxes.
Well, another week has passed and I am still in disbelief of
how quickly the days go by. This week is starting off with rain trickling down
the windows of the library but I am looking through the window of history today!
(Please excuse the cheesy cliché) As promised, I have a couple of interesting
snapshots of the hundreds of pictures I have been combing through. Most
recently I have been reorganizing the series on the Nag Hammadi dig and the
surrounding work involved in such a monumentally historic project. This had
included everything from field logs of the dig sites, pictures of the
surrounding towns and landscape, and a plethora of amazing records documenting
the whole process.
Going through this series in the IAC Nag Hammadi Collection
has afforded me the opportunity to see a different time and place through the
eyes of both the locals and scholars involved with the excavation and scholarly
One of the amazing photos included in the series are of the
discoverer of the codices, Muhammad Ali and his mother.
Ali standing next to his mother (dressed in black).
The mother of Ali had actually burned one of the codex books upon their initial discovery. Unfortunately, there was no other information on
the reasons for his mother burning one of the books but one can just imagine
what was going through the minds of the IAC scholars upon hearing this story!
And as I mentioned in one of my previous posts I am
including just one picture of Henry Kissinger from his tour of the Nag Hammadi
Codices. He is intently studying pages of ancient texts while members of the
project explain what is written and the significance to ancient Christianity.
There are pieces of history hidden all around us and it is
up to us, historians and others alike, to document that history so others have
the opportunity to look through the window of the past.
Something that we tend to forget about time is that it can slip right by you when not paying attention. Paying attention to time is all I have been doing while processing the IAC Nag Hammadi collection. But not in the same way that people do while sitting in a classroom or at work. I have been paying close attention to the time that has been captured inside of these files and boxes.
This past week I have been processing the IAC’s museum records. The files contained item lists for all things that were once displayed, including the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. It was a featured exhibit here on the Claremont Colleges campus on June 12, 1965. The tremendous amount of work that went into making the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits a possibility for the public to see. This included the shipment of materials to Claremont and the delicate process of unpacking priceless materials and to present them in a non-objective manner. The entire exhibit was considered an incredible success with over 1,700 people visiting on the first day alone and a total of 51,852 persons for the whole time. A memo was drafted that gave an amazingly detailed report of everything that went on; including the very few complaints and numerous praises from museum goers, a trip to Disneyland for the Curator of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, and praise for the LA County Sheriffs who were able to handle the large crowds in the summer heat with a smile.
Another interesting find within the Museum records was a piece of cloth. Now this is no ordinary piece of cloth that we would wear. It was a piece of cloth that wrapped the Nag Hammadi codices, meaning it is nearly two thousand years old. The small piece (now pieces) was placed in an Egyptian newspaper with Arabic writing on it. Now there is quite a bit of cloth dust as much of it has disintegrated due to the long passage of time that the lack of preservation efforts. My part is to now find what to do with this random material from a time I have only read about in books. I am excited to see where this all goes!
Thanks for reading!
week as a CCEPS fellow has ended as quickly as my second week begins and what a
week it has been so far! The enthusiasm I have for this work is a benchmark by
how I will be continuing through the weeks until my time here is up. What I
have learned so far and what I still have to learn excite me beyond the words
necessary to write a short blog. Lessons learned in my Archives 310 class last
year are now being applied, tested, and refined through the incredible
opportunity of processing a collection first hand. This collection in
particular, the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity Records, have been
fascinating so far, especially the level of details and records that came with
the Nag Hammadi collection. It is an amazing collection of correspondence,
pictures, maps, and lectures that all describe in remarkable detail the efforts
of many to make these ancient texts come to life for dignitaries and normal people
alike to enjoy. In one of the dozens of picture folders that I went through, I
found an impressive set of photographs showing the visit of one dignitary to
the small world of Claremont. That individual was Henry Kissinger, captured in a
candid moment that made it seem as though he were picking his nose. This
contrast of this imposing world figure and the candid nature of a man looking
at a museum exhibit is exactly what makes me extremely happy and thankful to be
a CCEPS fellow and for the ability to find the extraordinary hidden in the
files of archival collections.