In the Process of Processing

Hello! I am very happy to report that Week 2 of my CCEPS Fellowship has allowed me to make a solid contribution to processing Honnold/Mudd Special Collections’ Dead Sea Scroll Files! 

I love “before and after” photos – they seem like a cathartic way to celebrate progress – so why don’t we have a look at how the collection has transformed over the last week? Here’s what it looked like when it was originally delivered to our library:

close-up, DSS original file box_blog ready.jpg
And here’s what it looks like after about 20 hours worth of work:
more empty box_blog ready.jpg
Even though it’s a lot more empty than last week, 20 hours seems like a lot of time to go through just half a file box, doesn’t it? Well, it is – but archivists do a lot more than just put papers in new file folders when they’re “processing” a collection! In fact, when an archivist processes a repository of papers, s/he needs to move deliberately and meticulously to make sure it’s arranged just right.
In the case of the Dead Sea Scroll papers, this means I’ve been spending a great deal of time organizing every file chronologically, flagging items which will require special preservation attention and/or may need to be refiled for the sake of researcher access, and taking careful notes as to details which might be helpful to include in the finding aid which I’ll eventually create.
For example, every time I see a paperclip in the collection, I need to stop and remove that sucker – it will eventually damage the papers it’s holding together (and we don’t want that to happen!).
paperclip_blog ready.jpg
“Just say no to paperclips!”
For the purposes of preservation, archivists instead group papers together in cute little folders they make out of acid-free, white paper:
paper folder_blog ready.jpg
“When it comes to choosing between paperclips and acid-free folders, there’s no choice!
In closing, I’ll leave you with a shot of the papers I’ve finished arranging thus far. It will be very exciting when they’re all processed and researchers can use them!
Organized files_blog ready.jpg

The Dead Sea Scroll Files Rise Again!

Hello! This is my first week on the job as a CCEPS Fellow, and I couldn’t be more excited about my new project: archiving the Dead Sea Files held by Honnold/Mudd Library’s Special Collections! Although this endeavor is “small” by archival standards – only 1 linear foot – it’s a foot which has high historic value for researchers interested in the story of how scholars sought to bring the Scrolls back to life.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a shot of the Files’ current “tomb.” This is how they looked when they originally were given to Special Collections, by a special Deed of Gift from Dr. James and Mrs. Anne Robinson:

exterior shot, DSS original file box_blog ready.jpgUpon receiving the box, my first task was to survey its contents. This is important, because it helps an archivist get a sense of how the series should be arranged. As can be seen from the below picture, the contents of a collection may not arrive in an order that’s conducive to helping researchers easily figure out which of the files might be useful to their project.

close-up, DSS original file box_blog ready.jpg

The second purpose of the survey is to aid the archivist in understanding what the preservation issues in a given collection might be. On that note, the following picture shows a professional archivist toolkit. Believe me, it can get a lot more complicated than this little kit might suggest to try and preserve photos, records, and assorted ephemera for future generations….but this at least gets us off to a good start! The most serious issues I’ve encountered thus far with these records are fragile materials (such as aging carbon paper), and documents which have been seriously bent due to improper storage practices. However, Special Collections will be working hard to restore these materials so that they can be easily used by researchers.

archivist toolkit_blog ready.jpgI look forward to writing more next week, and will keep you all posted as to our progress in processing this amazing collection. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about our work here. I’ll do my best to answer them!