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