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Our World is Flat: An Introduction to Managing Archival and Photograph Collections



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This workshop was designed for museum professionals, beginners and old pros alike, who find themselves struggling to manage paper and photographic materials in their institutions. We encouraged open minds and open hearts to engage with us and each other as we journeyed through the dark passageways of
the archival profession. There were two hands-on group projects: processing a manuscript collection and creating a digitization plan.

Our World is Flat: An Introduction to Managing Archival and Photograph Collections

  1. 1. Our World is Flat An Introduction to Managing Archival & Photograph Collections Layce Johnson, MA, CA Collections Archivist Idaho State Archives Danielle Grundel, MLIS Photo Archivist Idaho State Archives James Beckwourth, 76-2-86, Idaho State Archives
  2. 2. Morning Session: • Archives and Photo Collection Management • Processing Activity Lunch Break- 12:00-1:00 Afternoon Session: • Digitization for Access and Preservation • Digitization Plan Activity Q and A High School, Wallace, ID, 60-63-1, Idaho State Archives
  3. 3. Unique Nature of Archival Collections • Archival collections, which include photograph collections, range greatly in physicality and volume. The individual record in an archival collection is significant due to its context as part of the greater collection. • Museum vs. Library vs. Archives Collections Management • An Archivist is tasked with bringing order sometimes to chaos, and creating a point of access to the researcher.
  4. 4. What is Collections Development? Collection Development is an active function of an archives to establish its policies and procedures and is used when selecting materials that an archives or repository will acquire. The result of development is the creation of a guiding hand for collecting and identifying things like: scope of creators, subjects, formats, condition and other characteristics that influence the selection process.
  5. 5. Difference between collections policy and procedure A collections policy steers an organization on how to set up collections procedures and provides a structure to work within when managing a collection and potential donations. Policy: lays out the general overview/philosophy/guidelines of what and why the organization collects consistent with its mission Procedure: lays out the “how to” instructions of how the organization’s collections are managed
  6. 6. Benefits of a clear Collections Policy Guiding hand when declining donation offers: • The policy makes it clear what is not within the scope of collecting • Protects the repository when the condition or size of materials or collections are problematic for long term storage, care and access • Protects the repository when a donation has parts of it already existing at another institution • Already have a sufficient representation of similar collections • When the item is mass produced and not unique or relevant to collection • Allows the repository to focus on Quality rather than Quantity
  7. 7. Resources for Collections Policies Example of a Collections Policy: Johnson County Historical Society: content/uploads/Current_Collections_Policy_revised-3- 2012.pdf Training on developing a Collections Policy: Connection to Collections Care: essential-elements-of-a-collections-management-policy/ Guide to developing a Collections Policy: American Alliance of Museums: content/uploads/2017/12/Developing-a-CMP-2018.pdf
  8. 8. Key Terminology: Manuscript Collection and Organizational Records Provenance and Original Order Selection and Appraisal Acquisition and Accession Processing: Arrangement and Description Finding Aid Preservation vs ConservationWilderness Camp out near Yellow Pine, MS269 Shellworth Collection, Idaho State Archives
  9. 9. Manuscript Collections Manuscript Collection n. A collection of personal or family papers. Notes: Although manuscript literally means handwritten, 'manuscript collection' is often used to include collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. They may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, and printed works. Examples: MS37 Mary Augusta Fletcher Papers, MS834 Fritchman Family Papers
  10. 10. Manuscript Collections
  11. 11. Organizational Records Organizational Records n. 1. The records of a corporate body. - 2. The records of a nonprofit organization, as distinguished from commercial business records. Examples: Boise Philharmonic Records, Idaho Grange Records, Poachers Club
  12. 12. Organizational Records
  13. 13. Provenance and Original Order Provenance n. 1. The origin or source. 2. The support information regarding the origin, custodial history, and ownership of an item or collection. Original Order n. The organization and sequence of records established by the creator of the records.
  14. 14. Selection and Appraisal Selection n. The process of identifying materials to be preserved because of their enduring value, especially those materials to be physically transferred to an archives Appraisal n. 1. The process of identifying materials offered to an archives that have sufficient value to be accessioned. 2. The process of determining the length of time records should be retained, based on legal requirements and on their current and potential usefulness.
  15. 15. Selection and Appraisal • What is the enduring historical value of the collection? • Are there conditions or restrictions placed on the donation by the donor? • What is your institutional mission? Do you have a Collections Policy? • Do you have available storage? • Are you able to provide access to researchers? • Are there special preservation and/or conservation needs?
  16. 16. Acquisition & Accession Acquisition n. Materials received by a repository as a unit; an accession. Accession n. 1. Materials physically and legally transferred to a repository as a unit at a single time; an acquisition. v. 2. To take legal and physical custody of a group of records or other materials and to formally document their receipt. 3. To document the transfer of records or materials in a register, database, or other log of the repository's holdings.
  17. 17. Processing: Arrangement and Description Processing n. The arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons. Arrangement n. 1. The process of organizing materials with respect to their provenance and original order, to protect their context and to achieve physical or intellectual control over the materials. 2. The organization and sequence of items within a collection. Description n. The process of creating a finding aid or other access tools that allow individuals to browse a surrogate of the collection to facilitate access and that improve security by creating a record of the collection and by minimizing the amount of handling of the original materials.
  18. 18. Levels of Arrangement n. ~ The hierarchical, intellectual, and physical divisions used in archives management, including repository, record group, fonds, collection, subgroups, series, subseries, file, and item. Hierarchical Structure: Repository Collection Series Subseries File Item ISHS, P1977-127-11c, Milner Dam Survey, Idaho State Archives
  19. 19. Physical vs Intellectual Arrangement Factors: • Storage and location of materials • Preservation needs • Dependencies for access • Access and/or use restrictions ISHS, MS90, Anne Hawkes Collection, Idaho State Archives
  20. 20. Finding Aid Finding Aid n. 1. A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records. 2. A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials. A Finding Aid is like the Table of Contents in a book, it guides the researcher to the box, folder or item which will be most useful for them to access for research
  21. 21. Basic Components of a Finding Aid • Repository • Donor and/or Creator • Collection Title and Number • Dates (bulk, inclusive, etc.) • Size of Collection (Linear or Cubic Ft.) • Summary of Collection • Biographical Information • Scope/Content Description • Arrangement • Processing Note • Custodial History • Restrictions of Access • Preferred Citation • Related Materials • Bibliography
  22. 22. DACS Describing Archives: A Content Standard “Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) is an output-neutral set of rules for describing archives, personal papers, and manuscript collections, and can be applied to all material types. It is the U.S. implementation of international standards (i.e., ISAD[G] and ISAAR[CPF]) for the description of archival materials and their creators.”
  23. 23. Preservation vs Conservation vs… Preservation n. 1. The professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property. 2. The act of keeping from harm, injury, decay, or destruction, especially through noninvasive treatment. - 3. Law · The obligation to protect records and other materials potentially relevant to litigation and subject to discovery. Conservation n. 1. The repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible. 2. The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future through examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.
  24. 24. Restoration n. The process of rehabilitating an item to return it as nearly as possible to its original condition.
  25. 25. Environmental Risks • Temperature • Humidity • Light • Pollutants • Pests • Handling
  26. 26. Improper Storage Risks • Avoid rooms with external doors, areas where environments fluctuate, windows and direct sunlight • Unstable environments include garages, attics, basements and sheds. • Internal closets tend to stay cooler, darker and more stable than other spaces and are used less frequently. • Clutter can invite pests to hide and nest. • Avoid rusty cabinets or untreated wood furniture without buffers
  27. 27. Improper Storage Risks • Avoid over stuffing boxes and cabinets, keep air flow • Keep collections elevated off of the floor to avoid flood or leak issues • Avoid storing materials near pipes which may leak water, sewage or gas • Prioritize your collections for proper archival quality containers, which can be costly. Some archival quality containers are inappropriate to use for certain medium types, i.e. Polyester sleeves used for film negatives
  28. 28. Why do we collect?
  29. 29. This is why!
  30. 30. Resources Society of American Archivists (SAA): SAA Glossary: Harvard Processing Manual: ssing+Manual+and+Procedures Preservation 101, Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC): National Archives on Preservation:
  31. 31. Processing Activity • Based on what you learned today, take each folder and arrange the records • Decide how the collection will be described • Discuss outcomes as a group Lady diving, MS511 Shorty Fuller Collection, Idaho State Archives
  32. 32. Lunch!!! 60-73-29, Idaho State Archives
  33. 33. Digitization for Access and Preservation
  34. 34. Digitization is.. • The selection of content • The reformatting/scanning of analog to digital • Applying metadata (data about data) • For sharing • For access • For preservation
  35. 35. Digitization is not… • Just scanning • Is not a replacement of the original • Driven by the need to save on physical space
  36. 36. Selecting Content
  37. 37. Define your goals • What do you want your digital project to look like? • What do you want users to be able to do with the digital collection? • What kinds of things are your users already asking for? • Do you want to reach a particular user group? • Do you wish to highlight lesser known collections or popular collections? • Community driven or organizational driven?
  38. 38. Collection Assessment: things to consider • Is it original material? • Is it unique? • Does it contain sensitive information i.e cultural, war, death, nudity etc. • Is the material at risk for information loss? • Has it been digitized somewhere else? • Copyright clear/unclear?
  39. 39. At risk: Magnetic media & film negatives Cellulose Acetate negatives • Often have notch codes • Stability problem • “Vinegar” smell Cellulose Nitrate negatives • Not easily identified • “Gym sock” smell • Stability problem • 6 stages of deterioration P1998-28,BillBachCollection A/V materials: Magnetic formats should be prioritized! 2028
  40. 40. At risk: Glass Glass plates • Abrasions & scratches • Cracks & breakage • Flaking of emulsion AR42 unidentified inmate 72-172-55, James L. Young
  41. 41. At risk: paper Documents, ledgers, maps, etc. • Brittle • Faded • Oversized MS2/1053 Charles D. Warner’s Nez Perce Cash Book G4271_S1_1870_unc USLandOfcSurveysinIdaho Homemade book cradle with towels
  42. 42. Reformatting/scanning
  43. 43. • Flatbed • Overhead • Offsite professional • Software Reformatting Needs
  44. 44. Scanning: Do’s • Format: • TIFF • JPEG2000 • Sizing: • 6000px on the long end (used to be 4000) • Bit depth: • Up to 16-bit for BW • 24bit for color • RBG for: • Color photos • BW photos/negatives that have staining, fading, discoloration • No JPEG • No repetitive scanning • Do not compress files • No feed through scanners Scanning: Don’ts
  45. 45. Reformatting: Basic Process • Create master (uncompressed) file. • Name the file in a consistent way. • Perform quality control; edit as needed. • Save master on stable, long-term storage. • Create derivative or access file. • Share access files as needed.
  46. 46. Greyscale vs. RGB
  47. 47. Metadata
  48. 48. File Naming Consistency is key • Use the identifier associated with collection • Keep it short • Use subject terms in file name P2006-10-201_Boise_Idaho_Buildings_Idanha G80_pg10-03_Jane_Smith_Placerville_1893
  49. 49. Fields and Examples • Title • Identifier • Description – include names, provide context, what are you looking at? • Date • Subject • Format • Type • Location • Rights Status • Reproduction and Use
  50. 50. George E. Tonkin Metadata
  51. 51. Metadata – Improve this
  52. 52. Metadata – Improved
  53. 53. Digitization Plan
  54. 54. Why plan? • Scope of project • Purpose and outcome of project • Estimated time frame and staff needed • Assess training needs • Supply needs • Context of collection • Guidance • Documentation
  55. 55. Digitization Activity • Based on what you learned today, take a moment to consider a collection that you would like to digitize • Justify your choice based on the criteria we discussed • Discuss outcomes as a group Manuscript Room, MS511 Shorty Fuller Collection, Idaho State Archives
  56. 56. Digitization Resources • Digital Public Library of America: library-partnerships-project • Digitization for Access and Preservation: Strategies for the Library of Congress: • The Smithsonian Institute: curation/digitizing-collections • Scan to print ratio calculator: us/articles/219078907-Scan-to-Print-Ratio-Calculator
  57. 57. Identification/preservation Resources Websites • Graphic Atlas: • Image Permanence Institute: • Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC): photographs/5.2-types-of-photographs • National Park Service (NPS) Conserve O Grams: Books • Photographs of the Past: Process and Preservation by Bertrand Lavderine • Photographs Archival Care and Management by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler & Diane Vogt-O’Connor
  58. 58. Questions? Danielle Grundel, MLIS Photo Archivist Idaho State Archives Idaho State Historical Society (208) 514-2323 Layce Johnson, MA, CA Collections Archivist Idaho State Archives Idaho State Historical Society (208) 514-2314

Editor's Notes

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