AzAA Blog Post February 2021

February 2021

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This month we feature a write up regarding a day in the life of a processing archivist from Charmaine Bonner, Processing Archivist at Arizona State University Library and a Director at Large on the AzAA Board. We thank Charmaine for providing a look into a day in the life of a processing archivist at an academic institution.

Do you have a passion for history? Good organizational skills? Can you multitask? If so, you have essential and good processing archivist qualities. I landed in Arizona in December 2018 after accepting the Processing Archivist position at Arizona State University (ASU) Library.  Prior to arriving, I had researched ASU’s collections through finding aids and found many interesting holdings. Elizabeth Dunham, my supervisor at the time allowed me to choose which collection I processed first. As a big arts and culture aficionado, I selected the Xico Inc. Records. Xico Inc. (formerly Xicanindio Artes) is a multidisciplinary arts organization created by Chicano and Native American artists in 1975. It is one of the oldest ethnic nonprofit arts organizations in the state of Arizona and is dedicated to “nourish[ing] a greater appreciation of the cultural and spiritual heritages of the Latino and Indigenous peoples of the Americas throughout the Arts.” Processing Xico Inc. allowed me to learn about the history of the Chicano & Indigenous arts scene in Phoenix Metro. As a newcomer to the area, processing helped me feel more connected. Xico Inc. was more than just an arts organization, they also helped the community by having programs on topics such as drug and substance abuse. One of those programs was “Get High on Yourself” and presented attendees with alternatives to drug abuse. I found a pin from that program while processing:

Xico Inc’s musical performances were a huge part of their organization as well. I am eager to one day watch & listen to Xico Inc. Musicians performances. The musicians group included artist Zarco Guerrero (founding member) and they performed all around the valley:

After processing Xico Inc., I learned there was another arts organization located in the Chicano/a Research Collection repository. This collection was Movimiento Artístico del Río Salado (MARS) Records. MARS was similar in that it was an arts organization but different in that they had a gallery that promoted Latinx and Indigenous artists. MARS was founded “to create an alternative gallery where they could show work without being censored by the constraints of what is marketable to a commercial gallery.” The MARS records are a rich collection that helped me to learn about the arts scene during the same period as Xico Inc. (1970s-early 2000’s) in the Phoenix Metro area. I really enjoyed discovering cool art and program flyers such as this one:

and this:

In my experience as a Processing Archivist, sometimes you find really cool things, but sometimes mundane paperwork and sometimes even icky things. In processing MARS, I discovered mold which led me to quarantine those boxes away from the broader collection. Once those materials are remediated, I can process them and add them to the rest of the collection. After I am done with the physical arranging and describing process, I barcode the boxes, complete the finding aid in ArchivesSpace and it is added to Arizona Archives OnlineASU Library houses its books and collections at the High Density Collection (HDC) building at the Polytechnic Campus. I had no clue that I would be the one operating the forklift to transport the boxes to the shelves but it wasn’t as scary as I thought. 

I hope you enjoyed learning about the day in the life of a processing archivist and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

Published by Arizona Archives Alliance

The Arizona Archives Alliance is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Arizona's historical archives and their users, provides training to archivists and archive volunteers, and promotes the use of Arizona’s historical archives.

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