AzAA Blog Post October 2021

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This month we feature a write up from Jane Cadwalader, Reference Archivist/Archives Technician at the Arizona State Library, Archives, & Public Records regarding some of the items the state library has that are rarely used or requested at the faculty. With so much of Arizona’s history housed at the State Archives we as archivists hope that all the records we house for research purposes will be used in some form or fashion. We thank Jane for this amazing look at two collections housed at State Archives that have a wealth of information waiting for someone to discover and bring light to.

As a reference archivist at the Arizona State Archives, I noticed some records and collections are requested regularly: tax assessments, court records, vital records, water rights, etc. So, when I looked through the State Archives collections list earlier this year, I noticed the large number of Records Groups and Manuscript Collections that I had never pulled from, for patrons or my own research. It led me to think of all the records at the Archives that are rarely accessed and why.  With approximately 200,000 entries in our database in a multitude of formats (paper, electronic, photographs, born digital, microfilm, etc.) there are plenty that remain unknown to the public and potential researchers. This is mainly because they don’t know what we have.  Wendi Goen, Lead Reference Archivist and part of the social media team at State Library developed a new posting idea to highlight these lesser-known collections and records at the Arizona State Archives, called #RarelyUsedRecords. The idea is to get the word out about the collections in an informal platform (social media) where potential users of the records will find out about them, and we can open new areas of research. The State Archives holds a large and broad number of holdings that align with their mission of collecting, preserving, and making, “available to the public and all branches of government, permanent public records, historical manuscripts, photographs and other materials that contribute to the understanding of Arizona history.” This blog will highlight two Manuscript Collections at the Arizona State Archives that are not commonly accessed but have a wealth of potential research value, the Mecham Recall Collection (MG 105) and the Marguerite Noble Collection (MG 092). Each of the collections will include discussion of different characteristics that make them of interest and will help to explore the diverse and unique holdings of the Arizona State Archives.

Although the manuscript collection of Marguerite Noble is identified by one creator, its contents have a wide range of topics and authors. And sometimes, a completely unexpected subject matter. Marguerite Noble was an Arizonan author, journalist, and historian who is most known for her novel about a Southwestern pioneer woman at the turn of the century, Filaree, published by Random House in 1979. The Collection includes four series that consist of Noble’s Affiliations, Personal Papers, Writings, and Family and Friends (the finding aid for this Collection is available on Arizona Archives Online).

Autographed Monti’s menu from Lily Tomlin to Marguerite Noble, undated. MG 092 Marguerite Noble Collection, box 007. ASLAPR.

Each series explores a different area of her life through records. In Series 3: Writings, it includes the Filaree manuscript, research material for her work, and several short stories, and writings. In Series 4: Family and Friends, one can see the interconnectedness of Noble’s career with those close to her. The Collection includes correspondence and work by her son Roger Buchanan, a photographer, and daughter Cynthia Buchanan, a playwright and writer. Cynthia was instrumental in Noble’s career, helping to get Filaree published. Surprisingly, as I looked through the finding aid, an unexpected name came up, Lily Tomlin. The actress and comedienne, a friend to both Noble and her daughter, worked on an uncompleted project to film Filaree. The Collection includes correspondence, articles, photographs and play bills regarding Tomlin.  At first glance, the Marguerite Noble Collection seemed straightforward and distinct. Instead, it illustrates the multi-dimensionality of a person’s or an organization’s documentary evidence.

Image of Lily Tomlin and Marguerite Noble, undated. MG 092 Marguerite Noble Collection, box 007. ASLAPR. 

A collection can also capture a significant moment in our shared history and provide new viewpoints on current events. In April 1988, Evan Mecham, 17th Governor of Arizona was impeached from office less than two years after his election. Interestingly, Mecham was also simultaneously recalled and under criminal investigation. The recall effort was a grassroots campaign led by the Mecham Recall Committee that began in January 1987 and collected over 300,000 valid petition signatures. Ed Buck, prominent Arizona businessman and activist led the campaign. Manuscript Collection 105, donated by Buck between 1988 and 1991 (and one box of legal materials donated by attorney Stephen U’Ren in 1991), includes the records of the Committee and provides an interesting insight into the process of recalling a Governor. It was originally donated to the Arizona Historical Foundation and transferred to the State Archives in 2011.  The Collection is unprocessed, meaning that the Archives has acquired it, but an Archivist has not organized and created finding aids for access purposes.  The records document the petition process, press releases, the myriad of t-shirts, bumper stickers and other materials that were produced during the 15 months of the recall campaign (which ended after the impeachment of Mecham on April 4, 1988).  The State Archives also holds Mecham records from his term as Governor and another manuscript collection (RG 001 SG 24 Governor Evan Mecham and MG 133 Evan Mecham Papers). Unlike the just mentioned collections, MG 105 documents provide a different viewpoint of Mecham’s term, that of citizens and shows how their participation in government can have a major influence.

Poster. MG 105 Mecham Recall Collection. ASLAPR

Making records accessible to the public is a many faceted responsibility in the day to day activities of archivists. Promoting collections of all sizes in several different ways increases the awareness of our audiences. With this blog and future #RarelyUsedRecords posts on Facebook, we hope to connect more records with researchers and help to develop new areas of investigation into Arizona’s history.

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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