Welcome to the AzAA Blog
Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at email@example.com
This month we feature a write up from Trent Purdy, Assistant Librarian and Archivist with the Special Collections department at The University of Arizona Library and former Board member of Arizona Archives Alliance and Amanda Howard, Library Information Associate with the Special Collections department at The University of Arizona Library regarding their work digitizing an amazing audio visual collection at their institution and the attention to detail that is needed to process audio visual recordings in archives. We thank Trent and Amanda for this amazing look into this project and the work they do at the Special Collections department at The University of Arizona Library.
In March 2020, the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections was awarded a prestigious Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize and preserve ninety 16mm and 35mm motion picture films from the collection of dendrochronologist and founder of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR), A.E. Douglass. Multimedia Archivist Trent Purdy and Archival Assistant Amanda Howard are Co-PIs on the grant.
Some of these films are nearly one hundred years old–spanning a thirty year period in Douglass’s academic career–from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s. Before the films came to live in Special Collections in the early 1990s, they were stored in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, which was located in the west side of the Arizona Stadium before it moved to the Bryant Bannister Tree-Ring Building.
Storage in Special Collections allowed the films to be held in a climate-controlled area, but photos below give a sense of the conditions: a hodgepodge of loose film secured with string or in original box mailers from the 1920s and ’30s, film in rusty cans and on rusty reels. This is not unusual for audio-visual collections in archives, which require special enclosures and storage precautions as we’ll see later, as well as specialized archival training in the care of AV. Most archives simply do not have the capacity for these expensive resources.
Prior to applying for the CLIR grant, an extensive process of inspection was needed to assess condition and level of deterioration of each film. Beginning in the spring of 2018, Amanda used some tools of the trade–a rewind bench, guillotine splicer, and A-D strips—to perform this delicate work.
[Lessons in what not to do in caring for films: store loose in rusty canisters, film boxes, and envelopes, secure with rubber bands and string.]
[Tools of the trade for film inspection: rewind bench, split reels, guillotine splicer, archival film core, gaffer’s tape for sealing canisters, loupe, gloves, pen for labeling leader, archival canisters and film leader.]
A-D strips measure the level of degradation of cellulose acetate film based on acidic vapor produced by the item. The breaking down of acetate film produces a vinegar-like odor, giving it the name “vinegar syndrome.”
[A-D strips are sealed inside archival film canisters for 24 hours to sample the amount of acetic acid being off-gassed by the film. This 16mm film has an A-D strip reading of about .25]
A-D strips change color–a range of blue to yellow–in the presence of acetic acid, and are read on a scale from 0-3; the greater the acidic reading based on the color of the strip, the greater the deterioration of the film. A process of rapid deterioration known as autocatalytic decay accelerates exponentially at a reading of 1.5 and above. Of the ninety films in the Douglass papers, around thirty-five registered an A-D strip reading of .50 to 2.50. The remaining fifty plus films in the collection registered a .25 A-D strip reading or below. The deterioration of films reading at .50 or above can be slowed by placing them in frozen storage. Special Collections has its own frost-free freezer for just this purpose.
[Lime green strip (A-D 2.0) = “Bad news. Freeze me quick!” This film actually has a polyester base, but absorbed acetic acid from its nearby acetate friends. Whether acetate or polyester, freezing motion picture film will slow deterioration and extend life.]
Prior to shipping the films to the vendor in Pennsylvania for digitization, we created descriptive metadata in the form of Excel spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet contained descriptive metadata using a combination of MODS and PBCore elements.
MODS (Metadata Object Descriptor) is a metadata standard developed by the Library of Congress for library assets of all kinds, while PBCore is a metadata standard developed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to be used specifically for audiovisual content. Each of these allows for uniform, consistent descriptors across items, e.g. title, genre, language, and date. Descriptive metadata is generated to improve researcher discoverability and accessibility of content as well as preservation of both the physical films and corresponding digital surrogates. The second spreadsheet contained descriptive metadata which is embedded into the preservation (.mkv) and access files (.mp4). Embedded metadata ensures long-term preservation of digital files.
Once the vendor completed digitization of the films, we received a hard drive containing project deliverables which included XML metadata records and master and access video files of the original motion picture films. We then set out performing quality control (QC) on the files. This is a time-consuming process that requires extreme attention to detail, but is essential to long term preservation as well as researcher discovery of these one-of-a-kind materials. This process includes, amongst other things, ensuring that all project materials are digitized and checking metadata records for accuracy. We also watch portions of the motion picture master and access files.
Once the files passed the QC process, we created a digital collection on our Aviary site and uploaded the .mp4 access files and related descriptive metadata. Amanda then utilized extant shot lists generated by LTRR faculty in the 1990s to create robust indexes, which in addition to descriptive metadata, greatly enhances researchers’ discovery of content.
As archivists we are very grateful to CLIR and other like-minded nonprofit funding organizations that understand the work we as archival professionals do to ensure the preservation of and access to unique primary source materials. It’s been humbling to be part of the stewardship chain of these wonderfully fascinating films, a chain that started with Dr. Douglass when he loaded film into his camera at the various sites depicted in the films and began shooting. Professionally, through this project we gained invaluable experience managing a grant project which laid the foundation for pursuing future grants to preserve other AV treasures in Special Collections.
Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This month we feature a write-up regarding the work of Leo Graves, who is a project archivist operating as a cooperator at the Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) through the University of Arizona’s School of Information. In addition, we explore the collections available at WACC that handles archival matters for the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service located in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being a project archivist at this important institution, Leo is currently a Director at Large with the Arizona Archives Alliance. We thank Leo for providing this overview of the important work the Western Archeological and Conservation Center does with the National Park Service for the Intermountain Region and some of the amazing projects he has been involved with from around the state of Arizona.
The Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) in Tucson provides archive and record management support for over 75 park units in the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service (NPS). Collections at WACC are available to researchers on-site in the research room by appointment only, (albeit currently in person access is suspended due to the COVID-19 response), and through records transported in person, and sent out via e-mail. Primarily used by park staff, the archives are also utilized by researchers and scholars.
The state-of-the-art WACC facility just across the Santa Cruz River near downtown Tucson consists of archives, museum objects and curation, conservation and preservation, and a library. Dedicated to the preservation and study of museum collections within the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service, the Museum Services Program at WACC provides expertise in professional conservation, museum, and archival assistance to park staff and partners.
In archives, I perform a myriad of tasks including archival processing, arrangement and description. Other duties include inventory, and preparing cataloged materials for scanning among other things, such as light metadata attachment, and working with databases and content management system platforms. The repository contains more than 9,000 linear feet of archives from parks and programs. Archive items are part of the estimated 17.9 million documents and objects currently stored at WACC. They are housed in different rooms for paper, media, cold storage and nitrate materials.
Because the nature of the work NPS deals with is national parks, monuments, and national historic sites, I have the opportunity to work with different collections, and I am fascinated sometimes being able to see the development, completion and resolution of maintenance and other park projects. Dealing with Administrative/Central files of various parks, I use disposition retention schedules when processing these files.
As well, I am intrigued to be able to peruse materials when processing Cultural and Natural Resources Records respectively, with multi-faceted subjects such as biological diversity and studies, historical developments, and windows into past civilizations, (including archeological associated field records). These, along with other natural phenomena, such as the origin and existence of Montezuma Well in North Central Arizona, all in the beauty of nature. Other types of collections to be found in the NPS include Aerial Photographs, Archeology, Development and Maintenance, Fire Management, and Land/Boundaries.
Whether it’s a study on bats, handling 35mm motion picture film from the 1970’s, the inner-workings of the Faraway Ranch guest ranch that is now part of Chiricahua National Monument, or the documentation of petroglyphs left behind by the Ancestral Puebloan, one never knows what they’re going to come across.
As the needs of collections can vary, in the past I have worked on various projects that were a specific part of a greater gestalt encompassing many components which can be inclusive of many contributors and spread over the course of years. Whereupon any single person doing their part may not see the final product. Since workflows and assignments can change based on contractual aspects of what can be worked on, flexibility and patience can be pertinent companions to behold when re-assigned to other duties.
These traits along with other invaluable hands-on experience I have been able to garner at WACC, while finishing an Archival Certificate early on from the University of Arizona School of Information and utilizing applied learning as an extension of academic elements. For example, I once worked on a re-cataloging accretion project which reorganized an already existing collection and added new contents to it. Currently one of the tasks I am working on is a storage location update in the main repository, and a more in-depth scanning request involving 35 mm slides, oversized maps, negatives, photos, and paper documents.
I believe it is crucial to continually find and maintain interest, if not be enthralled with the content one is working with and (feel) I have been very lucky to work with items and subjects that I’m naturally drawn to. As aforementioned, while I am a contractor through the University of Arizona, and my term is scheduled to expire in about 6 months from the time of the writing of this blog, feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions you may have.
Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This month we feature a write up regarding the many things you will find in the archives at Arizona State Archives, part of the Arizona State Library, Archives, & Public Records department with the State of Arizona related to true crime from Carlos Lopez, Lead Archivist at the Arizona State Archives and Vice President of AzAA. We thank Carlos for providing this deep dive into the true crime archives at the state archive and continuing this wonderful overview of the many interesting (and weird) items the Arizona State Archives has in its collection.
As the weather heats up in Arizona this time of year, most people look to find a way to occupy themselves indoors. With the windows closed and the AC cranked, one of the things people love to do is immerse themselves in the world of True Crime. Whether reading a riveting account of crime investigations, listening to a podcast detailing salacious details, or watching a documentary summarizing an unbelievable crime, people are engrossed by scandalous and infamous crimes. Many of the staff at the Arizona State Archives are also fans of such entertainment. Luckily for us, we get to spend some time with the primary sources for these stories.
The Arizona State Archives (one part of the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records) serves as the official repository of the State of Arizona’s permanent and historically valuable records. Because of this, we receive records from a variety of places that deal with major crimes. From the courts to the Attorney General’s office, the Board of Executive Clemency (for death row cases) to the Arizona State Legislature (for political high crimes and misdemeanors), the state archives is host to many a lurid tale of crime and punishment. Here are just a few sets or cases from our collections:
Karl and Walter LaGrand
Karl and Walter LaGrand, two German nationals living in Arizona, were tried and convicted of killing a man during a failed robbery in Marana, Arizona. For their crime, they were both sentenced to death. As foreign nationals, the LaGrands should have been informed of their right to assistance by the German consulate. The State Arizona failed to do so, even after learning that they were not US citizens. After the LaGrand’s execution, the German government sued the United States and Arizona through the International Court of Justice. The ICJ ruled that the United States and Arizona had violated the Vienna Convention of 1963. Included in the LaGrand Collection of the Board of Executive Clemency are letters from German nationals asking for the death penalty to be overturned.
The AzScam case
Few cases have shaped Arizona politics like the AzScam case. AzScam was a sting operation that caught lawmakers taking cash bribes on camera from phony casino operators pitching to legalize gambling in the state. After this exhaustive investigation from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, seven prominent Arizona legislators, Rep. Sue Laybe (D-Central Phoenix), Rep. Jim Hartdegen (R-Casa Grande), Rep. Jim Meredith (R-East Phoenix), Rep. Bobby Raymond (D-West Phoenix), Rep. Don Kenney (R-Northwest Phoenix), Sen. Carolyn Walker (D-South Phoenix) and Sen. Jesus ”Chuy” Higuera (D-Tucson), as well as seven other political figures were indicted on charges of bribery, money laundering and filing false election statements. Many of those indicted were sentenced to jail time, and all were expelled or resigned from the legislature. Included in our collections are videocassettes and transcripts of the sting operation, as well as testimony from the expulsion hearings in the legislature.
The Ray Krone Case
Ray Krone spent 10 years in prison, including two years on death row, after being found guilty of killing a bartender acquaintance of his in Phoenix in 1991. Krone’s conviction was mainly due to an expert witness from a dentist that claimed his teeth marks matched those found on the witness. Despite no other evidence linking Krone to the crime scene, he was convicted, and an appeal denied. Through the Innocence Project, DNA evidence absolved Krone and he was released, later collecting millions from Maricopa County. Included in our collection are five exhibit boxes and 176 large exhibits from the case.
This month we feature a write up from Arizona State University Library curator of the Greater Arizona Collection, Renee D. James. As stated above, Renee is the Curator for the Greater Arizona Collection at Arizona State University. Prior to her tenure at ASU, the bulk of Renee’s professional career had been centered in New York City, where she served as the Senior Archivist for The Rockefeller University. Renee has also lived and worked in Los Angeles. During her years in California, she managed and developed a university archives and special collections unit, and engaged with BIPOC communities in East L.A. Renee also serves as an AzAA Board Member, and coordinates the Scholarship Program in Support of Institutional Internships. We thank Renee for providing this overview of the work she does at ASU Library and with the Greater Arizona Collection.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my participation in AzAA is my work as the coordinator of the internship scholarship program. In 2015, I developed the program along with two AzAA colleagues, and I have continued in this role to the present. The inspiration for the development of the program came out of our frustration with seeing so many struggling institutions unable to offer paid internships. We wanted to develop a program that would provide grant funding to these institutions so that they could hire and offer competitive hourly rates to students in archival programs. Each year AzAA invites Arizona-based institutions interested in directing archival internships to apply for the AzAA scholarship program. The objective is to provide interns with hands-on experience working with a wide variety of archival collections in order to gain a better understanding of archival principles and fundamental practices. The institutional host/supervisor determines project responsibilities, internship length, and learning objectives and outcomes. Upon completion of the internship, a short, written summary detailing the internship experience of both the student intern and the project supervisor is submitted. This program has been very successful, and continues to fulfill our mission to support regional institutions and communities.
In my other role as Curator of the Greater Arizona Collection, I am committed to the management and ongoing development of the collections, and to the continued outreach and engagement with donors, faculty, students, and communities.
The Greater Arizona Collection includes hundreds of collections consisting of both primary and secondary sources. Materials document the history, culture, and people of Arizona and the Southwest. Collection materials include published items, personal papers, organizational and business records, congressional and political papers, photograph collections, and a myriad of resource materials on the region. Subjects include politics, mining, labor history, Phoenix and Arizona history, water and land management, and organizational histories.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that may indeed be true. The McCulloch Brothers Inc. Photographs 1884-1947 is one example of a collection that offers a fascinating glimpse into the Phoenix of the past, and includes photographs of building construction, city streets and views, water development projects, and Arizona resorts, to name a few.
Here are two examples of photographs from the collection:
Beatrice and Margaret McCulloch Drying Dates, ca. 1915
200 Block of E. Washington St., Phoenix, 1945
CP MCLMC A1931A
One of the most frequently accessed Greater Arizona collections is the Personal and Political Papers of Senator Barry M. Goldwater. This collection includes a vast amount of materials documenting both the Senator’s family history and long political career. A recent digitization project has provided online access to the Senator’s 1964 presidential campaign speeches. Many other kinds of documents and photographs illustrate Goldwater’s contribution to local and national history.
There are so many amazing collections to explore in the Greater Arizona Collection, and I am so pleased to be working with these collections and with the library communities I serve. You can browse a selection of digitized collections available in ASU’s Digital Repository; for a more detailed overview of the collections, take a look at the Greater Arizona LibGuide.
If you would like to more information about ASU’s Greater Arizona Collections, or AzAA’s Scholarship Program in Support of Institutional Internships, please contact me at Renee.d.James@asu.edu.
This month we feature a write up regarding the Arizona State Archives, part of the Arizona State Library, Archives, & Public Records department with the State of Arizona from Laura Palma-Blandford, Deputy State Archivist at Arizona State Archives and Treasurer of AzAA. We thank Laura for providing a wonderful overview of the many interesting (and weird) items the Arizona State Archives has in its collection.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in an archive. Can you see long shelves filled with heavy, leather-bound volumes or gray boxes in a multitude of sizes? Do you open the volumes and boxes to find handwritten or typed documents, some fading, others worn from years of use? Perhaps, you have included media in your image too. While this dominant image is valid, it does not capture the variety of objects documenting Arizona’s history and resting quietly in the Arizona State Archives.
The Arizona State Archives (one part of the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records) serves as the official repository of the State of Arizona’s permanent and historically valuable records, and we occasionally receive records in non-traditional formats that cause our conservator headaches. We try to weed these materials out, but some must be preserved as they are part of the historical record or we keep them because they contribute to a unique part of Arizona’s history. The list of these types of records includes flour sacks, keys, bullets, a hatchet, leather brands, and other ephemera.
The flour sacks came to us from the Secretary of State office’s earliest trademark registrations. To cut down on costs, instead of submitting a drawing or representative image of the trademark, companies sent in their flour sacks with the trademark on it. Also, courtesy of the Secretary of State, we have keys. The Secretary of State registered vehicles from 1912 to 1925. In the 1920s, Secretary James Kerby issued license tags (that said Secretary of State Kerby on them) that citizens could attach to their keys. Consequently, when kind people found lost keys, they would send them to the Secretary of State since they had his name on the tag. The State Archives could get rid of them, but they are interesting, document the myriad of tasks the early Secretary of State undertook, take up a small space, and serve as a great example of unintended consequences.
The leather brands are from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. As in the case of the trademarks, people submitted their brand registrations to the County Recorder on pieces of leather. We have 15 boxes of these samples dating from 1877 to 1897 when the Territorial Livestock Sanitary Board took over registering brands for the entire Territory of Arizona. The brands serve as a vivid example of Arizona’s ranching history and the importance of brand registrations.
Our largest source of oddball materials is the courts. Courts occasionally stored exhibits with their case files and sneak into the archives. When these items are found, the Archives staff meet to determine their future. Items from historically significant cases that form a key part of the case are retained. Therefore, we have a hatchet from Arizona vs. Granville Johnson (hint: don’t write your name on your murder weapon), bullets from Arizona vs. Winnie Ruth Judd, and a floor tile with a shoe print in sugar from Arizona vs. Jeffrey Landrigan.
What weird items have we decided not to keep? Again, most of it came via the courts and these items were either unable to be put in context of a specific matter or did not have a significant role in the case. We have discarded drugs, blood samples, an ice pick, liquor bottles, knives, a box of broken glass, and baseballs. One of the more unique things was a box of gold coins we got via a mismarked box from the Attorney General’s office. Sadly, they did not allow us to keep these.
Like most institutions, the Arizona State Archives does contain a plethora of volumes, maps, books, and assorted boxes. Keep looking, however, and you will be surprised at the weird and wild stuff you will find mixed with conventional materials.
Thanks to Carlos Lopez, Wendi Goen, and Kaitlin D’Amico for helping contribute ideas and photographs for this post.
This month we feature an overview of the Arizona Archives Virtual Summit that took place in February 2021. For those unfamiliar with the annual summit, it is a two-day workshop sponsored by the Arizona Historical Records Advisory Board (AHRAB) with the support from AzAA. This event is usually an opportunity for archivists from around the State of Arizona to get together, network and participate in professional presentations and discussions.
Due to COVID-19 the 2021 AzAA Summit was held virtually via Zoom with two sessions held every Thursday in the month of February. These sessions included:
- Documenting the Year 2020: A Discussion
- Certifications in Archives and Records Management
- Records Management & Information Governance: A Brief Introduction
- Managing COVID in the Archival Workplace
- Emerging Technologies in Archives and Records Management
- Update on Native American Protocols
- Special Archives (Museum, Corporate, Political)
- Black Culture and History in Arizona
We thank all the panelists from this year’s summit for their expertise and willingness to be a part of this virtual summit. To learn more about AzAA’s annual summit please visit our website where you can find links to previous agendas from past summits. And if you would like to learn more about the 2021 virtual summit and details of the panels and panelist please click here.
This month we feature a write up regarding the Community-Driven Archives (CDA) Initiative at Arizona State University Library from Jessica Salow, Specialist with the CDA Initiative at ASU Library and a Director at Large on the AzAA Board. We thank Jessica for providing information regarding this exciting initiative at ASU Library and what it means for marginalized communities here in Arizona.
In 2017, the Arizona State University Library was awarded a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project titled “Engaged, Educating, and Empowering: Developing Community-Driven Archival Collections.” This three-year project was designed to build and expand community-driven collections in an effort to preserve and improve the archival collections of marginalized communities within Arizona. This initiative is one of many important steps that are currently being undertaken to address gaps discovered in the historical record within Arizona archives when it comes to marginalized communities.
The initial conversation that started the working group on the path that uncovered these gaps in archival holdings in Arizona began in 2009 when archivists who attended that annual Arizona Archives Summit began to address serious concerns regarding a number of issues facing Arizona archives. Those issues were unprocessed backlogs, underrepresented communities/topics, and collection development. Specifically, the issue of underrepresented communities/topics was of great concern to the roundtable of archivists: “Of particular concern was the realization that several marginalized communities were not being properly supported in the historic record amongst the State’s archival repositories.” In 2012 the Arizona Archives Matrix project revealed startling data collected from a two-year-long process of data research conducted by archivists from around the state. The analysis reviewed 5,400 unique collection descriptions and provided results that led to preliminary discussions by the attendees of the 2012 Summit regarding the future development of separate, culturally responsive tools that would assist this project going forward that would benefit Native American archives across Arizona.
When you break down the results and apply demographic details regarding the populations with the state of Arizona, you find archival records lacking in many areas. Currently, the LatinX, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and the LGBTQIA+ communities make up around 50 percent of Arizona’s population but only account for 0-2 percent of known archival collections in the state for each of these populations. With the knowledge that a mere 0-2 percent of archival material in Arizona represented the LatinX, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and the LGBTQIA+ communities, an urgent call was put forth by archivists from around the state to address this critical issue facing archives within Arizona.
The goals and objectives of the CDA Initiative include building community partnerships, advocating for equal ownership of archives and shared stewardship responsibilities and providing free access to archival supplies and library resources that will help communities preserve their stories for future generations. The ways we are measuring success for the initiative are by the relationships we build with people and communities, the safe spaces we create for community members who attend our workshops to process historical trauma by centering their lived experiences and knowledge, by creating intergenerational and intersectional spaces to promote lifelong learning, and by working with communities to redefine the traditional definition and function of an archive. Prior to COVID-19 we held two distinctive in-person workshops with communities. The first of these workshops was an Archives & Preservation Workshop, in which we spoke to community members about archival praxis and the work we as trained archivists do on a daily basis. This included brief sessions on how to appraise a collection, on arranging and describing items within collections that communities could do for their own home collections. The second workshop was a Scanning and Oral History Days Workshop, which was a 4-hour event in which we partnered with a local organization like Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, where community members could learn how to scan their archival material or conduct an oral history interview. These events were always a highlight to this work because it got us out in the community talking to people about their collections and the memories associated with it.
Since COVID we have transitioned many of our in person events to the virtual space and have been able to connect on a different level with community members. Recently we have done several events including events run by our amazing student archivists who are the backbone of our team. These events include a Show & Share: Black Love event held on February 18, 2021, an Archives and Pop Culture: What Makes an Archivist event led by our student archivist Myra Khan held on February 22, 2021, and many more we have planned for the month of March. If you would like to learn more about our events please check out the CDA Facebook or Instagram page to learn more about our events.
Most importantly the purpose of this initiative is to create community archivists who want to start up or continue the work we are doing at ASU Library in order to address the long standing issue of the lack of representation of marginalized communities in Arizona archives. If you would like to learn more about the work CDA is doing please contact us at email@example.com or follow our news and blog to hear from myself and our student archivists.
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:
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 Online. ASU 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month we feature a write up from Jennifer Merry and Isabel Cazares who are Archivists with the Arizona Historical Society, Library, Archives & Collection department at the Arizona Heritage Center, Papago Park location. Jennifer is also a Director at Large with AzAA. Jennifer and Isabel discuss the challenges AHS faced in 2020 and how they as an institution overcame them and how AHS is looking forward to tackling the challenges 2021 brings to their institution. We thank Jennifer and Isabel for providing this year in review write up.
As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 2020,” and while we all might want this year in our rearview mirrors, a reflection on its lessons will help us build strategies for a great new year. Last year, we had big plans and hopes and dreams, and instead we got a global pandemic that left us scrambling to change our workflows and tasks to meet a new set of challenges. But meet them we did! At the Arizona Historical Society Library and Archives (AHS), we took the challenge of 2020 and ran with it.
Rewinding back to January, access to collections was available in-person, staff support was for our journal or exhibit program, and digital projects from the archives consisted of online collections. During our museum closure, from roughly March-June, we continued to provide access to our research material remotely, while considering how to revise our workflows to incorporate more digital resources and programming. We found ourselves pivoting to host more digitally inclusive programs supported by archival efforts, increased distance collaboration with our patrons, and have on-going serious discussions of what library and archives digital initiatives should look like. We conducted an Oral History Workshop hosted by library and archives staff in July that gave our archivists a chance to digitally get up close and personal with our staff and patrons to teach proper interview methods.
Staff’s technical skills increased in leaps and bounds with Zoom meetings. We found collaboration flowing through the ethernet cables and out into our Arizona communities. At the same time, the challenges of providing collection access without being in-person and concerns over protecting staff, patrons, and collections in our spaces were front and center. These brought to mind the fundamentals of archives: access and preservation. Access expanded virtually but physical collection access was limited beyond the norm. AHS’s answer was to increase our time with the patron via email or phone in the archival interview process: What are you looking for in your research? Can a synopsis of the information help you? Can I send them targeted scans of the collection that will be helpful?
When we did open to the public once again in October, we relied on our institutional reopening plan and archival-focused materials such as OCLC’s REALM reports. We limited numbers and quarantined collections to tread the line of access and preservation of not only collections but people’s health. At the same time our new initiatives in digitization this year also extended our reach and preservation abilities. With the help of a CARES grant, we were able to pursue microfilm digitization to supply patrons with valuable research materials across state lines. While all of these seem like wonderful initiatives, it is important to highlight the time and focus these efforts took away from other concerns such as collection processing. A big concern for us has become how to maintain our current outreach while still addressing the everyday needs of our archives. The answer might be in the creative ways the various Arizona archives have collaborated in the past and in the present, which brings to mind the upcoming year’s summit that will benefit from the reach of the digital world. AHS is definitely looking forward to the collaboration!
In the meantime, what lessons will AHS take into the new year?
● Communication between our staff and our patrons needs to stay strong as the uncertainties of 2020 linger in 2021.
● Digital access of materials does not mean everything is online, but enough to create a pathway to our door.
● Maintaining our relevance in the chaos is always possible if our mission and vision statements guide us.
● Collaboration can lead to new avenues of success.
The challenge has been laid down, AZAA community! Take a look at your institution’s 2020 year in hindsight and get inspired. The relevancy of archives is growing in the minds of Arizonans. How do we reach out this year to support, grow, and thrive in our communities?
Happy New Year!
This month we feature a write up regarding how you can become a member of AzAA and the benefits of membership to the association. Additionally, this post also offers information on how you can support archives around the state of Arizona by donating to AzAA. This post comes from AzAA’s Director at Large/Membership Coordinator, Lisa Duncan, who is currently a Collection Management Archivist and Instruction Coordinator at The University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections department. Thank you Lisa for providing this write up regarding membership benefits to AzAA.
There are many ways to become involved with Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) from attending our meetings or symposiums to joining our listserv to stay up to date on AzAA news. But the best way to receive all of the benefits of AzAA is to become a member. You receive free attendance and lunch at the annual symposium and Arizona Archives Summit, opportunity to attend our annual meetings, and networking opportunities with organization members from all over the state.
Your AzAA membership also provides assistance to Arizona archives and archivists, and promotes the use of Arizona’s archives. It allows AzAA to provide scholarships, workshops and programming open to archivists statewide on issues pertinent to Arizona archives and archivists. AzAA is devoted to training opportunities and professional development of staff members and volunteers at Arizona archives. It also helps to support Arizona Archives Online, the statewide finding aid consortium which you can read more about in the November 2020 AzAA blog.
Membership in the AzAA is open to anyone who works in, does research in, or supports Arizona’s archives; nonprofit organizations and businesses may also become members. AZAA is a 501(c)(3) organization, so membership dues are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. Memberships have many levels starting with Student at $10.00, Individual $20.00, Patron $50.00, Non Profit $30.00, and Business $100.00.
AzAA is able to support archives around the state because of your membership so join a community of Arizona archives enthusiasts and become a member today. To learn more visit: https://arizonaarchives.org/get-involved/become-a-member/.
If you would rather not join but would still like to support Arizona archives, you can also make a donation to AzAA. Learn more here: https://arizonaarchives.org/get-involved/make-a-donation/.
Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at email@example.com.
This month we feature a write up regarding the Arizona Archives Online (AAO) platform from AzAA Director at Large and AAO Liaison, Elizabeth Dunham, Associate Archivist at Arizona State University Library.
Arizona Archives Online (AAO) is a consortium of 15 cultural heritage institutions ranging from large universities to small museums dedicated to providing “free Internet access to descriptions of archival collections, preserved and made accessible by Arizona repositories … to inform, enrich, and empower the public by creating and promoting access to a vast array of primary sources across the state of Arizona.” As of November of 2020, AAO hosts nearly 4,000 guides authored and uploaded by its partners. Via AAO’s homepage, users can search the entire collection of guides at once, allowing them to locate resources of interest at multiple repositories through a single search. This functionality is particularly useful in cases where collections have become fragmented and several repositories hold different pieces. AAO exposes these guides for harvesting by ArchiveGrid, which makes them searchable as part of a database of over 5 million records contributed by more than 1,000 institutions. These guides can also be searched using Google, although less efficiently.
AAO was established in 2004 as a partnership between Arizona’s three major universities (Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University), the Arizona Historical Society’s Northern Division, and the Heard Museum. Its founders aimed to support and empower Arizona’s smaller and rural institutions by creating a consortia environment for hosting finding aids that would enable organizations with limited staffing and technological resources to make descriptions of their holdings available online.
The resource initially relied on grant funding and contributions from the three universities and the State Library for most of its financial support. This model proved unsustainable in large part due to its creation of periods of extremely minimal funding during which AAO struggled to survive. In 2012, the Steering Committee proposed major administrative changes designed to stabilize the resource, including implementing a dues structure and merging with the Arizona Archives Alliance so that the Alliance could serve as AAO’s fiscal agent. The logistics of paying AAO’s bills had long been problematic – because AAO was not incorporated, it could not have its own bank account. It thus had to rely on one of its members when money needed to change hands, often resulting in inefficiency and frustration. The proposed changes were adopted by unanimous vote of AAO’s members and the Alliance Board and AAO became a standing, self-governing committee of the Alliance in April of 2013. In 2017, AAO migrated from an Arizona State University server to a Digital Ocean instance, thus becoming near-fully independent.
AAO has been involved with several metadata initiatives over the course of its history. Most recently, it participated in the “Towards a National Finding Aid Network” (NAFAN) project as a Core Partner. Convened by the California Digital Library, this effort aims to fundamentally rethink finding aid aggregation in order to facilitate participation by a wider array of collaborators, expand collection description options beyond the finding aid, and meet the needs of a diverse set of end users. It also directly addresses issues of sustainability, including transitioning away from such outmoded technologies as the XTF framework that AAO and many other aggregators rely on and finding ways to ease the often heavy burdens of maintenance and migration. The initiative recently secured a $982,175 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to continue its work, and AAO looks forward to continued collaboration and improvement.
For more information, please feel free to contact AAO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the launch of the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! We are so excited to start this adventure and look forward to having this platform available to speak to the archives community in Arizona. We plan to post to this blog monthly to bring up messages not only from the AzAA board but hopefully from the archiving community around Arizona. If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at email@example.com
We start this blog with a message from our President, Shannon Walker, Assistant Archivist of University Archives at Arizona State University Library and University Archivist of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.
From the AzAA President:
Welcome to the AzAA Blog 2020! Well, this has been a bizarre year for all of us, both personally and professionally. In many ways, it is a precarious time to revive the AzAA blog, at the same time it is the perfect opportunity. We have known all along that our work as archivists is important to the communities we serve. Now, others are realizing the importance of what we do as we document life before, during, and after a global pandemic. This is a time where we are all aware of our humanity, our vulnerability, and resiliency. As archivists we are memory keepers, we are the ones who ensure that the experiences of this generation, or generations past, are not forgotten to future generations. We have also seen the rise of social justice issues and with them activism, protests, and riots, all important activities to participate and document.
Some may wonder, should we be addressing issues of social justice, isn’t it enough to worry about our backlog? Should we concern ourselves with racism, isn’t it enough to worry about our funding and staffing? Should we be thinking about equality, isn’t it enough to keep up with all of our patron inquiries? The answer is yes and all of the above! We should do our jobs with integrity, accuracy, and professionalism while keeping our eye on the bigger picture of “why” we do what we do.
We hope this blog will be a platform for engaging with you in great conversations about our roles as memory keepers. We plan to focus on a variety of topics, anything and everything we can think of! We will talk about ways archival institutions should or should not document issues of social justice. We will address ways that we have or have not represented marginalized communities in who we hire and what we collect. We will tackle the topic of inclusion and representation in archival records.
The goal of AzAA is to support the work you do, to inform you, to guide you, to inspire you, and to equip you. We always welcome your suggestions, ideas, and feedback on how we can better achieve these goals. Thank you for listening and engaging with us!