Category Archives: Repository Update

Policy Survey Report & June Chat

Two announcements from the A&A team focused around our recent policy survey project:

1.In the winter of last year, the Best Practices Subcommittee of the A&A Steering Committee gathered survey responses on institutional collection development policy work. A report on the survey is now available on the A&A microsite and contains a summary of results, aggregated data collected from survey answers, as well as anonymized individual responses.

Read the report: Collection Development Policy Survey.

The second phase of this project will be to create a resource package to help guide policy development. Subsequently, the Best Practices Subcommittee team is interested to hear what kinds of information would be useful for this resource.

2. This month, we’ll be dedicating our Third Thursday Twitter online chat to discuss the results of the survey and invite further feedback. Please note, that the date of this chat will be on June 22 (as a special “4th” Thursday) at the regular time, 4:00 PT/ 5:00 MT/   6:00 CT / 7:00 ET. Follow #appraisethis to join the chat.

While the report has been posted, the Twitter chat will frame open questions so folks can participate even if you don’t get the chance to read the document ahead of time! This chat is an opportunity to talk to others about the survey results, talk to the survey creators, and provide any further feedback about collection development policy-making.

If you are unable to join the chat but still want to provide feedback on this project, please contact the Best Practices Subcommittee Co-Chairs, Marcella Huggard (mdwiget@gmail.com) and Julie May (julie.ilene.may@gmail.com).

For further background information on the survey, check out this earlier post.

Repository Update: FROGG records at Brooklyn Historical Society

Written by Julie I. May, Managing Director of Library & Archives, Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn Historical Society receives many calls and emails from people interested in donating to our collections.  The Founder of the Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) called me one recent afternoon offering the organization’s records to the Library & Archives. It was immediately compelling due to the fact that the Gowanus Canal is a Superfund Site and records pertaining to that struggle would have high research value, but also that contemporary collections bring their own set of appraisal quandaries that require careful evaluation.

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Photo credit: Julie I. May, 2017

FROGG was founded by a long-time Gowanus resident in 2004 in opposition to developers who sought to replace low-rise industrial buildings with luxury condominiums and a strong proponent of designating the canal a Superfund site. The organization continues to lobby for the preservation of the neighborhood’s industrial buildings and to educate the public on the canal’s history. The 16-linear-foot collection consists of research files relating to development and environmental protection of the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, with the bulk of materials dating from the 2000s to the 2010s in mostly good condition including reports, clippings, photographs, protest signs, educational posters/maps, files on CD-ROMs, and artifacts from the 19th century and early 20th century.

I considered the records in relation to collection scope defined by BHS’s Collection Development Policy based on its 7 main principles:

Scope: the materials have enduring historical and cultural value that document Brooklyn, NY

  • Formats: the materials are published and printed materials including organizational records
  • Geography: the records pertain to Brooklyn, New York
  • Time period: the records document a period between the mid-17th century and the present day
  • Language: materials are in English
  • Subject areas: within the long list of subject areas we collect, the materials fall into Business & Industry, Geography, Land Use & Real Estate, Organizations, Politics & Public Affairs, and Social Action and Activism.  

Where things get tricky is the Collection Rationale articulated as Scholarly research value is the primary criterion for collecting materials; exhibit and educational value are also considered. Collecting foci are based upon our knowledge of researcher needs, and are guided by current strengths as well as areas where we see a need or opportunity to build the collection. Condition, extent, and preservation or conservation needs of materials, as well as our ability to meet those needs, are also considered in any collecting decision.

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Photo credit: Julie I. May, 2017

The records have research and educational value based on research trends observed in the reading room and from area teachers/faculty who bring their students to BHS for Library Seminars.  A search of existing collections reveals a few photographic collections of the Gowanus area but skimpy representation in other formats making this subject area neither a strength nor a need, but deeming most additions welcome. Despite the collection being stored in a basement of a low-lying geographic area, the materials showed very little signs of mold or other condition issues. However, several factors arise when we consider extent. The collection is a significant size for BHS, but in order to process the collection, we need to send it to our off-site storage facility in the meantime while we search for funding.

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Photo credit: Julie I. May, 2017

The organization is still in existence and would continue to send accruals to the collection on an occasional basis.  However, the organization lacks funds to support the retrieval, processing, rehousing, and maintenance of the collection. Since the bulk of the collection is 2000-2010, the processing archivist and I will need to carefully consider appraisal of the collection at a more granular level in order to keep only what BHS can responsibly care for.  Therefore, we will likely consider publications that are available elsewhere, clippings that are in poor condition and/or maintained by a digital repository, artifacts that lack provenance as candidates to return to the donor or for destruction, and closely consider other as yet unknown items that are  on the border but would usually be considered worthy of retaining.  While this is a more aggressive method to adopt when we seek to maintain contextual connections among records and acknowledge the organization’s collection logic, contemporary collections offer this as a sustainable option for BHS given our staff, financial, and space resources.

 

Thanks to A&A Steering Committee member, Julie, for submitting this article. The A&A team is currently seeking submissions for more “repository updates” to feature on the blog. New writers welcome. 

Repository Update: Women’s March on Denver

Written by Jamie Seemiller, Acquisitions Archivist, Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Department

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WH2371

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WH2371

On Saturday January 21, 2017, over 100,000 people flooded the streets in downtown Denver to protest. The Women’s March on Denver was one of many marches across the country in collaboration with the Women’s March on Washington. The march took place at the door step of the Denver Public Library. As the Acquisitions Archivist in the Western History and Genealogy Department (WHG), I felt that this event gave us a unique opportunity to reach new donors and to preserve the history of the event.

On Sunday, we posted a donation call on the WHG Facebook page. The post reached 25,440 people and was shared 234 times within the next few weeks. We received over 250 emails that resulted in donations of over 1,200 digital photos/videos, 105 protest signs and 12 pieces of ephemera such as “pussy” hats, buttons, and artwork.

In an average year I have about 80 in person donor meetings and receive several hundred emails and phone requests, so this kind of response was exciting and overwhelming. While we normally review every potential donation in a staff acquisitions committee meeting, we decided to forgo our normal procedure. We felt it was more important to encourage “citizen archivists” and engage with the community.

During the collecting phase, I corresponded with donors by email, phone and in person. I strive to have every donor sign a gift form and to give me background about the items they were donating. In order to manage the flow of donors and materials coming into the library, we created two excel spreadsheets one for the physical materials and one for digital donations. We had a volunteer inventory the physical materials. Meanwhile, I documented the digital donations and downloaded them on our server. Each individual donation was placed in a folder with the donor’s name in order to track their provenance.

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WH2371

Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, WH2371

The next step was to appraise the collection. First, we decided to review any materials without a gift form. For the digital material, any donation without an gift form was removed from the collection. This amounted to 18 donations and 160 digital photos. For the protest signs, we decided to keep signs that had a unique message or design. We kept 8 of the 40 signs that did not have gift forms.

Next we discussed how we are going to provide access to the collection. We agreed that we would like to have every donor represented in the online collection. We decided that we can not keep everything, but by curating the donations one by one we can fully represent the event and the individual stories that brought people to the march. While appraising the digital material a metadata spreadsheet was created for import into our digital collections, and a priority list for digitization of the physical materials. Any videos selected will be available on YouTube. We plan to share the collection with the public with a program and exhibit in September and to have the digital materials online this summer.

Note: This piece was  originally shared as a Collection Highlight in the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists Newsletter.

Repository update: Egyptian Postcard Collection

By Ryder Kouba, Rare Books and Special Collections Library, The American University in Cairo.

Since Herodotus, Egypt has drawn tourists interested in the Pyramids; however starting in the mid-19th century Europeans descended on Egypt to explore ruins, sail down the Nile, and relax in luxurious hotels. Documenting the travel literature about Egypt has long been an important collecting area of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the American University in Cairo; guidebooks and travel accounts make up the bulk of our collection, but we recently made turn-of-the-century postcards, the most visually interesting material, available in our digital library. The postcards are largely from the Golden Age of Travel, and are a visual representation of what visitors to Egypt were interested in, and will support travel writing courses offered to AUC undergraduates. The images also help document Egypt’s architectural heritage, which has been eroded over the past 50 years (an extreme example is the collapse of a lovely Art Noveau apartment building in my neighborhood a few weeks ago); many of the famous hotels depicted no longer exist, but were at one time world famous.

The postcards, and much Western material we have about Egypt, is also found in other libraries and digital collections (AUC was founded in 1919 and so has a bit of a late start). For me, this can be helpful regarding metadata, but also raises questions about what to digitize and place in our digital library. We’ve also expanded our travel literature collection with our web archiving activities, which provides a fun challenge given the amount of material available for collection within a limited budget.

Write for us!

The A&A Section seeks guest writers to submit short pieces for our blog. Our “Repository Updates” series allows you to share your recent adventures in appraisal and acquisition. Content could include but is not limited to: experiences tackling a new acquisition, reviewing collections for deaccessioning, donor relations, and concerns, challenges or positive appraisal decisions. So tell us your A&A stories!

We have created an online form to guide these blog pieces: https://goo.gl/EstuSx

Have another other idea for a submission? Please get in touch!

New writers welcome!

Repository update: ecumenical records in a religious archives

Kira Baker is the current Social Media Intern for the A&A Section. Having earned her Master’s degree from the University of Toronto iSchool in 2015, she has since been working as an Archives Assistant at the United Church of Canada Archives in Toronto, Canada.

My current role as Archives Assistant for the United Church of Canada Archives (UCCA) is working with the records of General Council, the national court of the United Church of Canada. Recent collections work has focused on processing a backlog of “inter-church” records which describe various types of ecumenical organizations made up of cooperating Christian churches that the United Church has been involved with through staff affiliation and grant funding. The types of inter-church records in our holdings range from local chapters of the Lord’s Day Alliance, 1896-1917, (dedicated to preserving Sunday as the day of rest) to the Canadian Methodist Historical Society, 1976-2007. Several collections relate to social justice and activist groups from more recent decades; some of my personal favorites include the Inter-Faith Committee to Support Farm Workers, Inter-Church Committee on Chile (created in response to human rights abuses under the Pinochet dictatorship), and the Movement for Christian Feminism.

Pamphlet for Movement for Christian Feminism workshop , 1979. (UCCA 2016.106C)

Pamphlet for Movement for Christian Feminism workshop , 1979. (UCCA 2016.106C)

The collection I am now in the midst of, however, turns out to not really be inter-church at all. Over the course of United Church history (established from antecedent denominations uniting in 1925) there have been talks initiated with the Anglican Church of Canada regarding unification into a single church, the last major General Commission on Union ending in 1974 when the Anglican Church withdrew. While these records consist of joint committees with staff from both churches, these records needn’t have been labelled inter-church and should be linked with our other records of church union committees. To note, this collection had some arrangement and description work completed, with a finding aid created in the early 1980s. However, the last six boxes were unsorted and appear to have been an accession that was later tacked on.

A batch of boxes waiting for my attention.

A batch of boxes waiting for my attention.

Decision-making concerning reappraisal has largely dealt with the overwhelming number of duplicate copies of records. Duplicate meeting minutes, reports, and papers, as well as copies of published materials that can also be found in our reference library. I suspect the original processing focused more on item level description than appraisal of the collection as a whole. The removal of these duplicates has paired down the collection quite a bit and has made the remaining records easier to navigate for researchers. Minutes, correspondence, reports and draft versions of the Commission and subcommittees make up the bulk the records remaining in the collection. Another portion of records includes essays and response pieces collected by the Commission on the subject of union between these churches and Christian union abroad. The Commission recruited those who would specifically respond to Commission documents and statements to gather feedback and consultation. While some of these records have been selected for removal, other pieces, especially those direct response papers, remain with the collection, demonstrating not only opinions towards issues of union but also the methods of the Commission.

Freeing up coveted shelf space.

Freeing up coveted shelf space.

Moreover, this processing work coincides with a large incoming deposit of records from the national offices expected in the next few months that has required the UCCA to reassess the current records storage capacity. The timing of initially carrying out a records survey and processing the inter-church records backlog has helped provide staff with a better understanding of those record collections and thinking about how these ecumenical collections connect with other records in the archives and contribute to our collection mandate.

As I am writing this post, the processing is not yet completed but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel and I look forward to the finished product!

Interested in sharing your own repository update? Get in touch: appraisalsaa@gmail.com.