Never a dull moment at the archives.
Last week I began circulating the draft collection policy I’ve been working on. I think is it pretty good, pretty comprehensive, but we’ll see what comments come back. I may have mentioned in an earlier post my realization that we are simultaneously an archives and a records center, as are many town and city repositories like us, so that requires a broader view of our collections. The records center is not up to date on a lot of records, and I suspect this results from (1) not having an archivist for a number of months, (2) decisions by records creators to just keep stuff on their computers or in the cloud without any formal structure, and (3) not having a formal and agreed upon retention schedule in place. So my next big project is going to be to tackle getting the retention schedule drafted, approved and instituted.
Since my last post, I visited the Montgomery County Historical Association and the Kensington Historical Association and had detailed chats with the archivist/librarian in both. Picked up some good ideas and shared some of my own thoughts. Always good to know your neighbors. It was good to see the web-based PastPerfect software in operation as well as the creative use of historical card catalog cabinets to catalog and make collections available to the public. Also impressed with the use of volunteers and the emphasis on genealogical research resources for folks coming in. Got some good ideas on processing and cataloging obits and other life events of the local citizenry. And don’t we all have too many superfluous photographs in our collections? Weeding them based on duplication and photos whose subjects can no longer be identified is required. But weeding then becomes such an exercise in sentimentality.
Figured out last week that PastPerfect can download to an Excel file and already knew that Excel files can be uploaded to ArchivesSpace. Not that it’s as easy as I stated, and not that there won’t be glitches since it’s likely not a 1:1 conversion. But PastPerfect, your days may be numbered, baby. The conversion, or even the potential conversion will be the subject of its own extensive study and blog post.
Another idea from the visits. Are we (Garrett Park, that is) evolving towards a historical association and not just an archives? We have several boxes of 3-D artifacts taking up valuable shelf space and not enough shelf space for document boxes which are our actual stock in trade. Does the whole idea of GLAM convergence mean that for small operations we become all things to all people? And we converge as we all become more digital and less non-digital in our holdings? So much of the research on this phenomenon is being done by the Canadians and the Australians. Americans are behind but we need to catch up. I was thinking the other day about how records collections not maintained current become artifacts, museum pieces, time capsules that are useful in their own right, but that fall short when it comes to legal and historical reasons for keeping records in the first place. Also thinking we need to physically segregate town records we are obliged to keep from other archival collections. We might need more space one day soon. OK. That’s that for now.
Because the position was gapped for so long, we decided to use the money in the budget to spruce up the place a bit. New workstations, better lighting, new tables for volunteers and for processing of collections, new chairs (OMG, the folding chairs we have are so uncomfortable!), archival and office supplies for the next year, oral history equipment (headphones, recorders, etc.). Nothing is as fun as shopping! We’ll take photos when it all arrives, is assembled and in place.
Finally, next week I’m driving to Leesburg for the annual meeting VA/MD Caucus of MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference). Will be fun and enlightening hanging out with archivists throughout the immediate region.