It’s been a while since the last entry. Three weeks of basically closing out the fiscal year and shopping for archives stuff! It has been a fun, though tedious and tiresome four and five-day work week. Not exactly what I signed up for, but there are those times when a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Next week I return to two days a week. More about that later.
We replaced the ugly and uncomfortable metal folding chairs and the wooden ones with better chairs for our researchers and volunteers. We replaced old folding leg tables with nice ones from IKEA. We replaced my falling apart desk with a nice IKEA corner unit. Two new laptops, new Hollinger boxes, at least two years worth, acid-free copy paper in all the right sizes, acid- free folders to last for years, digital recording equipment for oral history interviewing, toner for the printer for at least a year, a new metal 15-drawer cabinet for maps and posters, and last but not least, a sliding storage unit for our collection! I tweeted it a couple of weeks ago here! (more photos to follow next week)
I need this X5 Storage Solutions Steel Sliding Storage System from Gaylord for my archives! pic.twitter.com/M6rHj4fode
— Garrett Park MD Archives (@garrettparkarch) June 15, 2018
All this new stuff sets several things in motion and begins the strategic planning we really need to do.
Meanwhile, during the same period I drafted a new collection policy and made contact with Maryland records management folks about revising our retention schedules. I also met some cool archivists at a MARAC Virginia and Maryland Caucus get together in Leesburg, and more cool archivists at a Maryland Historical Trust – Preservation Maryland meeting in Hyattsville. Oh yeah, and I went to my first Town Council meeting (no one could have prepared me for the contentiousness I witnessed there) and I hosted a meeting of the Archives Advisory Committee in the archives (that was not well attended, though we convinced ourselves we had a quorum and I missed the final meeting of an oral history workshop to attend and host it).
And I completed a rudimentary inventory of all our collections, primarily to identify junk and stuff that need to go somewhere to storage. But now I know what we have. Along the way, I peeped into most of the boxes, especially the oblong and odd-shaped boxes, weeding more junk and artifacts that need a different type of home. And I spent a couple of days just cleaning and sweeping, almost like a Navy field day!
- The new map and poster case needs to be assembled and installed. That won’t be able to happen until after the 4th of July because I’ll need the maintenance guys to help me and they are tied up until after the 4th. Hopefully we can get that done week after next.
- The new sliding storage unit arrives July 18. In anticipation of its arrival, the old shelving needs to be removed and their contents organized in a way to make it ready to go into the new storage system, Also, before the new storage system arrives, I’d like to paint out the space against the back wall that it will fill, since painting there will be more difficult once the new system is installed. (This is the stuff an archivist does in between archiving tasks!)
- I’ll need to figure out where we can put the seven shelves that will be replaced by the new storage unit. Can we sell them? Can we get permission to store them somewhere to hold all the artifacts and junk previously mentioned? The second is the best option.
- I did a preliminary inventory of the oral history collection. The majority are transcribed and catalogued, but many are still on cassette tapes that were never converted to digital audio files, and a few were converted to digital files but never transcribed. The best option is going to be to get volunteers involved in all the phases of the oral history production but close supervision will be required.
BHAG (Big, hairy, audacious goals).
- It may have to happen on my off days, but I am fascinated by the prospect of producing oral histories from a neighboring community, Kengar. Kengar is a small all black community (well, increasingly less all black as gentrification of a minor kind occurs) wedged between Garrett Park and Kensington. How did we never include them in our archiving? How did Kensington never include them? A clear case of segregation in the archives. Nothing insurmountable, of course, it happened throughout the south and the mid-Atlantic states during America’s experience with apartheid. It may even present some grants funding opportunities. I’ll get it started on my own dime, visiting the community’s two churches, seeing if there is interest among the community for such a project.
- On that subject, but not related to Garrett Park at all, I’ve been corresponding with a history professor who specializes in the history of religious movements, especially Muslim groups in the U.S. Folks from my youth know of my teenage interest (more like fascination) in historical figures Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, Elijah Muhammad, and that whole era. Turns out the Nation of Islam and its members are one of the few groups that has never been “radicalized” in the present era of radicalization of Islamic groups. Why is that? And does this inquiry lend itself to some oral history opportunities?
- Boxes are in need of replacement, folders need to be converted to acid-free ones, and related or similar collections may require consolidation and re-cataloging.
- By the end of the calendar year, I hope to have completed a draft plan to begin converting sub-collections from PastPerfect to ArchivesSpace. By the end of FY 2019, I’d like to be well on the way to completing the conversion. PastPerfect has lots of issues. Will go into more details in subsequent postings, but suffice it to say here that PastPerfect was not originally intended for archives, and the back fit was awkward at best.
- There are a ton of office records in the attic, going back at least 14 years. But God is it hot up there! We may need to postpone until the weather is cooler, but we need to go through those files in place, pull out what’s archivable, pull out what’s required to retain by law and the retention schedule, and toss the rest.
I think I will stop here.
Postscript. WooHoo! A new business card!