Sunday, October 28, 2012


My work at the archive can be split into two categories: organizing materials, and accessioning materials. I have spoken mostly about the physical organizing of the archive the most because that is my favorite part of the work.  However, accessioning also plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the archive.

To accession our materials we use the program Past Perfect. This is a completely new tool for the archive, so we must accession every object and file for the first time into the program. The program is fairly simple to use, but the extent of information it requires can be overwhelming. The most obvious bits of information that are required include, the donors' names, the object type, the date of origin, and the location of the object in the archive.  Before I began working with the program I knew that these details would be important to the accession file, however, I did not realize how many more details are also needed. For example, my name is an important part of the filing as it tells the next accession operator who was the last person to work with the object. Also the date of the actual accessioning activity is an important indicator. If something unfortunate should happen and the object becomes lost, one can refer to the accession information to find when the object was last seen. Every bit of information that I enter that is based partially on opinion requires my name and the date. For example, when I enter in the overall condition of the object I must include my name and the date. If another person should do a reassessment, they must override my name and date as well. These are just a few of the details I would never have considered if it had not been for the Past Perfect program.
There is also a section of the accessioning that often gives us the most challenge. Along with the details of the physical object we must also include keywords that apply to the object. This is to create a searchable archive that a researcher might use to find certain objects of interest. To apply the keywords we much choose from a list of programmed words. Often the words we need are not listed. When this happens we much insert new terms into the program, and ensure that we do not repeat our insertions to ensure that the search program works properly. In addition, there are 4 types of searchable categories that must be completed in this manner. Although this step is difficult, it gives our archive an additional facet that can contribute greatly to the research capabilities of the archive.

I find that the most enjoyable part of accessioning is going through old accession files and editing them so that they fit with the new files better. I like to double check the old files to ensure that everything is properly spelled and that all the keywords are suitable. I feel that it gives be a broader sense of the state of the archive as a whole. In this way I can fashion the archive so that it is a better structured whole.

Although I always prefer working with the actual objects, once I start doing many accessions I also find it to be an enjoyable part of the archive process.

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