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Archives Practicum Journal

Monique Lloyd
Emporia State University
August 14, 2006 – December 6, 2007

Week One

I will be processing the James A. Sewell photographic album. The album is


made up entirely of images he took as a student at Oregon Agricultural College.
In addition to portrait and group shots of football team players, these photographs
document a football game at Bell Field, cadet formations on campus, the women’s
basketball team, track and field events, and a student trip to the Oregon Coast.
The album also contains exterior and interior views of campus buildings,
including several shots of a men’s physical education class inside the Armory
building (currently the Valley Gymnastics Center).

James A. Sewell studied mechanical engineering at Oregon Agricultural College


from 1901-1903.

The album was purchased from an antiquities shop for $1,000.

The only other information about James A. Sewell is what is written in the album
“James A. Sewell, Hillsboro, OR”.

I spent this week searching through Oregon State University Alumni Directory,
microfilm of the Registrar’s Office Academic Record Locator Cards, and the
Registrar’s Office Record/Student Academic Records for the appropriate years but
did not find any more information about James A. Sewell.

Week Two

I continued my search through OSU archival records including the Student


Record Ledger and Engineering Association Records but have still not found
anything at all about James A. Sewell. I’m getting frustrated.

I interviewed Karl McCreary, Staff Archivist for Arrangement, Description and


Cataloging, who explained what accessioning, processing, and appraising mean
and the steps involved. This part of archival work is very precise and it is
important to be meticulous about details. It also involves making important
decisions about the collections and this work is essentially done in isolation.
It is very linear but I can see its appeal as there are sometimes unexpected
surprises as one examines the collection.
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Week Three

I began the week by interviewing Elizabeth A. Nielsen, Senior Staff Archivist


I had read the article Tiah had recommended about minimal processing and
Elizabeth explained how priority is determined. OSU gets approximately 30-40
collections per year and which is processed first is based on the institution’s goals.

Elizabeth showed me a box of documents which were in folders with sturdy,


typed labels but there not non-acidic. Will they be re-foldered? No. There is
nothing to show that they are being damaged where they are now. It would take a
fair amount of labor to re-folder them all.

When she said that my hands being to itch. I wanted to reach in there and start re-
foldering, boring as that task might be. I wanted everything perfect.

In the introduction to Understanding Archives and Manuscripts, O’Toole and Cox


state that the primary goals are preservation, organization, and access. The goals
are not beauty and perfection. I need to remember that.

Week Four

Tiah gave me several articles on archival organization and description she wanted
me to read and we discussed them. I am becoming more familiar with basic terms
and understanding the framework more.

I am re-thinking how to approach the problem of finding out who James Sewell
was. My only real clue is that he was from Hillsboro, Oregon and I will begin to
approach it using genealogy resources. I realize that, if I were a “real archivist” I
might not have the luxury of time to work on this. I may find that I am once again
facing a dead end and have to recognize that I may never find out much about
who he was.

Week Five

I searched the social security death index, the WW1draft registration forms, the
1900 census and the 1910 census records. I found nothing in the social security
death index but they are notoriously incomplete. I did, however, find a WW1
draft registration form for a James Sewell born in 1881 which would make him
the right age. The information includes that he was a farmer in Hillsboro, he was
married, and he had blue eyes and red hair.

I have sent an email to the Washington County Historical Society asking if they
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have any information on a James A Sewell of Hillsboro. The response I received


states that a relative of his will contact me later this week. Can it be that I’ve
found him that easily?

Week Six

Yes! I did find him! I was contacted by his niece. Her aunt was Mabel Sewell,
wife of James Sewell. He was the descendent of a pioneer Oregon family. She
confirmed that he had attended OAC at the beginning of the century,
had not graduated, and had spent his life on the family farm with his wife. He had
no children and the farm was later sold and is now part of a subdivision. She has
emailed me photographs of him, including one taken while he was a student at
OAC, as well as a copy of his obituary.

She also found it curious that his album had been found in Baltimore but said that
after Mabel died, he had remarried and his second wife had outlived him. Items
from the estate may very well been sold, including the album.

I am assembling all of this information in a file.

Week Seven

I have spent this week trying to research some of the people, buildings, and
events in the photographs. I’ve determined that there are some photographs
of the OAC’s first basketball team and have been able to identify some of the
players by name. One looked very young and a quick search determined that
he was only sixteen years old. I also found some descriptions of the games
in old yearbooks. Karl and Elizabeth were able to identify some of the buildings
for me.

I’m working with Elizabeth, familiarizing myself with OSU finding aids both on
paper and on-line, specifically looking at photo, photo album, and scrapbook
collections. I am focusing on the level of description; the scrapbook will be
described at the item level. I am also reviewing DACS.

I have begun writing the finding aid as a general text in Word and describing at
the item level. I had thought that this would be much more detailed but realized
after examining other finding aids that the descriptions are rather general. There
are, however, almost 90 of them so I expect it will take some time.

There are still some questions, however. What do I do when there are two
photographs that are identical? The photographs are numbered but some are out
of order, some numbers are skipped, and there are some photographs missing.
Elizabeth is patiently answering all my questions.
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Week Eight

Elizabeth is reviewing my finding aid as I work through the album. Next week
I’ll begin encoding. I did a little bit of this for Larry when I was a student worker
but I found it confusing and complicated.

Week Nine

I’ve begun by reviewing the EAD Application Guidelines. I wish I’d done this
when I was a student worker. This gives me a clear idea of what I’ll be doing and
why. Elizabeth gave me a couple of lessons and explained not only how to do it
but the why behind it and that helped me a great deal.

Week Ten

I have spent the entire week encoding the finding aid. This is tedious work but
I’m feeling much more comfortable using X-Metal. Elizabeth showed me how I
could check each time I entered something to see if I had done it correctly. This
is reassuring to me because I know that if I’ve made an error I’ll discover it
immediately and will only have to re-check a small portion of my work.

Week Eleven

The finding aid is encoded! The next step will be to scan all of the photographs in
the album as this scrapbook will be made into a webpage.

I am also examining a number of different digital exhibit websites to determine


what I liked and what I didn’t. I was especially intrigued with this
onehttp://www.suitcaseexhibit.org/indexhasflash.html and kept returning to it
again and again.

I find scanning incredibly boring but I’ve realized that I can now examine each of
the photographs carefully as the scans show details that were easy to miss before.
I’ve also realized that there is some damage to the photographs. Perhaps it would
have been better to scan them at the very beginning of the project and then I could
have worked with the scans which would have meant they weren’t handled as
much.

I also realize that after all these weeks I feel as if I know the people in the
photographs and think of them as old friends. There are still some mysteries.
There is one photograph of a plant and I was able to determine that it was a
cystanthemum but why it is in the album is unknown. There are a number of
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photographs of cadets and I had to wonder how many of them later fought in
World War I, how many came back, and how many didn’t. Some of these
students probably died in the great flu pandemic. Many probably lived
long and happy lives. James Sewell lived on his family farm until his death at age
78.

Week Twelve

The scanning of the individual photographs are finished but as I want to do a


digital webpage which will show the album as an album, allowing the viewer
to turn pages, I’ve begun scanning once again but this time page by page.

The library’s digital webteam has quite a few projects ahead in the queue so
Tiah and I continue thinking about how we want to put the webpage together.

Annotated Bibliography
Boles, F. (2005 ). Selecting and appraising manuscripts. Society of American

Archivists: Chicago, IL.

Boles describes what he believes an archives should select materials for their

collections. He begins with the idea that selection should be based on the archives’

mission and that is dependent which one of two types of repository it is. If it is an

institutional archives then its primary purpose for existence is to document the life and

work of an institution. If, on the other hand, it is a collecting repository, then the records

it collects deal with a certain circumscribed subject area. His book describes a six step

model for selection that included defining goals and understanding the scope of the

repository's collections; determining the types of records; prioritizing materials to

acquire; defining the functions and documentary levels to acquire; selecting records

based upon the above steps; and periodic updating of the selection model.
.

Erickson, P. and Schuster, R. (Winter,1995). Beneficial shocks: the place of processing-

cost analysis in archival administration. American Archivist, 58: 32-53.

The authors propose that a cost analysis is both appropriate and beneficial to do when

considering whether or not to process archival materials. The paper is a detailed analysis

of an ongoing processing-cost analysis at the Billy Graham Center Archives which

concludes that summaries of statistical reports would help archives determine what is

acceptable for costs and what isn’t.

Fleckner, J.A. (1991). “Dear Mary Jane”: some reflections on being an archivist.

American Archivist 54: 8-13.


This presidential address delivered in August, 1990 during SAA’s 54th annual meeting in

Seattle by John A. Fleckner of the Smithsonian Institution was in the form of three letters

written to Mary Jane Apel, a volunteer and intern in the Archives Center of the

Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, who was considering a

career in archives as she entered graduate school. In the first he explains how ended up

becoming an archivist, describing how he processed a collection, “a well-defined task to

accomplish, a product to produce, techniques and methods for proceeding, and standards

against which my work would be judged. There was rigor and discipline; this was real

work.” In his second letter he expresses what it means to him to be an archivist and that

his work now consists primarily of finding ways to facilitate the work of others. The

third letter, he talks about the profession of archivists and the importance of their role as

being essential to a democratic society.

Foster, A.L. (2006, October). MPLP and photograph collections. Midwest Archives

Conference. More Product, Less Process: Reducing Archival Backlog and

Rethinking Traditional Collections Processing. Omaha, NE

Retrieved from http://www.midwestarchives.org/2006_Fall/presentations.html

August 16, 2007

This powerpoint presentation by Anne Foster, a part of the Midwest Archives

Conference held in Omaha in 2007, focuses on how MPLP relates to photograph

collections. The idea is to “do as little as possible”. Processing guidelines

included using numbers provided, not sleeving and refoldering only if brittle or

absent, rely on donor arrangement, and be aware of hot topics for researchers

including minorities, ethnotechnology, and global warming.


Fox, M. and Wilkerson, P.L. (1998) Introduction to archival organization and

description. Getty Information Institute: Los Angeles, CA.

Another classic article which discusses the basic archival principles of respect du fonds

and provenance and the importance of assembling documentation about collections so

that users may understand a collections scope and content. This article is an excellent

introduction to forming a framework to understand basic archival terms.

Holmes, O.W. (1964, January). Archival arrangement: five different operations at

five different levels. American Archivist, 27, 21-41.

This classic article on archival arrangement describes the order in which records should

be placed in containers and how they should be labeled and shelved in five levels

(depository, record, series, filing, and document). This maintains control and is the key

the archivist uses to ensure that the two primary archival goals of provenance and order

are maintained.

Schellenberg, T.R. (1965). The management of archives. Columbia University Press,

New York, NY

This classic work is presented in two parts. The first focuses on the development of

principles and techniques and gives a brief history of archives, how it relates to

librarianship and includes the evolution of archival methodology and primary principles.

The section deals with the application of these principles and techniques.

Weber. B. Archival descriptions standards: concepts, principles, methodologies.


American Archivist 52 (fall, 1989), 504-513.

The author begins with defining archival description and summarizes the three levels

currently being used (data structure, data content, and data value) and discusses the future

of archival descriptive standards. The article foresees the expanding use of the MARC

format and the effect it will have on how archivits will be able to collect and disseminate

information.

Yakel, E., Shaw, S. & Reynolds, P. (2007). Creating the next generation of archival

finding aids. D-Lib Magazine, 13 (5/6) 1-8.

This article describes how online finding aids still look very much like their paper

counterparts and discusses how the online collaborate technologies along with web 2.0

technologies may change that. It does this using the “Polar Bear Expedition Digital

Collections” as a test collection and concludes that further study is needed to determine if

these tools will be effective in making archival information more accessible in the virtual

environment.