Editor’s Note: This blog post comes to us from Saige Blanchard, a library student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. Saige completed an internship with Special Collections in conjunction with her archival processing classes, and as part of her portfolio work, she’s written a summary of her experiences.
This semester I had the wonderful opportunity to complete an archival internship with Marc Carlson and the rest of the University of Tulsa Special Collections staff. This experience introduced me to the many phases of archival processing. The goal of my internship was to create a finding aid for the Gus Welch Papers, a collection that the university acquired in 1995. In this blog post I will outline and describe the course of my adventure in processing the Gus Welch Papers.
As a student eager to please it can be a bit intimidating when you’re handed a completely unarranged archival collection and expected to make something of it. That feeling doesn’t last forever! With some help from my TU mentors I was able to find direction in my work, starting with an initial analysis of the collection. There were originally 3 boxes in this collection, filled with items in no particular order. I took a few weeks to look through the items and become familiar with them, which was really interesting. It’s super easy to get invested in correspondence and memorabilia! There were several times I found myself admiring handwriting, analyzing clothing styles in old photos, and fishing for familiar names in publications. It was especially fun learning about Gus Welch, Jim Thorpe, and Native American sports history!
The next step I took was locating duplicate items and creating some sort of logical arrangement for the collection. There are hundreds of newspaper clippings in this collection, so finding duplicates in those took me a long time! It was nice, though, because I became extremely familiar with the clippings and what sort of stories they covered. As for arrangement, I tried organizing the items in groupings that shared the same format. Looking at the finding aid you can see these groupings as series. Once I had decided on arrangement categories I physically put each one together and further organized them alphabetically and/or chronologically.
At this point I was ready to start processing the items in a finding a id. This phase of the internship was exciting because I was finally able to use things I’ve learned in library school first hand, such as Describing Archives, a Content Standard and Library of Congress Subject Headings. Within each series every item (besides individual newspaper clippings) has a designated identification record. I manually created these records, in addition to titling them, inputting a unique identifier, selecting their language and dates of creation (when applicable), and including any additional notes pertaining to their scope and content. I would say that I was most attentive about the unique identifiers, since these are how researchers are able to locate items within the collection.
For me, one of the most complicated and fun parts was naming and describing the photographs. At first I couldn’t tell how much detail I needed to put into the descriptions, since they are visual objects. I decided to include any written notations on the photographs as well as any identifiable figures. This seems like the type of information a researcher would find most important and if they were eager to see the photographs they could always visit the collection! Luckily I’ve done my fair share of research, so it was easy to put myself in their shoes.
I’m wrapping up my internship by double, triple, and quadruple checking my work and then officially housing the documents. When I’m finished each series will be divided into folders and those will be in boxes. Each box will have a barcode and a unique identifier. It’s so organized, I love it! I’ve had a blast doing this internship and if my future holds archival work I will be very happy. I am also proud of the work I accomplished up in the tower this semester. Thank you so much, TU!
You can view the finding aid for the Gus Welch Papers at this link. If you’d like to request scans, please contact Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.