Friday, August 27, 2010

Tying Up Loose Ends

I have been writing this post in my head for about a week. As is the case in any work transition, it has been hectic wrapping up the work and planning to move back East. But, I have been thinking, in a very user-centric way, how to best present everything I've learned about the New Park Mining Company records and how to instruct those who come after me to do the same.

Since my last blog post, I have accomplished two big goals:
1. I wrote a finding aid based on the descriptions in the inventory of the collection (in Word and not EAD, as I would have liked, but that's another story that involves the Archivists' Toolkit and a great deal of sighing), and
2. I developed a plan with step-by-step instructions on how to keep the collection moving along after I've gone.

Earlier today, during my last meeting with Emily the Archivist, I mentioned that my favorite part of the post-processing work was the research and writing of the History and Scope and Content Note portions of the finding aid. I also enjoyed writing the series and subseries descriptions because the conciseness of those sections really made me focus on the nuggets that would attract researchers.

Because I had done a portion of the processing (along with three other History Chicks) and reviewed the meatiest records (the 20 boxes of General Files, those marvelous journals, and the oversized items) during the description process, I had a feeling of what needed to go into the up-front sections of the finding aid. Along the way, I had photocopied items and kept a running Company History file of my own, which I passed along to Emily during our meeting.

At slow points during my three hours of front desk coverage this week, I combed the Past Perfect database for related images in the museum's collection (for potential exhibits and for the Related Materials section of the finding aid). I used the personal names, corporate names, and subjects from the Keywords and Search Terms section of the finding aid to research the photos. It was especially useful to sort by Description field because all the terms are indexed in that field. I was rewarded with approximately 50 images of predecessor mines, New Park Mining Company personnel, and plenty of exterior photos of the company's holdings.

In writing the finding aid, I also described the arrangement of the collection and its series/subseries. This part of the process was greatly helped by all the notes I'd taken along the way in the Moleskine notebooks my mother-in-law had given me for Christmas. I also had asked the others processing the collection to note on folders when arrangements changed or differed from others in the materials they handled. There were many cases where we imposed order because the materials came to us in such a rough state. The Arrangement Note also allowed me to explain some of the decisions we made in order to make the collection useful to future researchers as well as other archivists.

On that subject, I'm just going to digress for a moment. I am now convinced that when working on a large collection with a group of people, it is key that at least one person has the big picture view of the collection. In this case, that person was me because I was writing the inventory as well as doing my share of the processing. Because I had the bird's eye view, I could take responsibility for the arrangement.

After I had completed the portions of the finding aid that I could (there is still a quantity of canceled checks requiring processing and description), I set to work on the documentation for what should come next. For a day, I focused my energy on envisioning the future of the collection. I began to prioritize the activities that needed to be accomplished first, then I filled in the steps needed to achieve those goals. In today's meeting with Emily, I walked her through the plan and checklist, discussing everything from completing the remaining processing to budgeting for and promoting potential exhibits. We also discussed responding to calls for papers for conferences in fields such as mining history and archival studies.

I'm a bit sad that I might not be in Park City when the exhibit happens, but I will keep in touch with Emily and the other fantastic women at the Museum who have made my summer so meaningful. I will miss my morning commutes through the canyons to one of the nicest places I have ever worked.

From August 2010

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