February 10, 2015

The Value of Valuing Archives

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 12:36 pm

Our previous post ended with a general comment on the value of archives:

Whether for the sake of development, public relations, analysis, or reporting: archives, especially those housed in a climate controlled environment in an archival repository, have limitless value both to researchers and the institution that created those records.

This statement is more meaningful than ever in light of the disastrous fire at a warehouse holding some of the remaining UJA-Federation of New York files for this project.  Starting early in the morning of Saturday January 31st, by the afternoon it had become a seven-alarm fire with 300 firemen rotating in and out of active firefighting in below freezing conditions.  A week later the fire was still smoldering.

As of today, we still don’t know which material survived the fire.  Fortunately, the larger of the two warehouses (and all the files in it) UJA used is unharmed.

We are extremely fortunate that more than 90% of the collection has already been removed from storage, most of which is already processed and available for research. Because UJA-Federation of New York understands the importance of their institutional history, especially as they begin planning their centennial in 2017, their earliest surviving history is safe and secure in a climate-controlled warehouse and is accessible not only to UJA-Federation but to all qualified researchers.

Fewer than 10% of the boxes from this project (305 of over 3200) remained in storage; most of the files are from the 1990s, after the merger.  Our expectations are that the files that have survived will offer at least a snapshot of each of the departments whose files were part of the project.

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