September 30, 2015

Wrapping up the project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leah Edelman @ 3:57 pm

It’s difficult to write summarily about a project that we’ve worked on for four years. As mentioned in Susan’s post, through working with these materials, we’ve lived with and thought about this organization and the people that built it for a long time now. Below find an unofficial timeline of some of the highlights of the project, as we wrap up our work with the UJA-Federation of New York collection.

Fall 2011: Project begins. The UJA-Federation of New York collection at this time contains over 3,200 bankers boxes of records from approximately 1909 to 2000 — in varying preservation condition– stored in the Citistorage warehouse in Brooklyn. Project staff includes Senior Archivist Susan Woodland, and AJHS Archivists Eric Fritzler, Marvin Rusinek, and Vital Zajka.

What does it mean to “process” a collection? In short, it means to arrange and describe a set of records. Archivists arrange the records in a clear order (this could be chronological, alphabetical, according to the order the records were received, or in some other way that makes sense for the particular records), and then describe this order and the content of the records in a finding aid to make the collection accessible for researchers.

The first step of an archival processing project is, usually, to survey the collection (archivists look through boxes and any existing documentation about the boxes—such as folder lists). This helps archivists to get a sense of the records and the ways in which they might be arranged, and develop a processing plan.  Due to the nature of this unusually large collection, the archival team had to develop a processing plan without looking through all the boxes, and instead familiarized themselves with UJA-Federation of New York organizational history through reading secondary sources (see our Selected Bibliography) to inform their processing decisions, and to utilize material found within the collection itself to better understand people’s roles within the organization and the structure of the organization itself.

Processing initially began with the Oral History Project records, which we packed up at the UJA-Federation offices and worked with first, as this was a relatively small and distinct part of the collection.

December 2011: The first boxes arrive from the Citistorage warehouse, and processing begins on the rest of the collection. These boxes include some of the oldest records of the organization. The collection is split into four chronological subgroups: Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP) 1909-1986, United Jewish Appeal (UJA) 1938-1986, UJA-Federation Joint Campaign (UFJC) 1973-1986, and UJA-Federation of New York (UJF) 1986-2000. The fifth subgroup, composed of UJA-Federation’s Oral History Project, has already been processed.

April 2013: Digitization of the Oral History Project is completed.

May 2013: Heather Halliday, former Photograph and Reference Archivist at the American Jewish Historical Society, joins the project.

December 2013: Processing of budget files from the Office of Management and Budget, the largest chunk of records in the collection (over 500 linear feet, or 5 football fields!), is completed. These files contain annual agency files, Budget Department subject files, financial reports, agency financial reports, audited agency reports, Distribution Committee reports, functional committee reports, Greater New York Fund files, and Financial Experience of Affiliated Societies files.

April 2014: Processing of UJF Executive Vice President files is completed. Over 167 linear feet, these files span UJF’s existence, from 1986-2000.

May 2014: Processing and digitization of Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities material, a precursor organization to FJP, is completed.

June 2014: A large selection of Board minutes from 1916-1992 are digitized.

Sept 2014: A preliminary finding aid for the FJP subgroup is completed, and the over 500 boxes described in this section are now available to researchers. With the completion of the project, this finding aid will be replaced with the full collection finding aid.

Oct 2014: Leah Edelman, newly minted archivist from the Simmons SLIS program, joins the project.

Jan 2015: A fire in the Citistorage warehouse destroys 123 out of 305 boxes remaining in storage. Fortunately, over 90% of the collection had already been removed from the warehouse, and processed.

June 2015: Nearly 500 images from the collection are digitized, dating from the 1910s through the 2000s.

July 2015: An online interactive map of Federation agencies goes live.

August 2015: With the completion of processing of oversize, artifact, and audiovisual materials (including the digitization of numerous sound recordings and films), processing of the UJA-Federation of New York collection is completed! The final box count is 2,021.

September 2015: During this final month, project staff is wrapping up last (but not small!) tasks, such as the completion of the finding aid and container list. We say goodbye on October 2!

September 25, 2015

Paper Clips and Other Glimpses of an Earlier Time

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 4:37 pm

Our blog has been quiet for the past few weeks as we focused simply on completing the project, which ends officially on October 2nd. The container list is nearly complete.  It is a huge spreadsheet that lists ever folder in the collection, arranged hierarchically by subgroup, series, subseries, and so on.  The collection is huge.  It has ended up being contained in 2021 bankers boxes (each bankers box is 1.2 cubic feet for those of you who can visualize in three dimensions), 24 oversize boxes and 4 oversize folders too large for our shelves and  housed in a flat file with very, very wide drawers.

Also nearly complete is the finding aid to the collection, that will link out at every level to the container list.  The finding aid explains the arrangement of the collection at every level, and gives historical information as well as content information on each section.  This 184 page WORD document is being encoded over the next few days in order to be able to place it online where it will be accessible to researchers everywhere. The easiest way to take a look at it, after October 2nd, will be from the collection webpage.  The first link on this page will be to the finding aid. (Currently linked as the finding aid are three sections of a partial finding aid we’ve had up for the past year. The finding aid to the complete collection will replace these links.)

While finishing up the documentation for this project and cleaning up our work spaces, I found a box full of metal fasteners that were pulled from various levels of the excavation that was a big part of the work we’ve done over the past four years.  We knew these metal bits were destined for the trash; we removed them so they wouldn’t further damage the paper with rust or simply because of their thickness in a folder. We didn’t keep track of what years they were in use or which subseries they came from.  But for some of us, they summon a sense of the people who wrote the memos and the reports, who slipped on a paper clip or added files to a binder before closing up a folder for the last time.

paper clips

Metal fasteners found in the collection

I think that the nail fell into the box by mistake, but everything else was used in one or more of the decades that we’ve lived through in the past four years.

Many things can summon up a moment from the past, even one you didn’t live through yourself.  Of course many things about this collection, or any collection that spans the better part of a century, make you vividly aware that the people who created the documents lived very different lives than we do today.

We’ll write at least one final post next week before we depart for our next projects.

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