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.
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.