Monday, 8 April 2013

Week 43: Back to Basics

In my 31st  week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I organized Room #13, gave an orientation to our new HistoryCorp intern, and worked on the Antoinette Culpepper finding aid.

After all of the stress and multi-tasking of the Audio Assault Exhibit and the Roses and Revolutions Listening Party, it is now time for me to focus on the deliverables of my fellowship. I have to ask myself what tangible things will I have done by May 31st that leaves the museum in a better position than I found it. I had put together several documents over the last three months that describe how we should accession new materials, label boxes and identify processing priorities but I had not really put these ideas in action yet. My goal for creating these documents was three fold; to make sure that every group of items had a logical place in our collection hierarchy (with respect to provenance), every item could be retrieved quickly, and we would have a greater idea of the extent and scope of our collection.  

Room 13 is the locked room where we house all of our small to medium sized un-processed collections. Up until this week, the collections were placed on shelves haphazardly and their labels corresponded to a database that is currently unavailable to us.  I posted my accession chart on the door and had two volunteers help me label all of the boxes with the appropriate accession numbers and shelve them in accession order. About half way through, I realized that we were not leaving enough space for the collections that were in other parts of the museum and there were more boxes on the ground than on the shelf. The volunteers had left for the day, but I stayed for an additional two hours, moving things around until the spacing made sense and the room was neat. Throughout this process, I questioned whether I was re-inventing the wheel because I did not have the patience to try to understand what had already been done, but I have spent six months trying to see patterns and procedures and have come up with a blank. Based on the encouragement from my executive director, I think the museum was waiting for someone with some initiative and tenacity to apply some order to the well-meaning collecting habits of the museum.  

On Friday, I welcomed Liz, a member of our new crop of HistoryCorp interns from UCLA. Since these two months are my last shot at finishing the Mayme Papers, it qualifies as an acceptable internship project. I am excited to have an extra person give me an additional 8 hours per week on the project. My attention has been shifted to other projects lately, so it was good for me to go over the goals and strategies for tackling Mayme’s papers with Liz. I was able to show her the entire finding aid which includes the posters, serials, books, and other series. I encouraged her to be aware of items that could supplement the biographical/historical note on Dr. Clayton. The plan to get all of Mayme’s materials into the same room is helping me to refine what it is that makes Mayme’s papers a series unto themselves. Liz caught on really quickly, and she could not have come on at a better time in the process.  

I also spent time this week wrapping up the work done by one of last quarter’s UCLA interns. Kathy was able to get the materials in all seven boxes of the Antoinette Culpepper Collection rehoused and labeled according to her own organizational schema. She went above the requirements by writing a short biography of Culpepper with citations to the facts and challenges of being a black female architect in the 70’s and 80’s. I am formatting Kathy’s work into a DACS compatible finding aid, and asked one of our volunteers to enter the container list into an excel document. This finding aid will be one of several items that will expose the wide breadth of material types and content here at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum.  


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