Sunday, 21 April 2013

Week 44: Tilling the Soil

In my 32nd week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I attended an LA as Subject meeting at the Huntington Library, worked on Mayme’s Papers, and facilitated a Collections Advisory Board meeting.

On Tuesday morning, I broke from my normal routine; instead of driving west to Culver City, I headed north towards Pasadena for my first LA as Subject meeting. I knew about the LA as Subject group from last October’s Archives Bazaar, but this was the first meeting that I was able to attend. The Huntington Library is nestled on acres of botanical gardens in the ultra-elite residential community in San Marino, California. While I was waiting for the meeting to start, I engaged in a conversation with a young woman who was very familiar with MCLM and I gave her all the updates. The world of archives is a small one. After the committee updates, we were treated to three presentations from member institutions who were utilizing HistoryPin in their home institutions. The archives staff at Pepperdine University is asking community members to bring their pictures in for scanning and upload to their channel. In the Santa Ana Public Library, librarians asking the youth to take pictures of the downtown areas and posting them on HistoryPin to document the evolution of their communities. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority has taken full advantage of the application because their images are perfectly suited to the geotagging elements of HistoryPin. I remember listening to a presentation from Queens College at the SAA conference last year but these three examples gave me a better sense of its potential benefits and drawbacks. Overall the application is best suited to outdoor images with dates and precise locations, and just like any other social media program it takes a consistent presence to keep adding content, create tours and connect to other contributors.

This week, I was able to give two full days to working on Mayme’s Papers. I looked through every box to be sure that folder names made sense and the headings were written correctly. I divided the content of folders that were filled with too many papers. I introduced new boxes when the current boxes had folders crammed inside of them. I went through the entire contents of the “trash”, “duplicate”, “catalog”, and “office supplies” boxes in the room and put the contents in their respective places. This involved making a few trips to the big dumpster and setting materials aside for Lloyd Clayton to assess. I also brought all of the miscellaneous materials that volunteers had questions about from around the room and from my office to be dealt with, once and for all. I spent the last few hours tagging documents with my little notes on where they belonged within the collection. Some volunteers indicated that they appreciated this effort because they would not have to decide where to put it and it helped them get better acquainted with the existing folder names. I don’t mind doing it because I can move through the piles quickly without getting up to file papers. Although I did not get to open any new boxes because I was resolving all of the “old” issues, the time spent was valuable because it gives me a better sense of how much progress we have truly made.

On Saturday morning, I conducted my third Collection Advisory Board meeting at the museum. Keith and S. Pearl who have attended every meeting, Larry, and a music professor that I was finally able to meet in person, Hansonia, were all in attendance. I always prepare agendas and we always seem to jump around the discussion topics in the meeting. The board approved of my progress with the Dr. Mayme A. Clayton Collection of African American History and Culture and my work toward placing all of the museum’s collections in a specific place with accession numbers. We had a funny tangent about how award plaques can be the worse part of archiving manuscript collections. Hansonia wished that groups would honor someone with a donation to his or her favorite charity instead of giving them a plaque. S. Pearl stated that her friends donate their plaques to local artisans who work with wood materials. The group was not all fun and games. They were not at all satisfied with our plan to use interns to work on our website; they questioned who would supervise the interns and what happens when the interns leave. I understood their concerns and conceded that the issue was not resolved and implored them to help us seek other solutions. In the week before the meeting, Larry and I discussed how to make the board feel empowered to take on projects and report back to us. Anything from finding someone who will help us write our grants to spending a few hours a week running our bookstore are all ways that the board can contribute to our organization. I put all of the action items in minutes that I typed up; time will tell if I have any takers.  


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