Sunday, 17 November 2013

Preservation 101 Workshop

Preservation 101
MCLM Fall Workshop
Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum – November 16, 2013

Earlier this week, I was approached by the executive director of the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, Larry Earl, and asked if I wanted to facilitate the first workshop in the “Preserving our Heritage” series. Larry explained that he wanted someone to explain how archivists arrange a collection, tell the story of a collection’s origin, and store the collection materials. I kindly accepted the invitation, knowing that I had ample content from my recent ACA exam preparation materials and current enrollment at Pasadena City College. I imagined that the audience members would be curious about what archivists do or fancy themselves as archivists working with their family collections. I started my presentation with information about the role of an archivist, focusing on selection, preservation, description, and outreach. I used examples from MCLM’s Antoinette Culpepper Architecture Collection and the Barryte, Broussard, and Dismukes Doll Collection to illustrate the difference between folder level and item level descriptions.

I went on to explain how they can apply some of these techniques to their family history collections. One of the perks for attendance at the workshop was an archival starter kit, which included archival folders, photo sleeves, several pencils, and a flip top box. I explained that these supplies are important to have in bulk and if they wanted to order more, we may be able to facilitate a discounted cost to the group of attendees. Although the attendance was small, just two volunteers, the discussion was lively. As volunteers at the museum, they began to develop a better understanding for why certain decisions are made by the archivists on staff. They also grappled with the same concerns that professional archivists grapple with, how do we balance privacy concerns with open access mandates? Even with every disaster preparedness plan in place and heavy insurance policies, how could we ever replace the content of our collections? I was surprised at their interest in something that has become such a passion for me. Perhaps with more advertisement, and advance notice, more community members would be more encouraged to learn about what it takes to properly describe and make accessible materials from the past.    

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