Reducing the backlog, three boxes at a time

In the summer of 2011, graduate students in the Center for Primary Research and Training embarked on a project to reduce the department’s backlog of partially processed collections and make them available to the public for research.

Chris Marino (Information Studies), Yasmin Damshenas (Moving Image Archive Studies), Jesse Erickson (Information Studies) and Heather Lowe (Information Studies) worked from a list to choose collections that appealed to their interests. The only “rule” of the assignment was that the collection should be three boxes or smaller. (We did break that rule on occasion and do collections of four boxes!)

In a three month period, these four students arranged, described and rehoused 55 collections, on subjects such as the Spanish Civil War, rare book collecting, mountaineering, education in Malawi, Persian calligraphy and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. Heather said, “My favorite part of processing small collections was how much I learned from each one. Whether it was the Building and Loan League Records, the Charles Wilkin Waddell Papers, or the Andy Zermeno Papers, I got to investigate things such as the rise of savings and loans, the birth of the education department at UCLA, and the agricultural workers’ movement in California. These are all things I might not have sought out to learn on my own but were a way I really benefited from the project.” Yasmin added, “The small size of the collections allowed for exposure to an unbelievable variety of topics and disciplines within a short period.  Within one week alone I was able to work with WWI photographs, 17th century theatrical set design, journalism on California social issues, expressionist lithographs, and Broadway plays. It made for a rewarding experience.”

Please check back in the coming weeks for stories from the students about their favorite collections and intriguing finds.

By Megan Hahn Fraser, Processing Projects Librarian

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