Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Last day at the archives

Today was my last day at the WLA. I spent the day processing my last two collections. These were both artist's collections belonging to Maureen Warren and Fern Shaffer. However, Ms. Shaffer is actually donating more materials tomorrow so that will be added to what I've already processed.

 Ms. Warren's collection was very interesting because the focus of her work is to juxtapose Eastern and Western art styles. She compares the stillness and flatness of Eastern art with the movement and realism in Western art. I found her painting of geisha's particularly beautiful.



After I finished processing these collections, I did the standard "end steps" of labeling the boxes and folders, creating a title page for this collection to put inside the finding aid, and any other extra steps for safe preservation and storage.

Its really nice to see the boxes of materials you've processed lined up neatly with their labels. Its also fun to go into the basement and find a place to store these new collections among the many others that the WLA has.

Monday, April 23, 2012

More Artist's Collections

 Last week I worked on processing a few more small artist's collections. These collections are fun to do because I get to see the various forms of art and they're small enough to work through quickly.

Specifically, I worked on Karen Hanmer'sNancy Plotkin's, and Margaret Lanterman's collections. These three women are linked by the fact that their worked has been featured at Artemesia Galleries, which I wrote about in an earlier post. The director of the archives told me that the majority of these new artist's collections came to the archives as a result of her recent presentation at an Artemesia event.

I questioned her about the process of finding donors and gathering collections. She said it can be done on a personal level where someone contacts the archives and an archivist goes to their home or office to assess the size and condition of their materials. Also, its can be done on a larger scale like she did with Artemesia. In either case, the goal of the archivist is to inform the potential donor about the benefits of having their materials archived. The archivists talk about how these materials will be preserved meticulously so that they last much longer than they would in an attic or a basement. They also talk about the value of having these women's materials in the archives as a contribution to the collection of women's history materials.

It is essential that more women donate their materials to archives like the WLA because the aim of this center is to preserve, share, and celebrate women's history. Archivists emphasize that all women make history whether it is Amelia Earhart or Jane Doe. Each of these women's stories and contributions to society are equally important and are necessary elements in the greater collection of women's history.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Collection

 Today I started a new collection. Since I only have a few weeks left before graduation, the direction suggested that I work on very small collections that won't day more than a few days to complete. So, she suggested that I work on an artist's collection because they tend to be smaller and easier to handle.

I started working on Toby Zallman's collection. She is a Chicago-based mixed media sculptor who has been actively featuring her work throughout the Midwest since the 1980s. Her work is interesting because of the media she uses and the message the emanates from much of her work. Many of her sculptures focus on the juxtaposition of dichotomies such as masculine vs feminine, organic vs inorganic, or hard vs soft.

She uses interesting media including old computers and keyboards and alters their structure to portray some message. I found her keyboard work especially interesting because it is not only altered in form, but also includes a message. In her artist's statement, Zallman says that these are messages from the keyboard to her and symbolize the various relationships in her life.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Labels and women's archives

Today I officially finished organizing the Gannon Center collection, creating the finding aid, and labeling all of the boxes and folders! Its taken a while, but its nice to see all of these documents and materials organized and stored safely. I hope that if a researcher comes to the WLA looking for information about the Gannon Center, this collection will be helpful and easy to navigate!

After finishing with labels, I read an article by Karen M. Mason and Tanya Zanish-Belcher entitled "Raising the Archival Consciousness: How Women's Archives Challenge Traditional Approaches to Collection and Use, Or, What's in a Name?" about the history of women's archives. The authors gave an very interesting overview of the creation of women's archives from the initial realization of the need to archive women's histories to the present.

The authors stated that the concept of an archive dedicated solely to women emerged in the 1960s and 1970s around the time of the feminist movement when women realized that their histories were not being told in the broader genre. Women's contributions to history were not well preserved and were not being included in mainstream histories.

This sparked the increased collection and archiving of women's records and papers and even led to the creation of archives solely for women. However, in the 1980s, archivists realized that many of their collections did not reflect diversity. This was both a lack of racial diversity as well as representation of women from different faiths and social classes.

Many of the women whose materials had been archived were upper class educated women and mostly white. Thus action began to not only find donors from diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds but also from different education levels. The authors then introduced the importance of oral history to archiving. They stated that because they wanted to record the histories of women who were from lower social classes or had not received as much education, they needed to rely on oral history as much as documented histories.
African Activist Archive

Finally, the authors stated that the goal for archivists today is to be as open as possible to new collections and donors and to try and remove biases if possible. Because many archives and archivists tend to be more liberal or identify as feminists, it is important that they remain open minded to donors and collections that may be more conservative or "right-wing" because these histories are just as essential in the greater fabric of women's history.

Slow week at the archives

This week the computers at the archives were all being updated so there wasn't a lot of work that I could do.
Instead of working on my collection, I helped a graduate assistant with her work.
The collection she is working on about Deborah's Place had a lot of news print. In archiving, original news print is often recycled or disposed of because of the low quality and vulnerability of the paper. The originals are photo copied on to acid free paper and as usual any metal paper clips or staples are removed. This ensure that the news article will be preserved for a longer period of time.

I came across some interesting articles about Deborah's Place including the process of opening it and some of the controversy behind it. Some residents of the neighborhood weren't completely on board with the opening of a home for battered and homeless women so close to them, but luckily the center was opened despite any issues in 1985.

For the rest of this week, I will be finishing my collection and possibly starting a new project. More to come later!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This week I worked on the finding aid for the Gannon Center collection. The finding aid serves as an outline or overview for the material in a collection. I began by writing a short administrative history of the Gannon Center covering its foundation, its mission, and some of its activities. All finding aids have this short background whether it’s about an organization or an individual. I then worked on creating subject words which are essentially key words that describe the collection as a whole. The subject words are determined from the Library of Congress Authorities once the collection is associated with one of these key words or subjects, a researcher can use any of them to find this collection online.
                The subject words were kind of tricky to choose because I had to figure out which would encompass the collection as a whole and then see if they were available on the Library of Congress authorities.  A lot of the subjects I chose at first were not available including Ann Ida Gannon and BVM sisters so I chose more general subjects instead like Loyola University Chicago and Women and Leadership.
                The next step in creating the finding aid involves putting all of the folders of material into series and then into boxes. I had my series organized already so I fit all of the folders into boxes and created a list of the folders by each box in the finding aid.
                While the majority of the finding aid is complete, I will have to make some edits and then I will move on to the final steps of creating a collection.     

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creating a Collection

After a lot of sorting and sifting through papers, I've finally finished rehousing all of the documents in the Gannon Center collection into new folders. Although it was somewhat tedious going through the papers, it was actually really fun to see documentation of everything from the initial proposal to create the center to events and especially the many speakers the Gannon Center hosted.

On Tuesday, I began the next step in the process; creating series and a more complete collection. I've chosen four series: Administration, Events, Publications, and A/V. I sorted each individual folder into the appropriate series alphabetically. On Friday, I will begin fixing small restoration errors that I've made like forgetting to unfold documents or using the wrong folders then I will begin to create the finding aid.

The finding aid is essentially the document used to navigate the collection with information about each folder listen by series and box number. The finding aid also requires a small administrative history about the center as well as some key words that can be used by researchers to find the collection. These words are determined by listings in the Library of Congress and are very useful because any of those terms will lead a researcher to the Gannon Center collection.

Finally, I will transfer some of the A/V materials including CDs and DVDs to a digital system called DocFinity so that there are backups of all of the information.