Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in Special Collections? Well, follow me into the Processing Room for a peak at our collections as we preserve, organize, and describe them for researchers – I mean, really, who doesn’t love a backstage pass?
Here I am again readers! Did you miss me?
In the last three entries, I’ve shown you bits and pieces of one of our in process collections, the J. Hillis Miller papers. While I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Hillis, and have been tantalized by glimpses of our shiny new material, I thought I would address something that I think has been sort of a flaw in this blog series. “A flaw?” I hear you say, “Surely not!” Yes, gentle readers, even I, your humble host, can make a mistake now and then. Looking back, I realized, though I have waxed poetical about my processing project, I haven’t really explained how a bouncing baby collection becomes a full fledged member of the UCI Special Collections and Archives family.
Anyway, I thought it might help if I gave you some insight into the full life cycle of an archival collection here at UCI over the next couple of blog entries.
To start, when a new collection brought to us, it is first accessioned, which is just an archive-y way to say it’s been officially accepted into Special Collections. It’s usually reboxed, checked for immediate preservation concerns, given a unique identification number, and eventually placed alongside its new family members in our stacks. During accessioning, archivists will survey the new collection and get a more specific idea of just what came in those, often less than ideal, shipping boxes that were delivered. The archivist will later use the information gathered from that survey to write a plan that will guide processing.
At UCI, we’ve added a few extra steps to the standard accessioning procedure. We follow the UC Guidelines for Efficient Processing – a new and innovative document drawn up by a team of UC archivists that outlines methods for evaluating collections, as well as how to allocate time and resources based on a reasoned assessment. This means that, during accessioning, the archivist will assign a “value score” to the new collection.
Now, don’t misunderstand, this score has nothing to do with monetary value. We really don’t care if there’s actual gold in them thar collections, we want solid gold research material. The score is based on four basic principles of archival appraisal: user interest, quality of documentation, institutional value, and object value. Based on how high the collection scores, it will warrant more attention than other collections with lower scores. This is just our way of prioritizing our work and making sure that we get the most useful collections to you as quickly as we can.
All of the work that I just described is PRE-processing! Isn’t it wild what that bundle of joy goes through just to make it to the processing room!
In the next entry, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of actual processing, but I think I’ve loaded you down with enough information for this month! Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!