Day 1:Getting acquainted with the basics of processing

Where to begin- my thoughts are as jumbled and confused as the stack of newspaper/publicity clippings that I sorted today!

When I arrived at the Western Regional Archives (WRA) today, Heather assigned me to the task of sorting—in chronological order—a sizable stack of newspaper articles, press releases, and all other publicity related items donated to the archive by AdvantageWest Economic Development Group. Until fairly recently, the group operated in the western part of North Carolina. Their goal was to provide support to local entrepreneurs, fund (or find funding for) projects to benefit the area, and attract tourism and business into the area such trying to get producers to film movies here like “My Fellow Americans,” a movie starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner that was actually filmed in the area. In short, I was processing a portion of the AdvantageWest collection. While the work may be tedious to certain people, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It gave me a chance to exercise the nagging obsessive-compulsive tendencies that I have. I also felt that seeing such a large pile turn into a beautifully organized compilation of useful information was instantly gratifying.

My task also gave me an opportunity to learn about the acidity in paper and the various ways that archived papers can be harmed. Rubber bands, for instance, turn into an odd sticky substance after a while. This substance sticks to the papers and can then harden. Paper clips are also dangerous in the archiving world, as they can rust and the rust come off onto the papers. And the paper that newspapers are printed on… I just never realized how fragile it was! I never really realized how delicate regular paper was, for that matter, until I clearly saw the evidence of some sort of a brownish outline that a paper left on a folder that it was in. Archiving paper, however, is buffered and so is protected from the acidity. There are other ways that archivists work to preserve information, such as copying newspaper articles onto regular paper so that it can be better preserved for a longer period of time. Archivists work hard to protect all of the valuable information in their charge from all of these perils.

I also received more information on the project that I will be researching this semester. As the Western Regional Archives has partnered with the state parks department, we will be curating a display that will inform the public about the various state parks around us, their history, highlights and fun facts, and possibly future ideas for the park. I have already asked if I can research Chimney Rock state park and will be assigned another park at a later date. Then I will be creating a 2’x3’ panel for each park that will contain the information and images that I gather. As we all research a couple of parks a piece we will be creating an interesting and informative display for all to see!

My time today was as enjoyable as it was instructive. After I finish with the AdvantageWest publicity series, I look forward to my next project- sorting brochures on the Asheville area!

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An Introduction to Archiving

Today marked a very important, very intense day—the beginning of my archiving internship with Heather South at the Western Regional Archives! While a lot of information was fit into only a few hours, I was prepared for much of what I saw and heard.

While Gene Hyde served as our guest teacher on Tuesday, he discussed much of what we had glossed over in our readings. Gene impressed upon us the mission of public archives to reach out to and engage the community. Gene, echoing our reading from Processing the Past,  also addressed the relationship that the archivist has with the patrons. Most notably, the archivist (in addition to adhering to their collection development policy) attempts to obtain collections that are of particular interest to their patrons. Gene also provided us with an excellent description of what exactly an archivist does besides processing collections and assisting researchers.

Thanks to the few readings we have done so far, and of course Gene and his extensive knowledge of the archiving world, when I walked into the Western Regional Archives (WRA) today I was more than prepared to hear about the tasks that I would be attending to! Heather was extremely welcoming as she gave Kendall and I a tour and a copy of the intern handbook to provide us with additional information that we would need. I can already tell that working with Heather is going to be an absolute blast! Heather also echoed Gene’s sentiments of acquiring collections relevant to their researchers’ interest, particularly information about this area, such as the Black Mountain College. Heather also gave us a little information on the major project we would be working towards this semester which will end in a display on the first floor of the building!

While today has provided me with a lot of information to process, and while it seems as though I have much to learn, I look forward to observing every step of the archiving process and hopefully putting a sizable dent in Heather’s to do list!