t’s hard to even know where to begin as I was able to make a few trips out to the WRA this week and was rewarded with a flood of new knowledge!
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Heather and I continued sorting the AdvantageWest collection, but we managed to finish up with the publicity series and made our way through the employee files. Those were quickly finished however and we moved on to tax returns and audits, project information, and other things. What I got to witness here is what it is like to process an entire collection. Although we are nowhere near done, it’s easier to see now exactly how a collection develops, and to get some idea of how we want to arrange it and make it available to the public. I also got a taste of one of the many, many ways that archival collections can be used! The WRA has already received two calls requesting copies of important documentation to be used for various legal reasons.
While processing and “weeding” out collections is the biggest part of what I’ve done so far, learning about the politics of archiving is a necessity. Whether it be between patrons and employees, employees and other employees, interdepartmental, or branch-to-branch (the WRA is part of the main state archives that operates out of Raleigh, North Carolina and so it must work with the main branch), there are many political niceties that must be observed. It was really interesting to witness these small exchanges. If processing a collection before it is put into the system is behind-the-scenes work, then these political interactions like behind-the-behind-the-scenes work!
Also—equally as important—are the retention schedules that must be followed. There are different types of retention schedules, such as corporate and federal, but entire concept of a retention schedule is that it breaks up documents into different categories and provides a timetable indicating how long each type should be kept. For example, W2’s must be kept indefinitely while financial documents may be discarded after a certain number of years. When processing collections such as these one must also be mindful of important personal information that could be on documents, such as Social Security Numbers. There are measures set in place that instruct one on the legal ways to safely handle information such as this.
It was most certainly a busy week that has left me with a lot of information to process and reflect upon. I got to see what a collection looks like as it slowly develops, was intrigued by seeing the political side of archiving, and got a taste of the legal rules that are associated with archiving such as how to handle sensitive information. I look forward to going back on Monday to put some of these ideas into practice!