My other ongoing project at the moment is to arrange, describe and prepare a finding aid for the Robert Cecil Thompson Papers.
When Laura’s grandfather died in September (cf. this) the family graciously donated to Disciples of Christ Historical Society about a dozen boxes and crates of sermons, papers, teaching notes and ministry files. My task has been to touch and read each piece of paper, discern an order (it came to me in no intact original order) for the whole, and then arrange and describe the collection. Sounds tedious because it is tedious. In fact, it must be tedious if it is to be done correctly. I must make a host of decisions as far as the arrangement is concerned. I’ll let you in on those when I am further along in the process…which means I still need to make some of those decisions myself! 🙂
Furthermore, once it is done correctly and an appropriate finding aid is created and uploaded to the web or some digital cataloging system, a researcher can find everything s/he needs through key word searches.
I’m working on this project at home, as my gift to Laura’s family and as a donation to DCHS. When I deliver the boxes (there won’t be a dozen since I weeded out lots of duplicate and redundant material) DCHS will have a fully processed, arranged, described and indexed accession of personal papers. Not only that, but the content is a real boon for us. DCHS needs more personal papers from preachers among Churches of Christ, but that is another post for another day. I thought I’d share the process here on the blog to give folks an idea of what goes into properly processing a collection of personal papers for preservation in an archival repository.
Below are some photos after my first thorough weeding and sorting. In order to get to the state you see in the photos I took the first box and dug in, creating stacks for various phases of Pop’s ministry as I went. Remember, there was no intact original order. If there was then I would have been bound to preserve it. Alas, in the absence of such it is left up to me to impose an order for the sake of retreiving information easily and quickly.
Thus…stacks…: Sermons here, Fairview Heights church there, Gateway School of Preaching over there, Prison ministry, etc….right on down to the last box. Then I tackled each stack and went through it again. The task here is to bring order to just this area. Here I weeded duplicates (Pop was prepared…he had multiple copies of sermons and class notes…if he thought he might need it later, he copied it several times over). I kept two copies and recycled the rest. As I did this I discovered a few things were in the wrong place, so to speak. Here is where it gets tricky: is this here because the originator placed it here (and therefore it belongs here…for some reason), because the originator misfiled it (it doesn’t necessarily belong), or because it is an accident of the process of cleaning out the office (probably the case). I spent one weekend doing this to each stack.
And that is where we are now. I have completed the rough sort and feel pretty good about where we stand. Everything is boxed in acid-free boxes and we are ready for the next step. Though I have some unanswered questions, it isn’t nearly so daunting. I can afford to ruminate over it a while longer, but then I must make some arrangement descisions that are more or less permanent (unless then entire collection is reordered from start to finish…which almost never happens in the archival world). Then I can begin the final arrangement, refoldering each item, lableing, and indexing.