The start of a new internship

Hello everyone, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kris Stenson, and I’m one of the newest interns here at the IU Archives. I’ve recently completed the last of my classes for my MLS here at IU, so this is my sole remaining requirement before I receive my degree. In next few months I will be posting updates on work I’m doing for the archives, as well as my own opinions and musings related to those projects. Hopefully this proves as informative to you as it will be to me.

I’ve just made it to the end of week two, and am still very much feeling out my role here. Later in the summer I will be working on processing a collection or two, as well as perhaps some records management work with departments here on campus. Right now my immediate task involves new digital exhibit software the archives is trying out: Omeka (http://omeka.org/). It’s an open-access program which is being worked on as a way to present certain archival materials to the public in an interesting and visually stimulating way. While most of the design work has been done by a colleague from digital libraries, I will be working to select materials for display, upload them into the software, add contextual metadata, and provide text to explain and tie together the objects.

April 1969

In conjunction with Indiana University’s upcoming fall Themester, “Making War, Making Peace,” I have been tasked with creating an exibit of materials related to student protests here at IU, particularly during the 1960’s. Thus far I’ve been digging through press clippings, leaflets and such, and next will look at photographs, administrative papers and student government materials. I’ve so far identified several different events which will have pages devoted to them: a 1962 Anti-Cuban blocade protest and counter-rally, the 1967 Dow Chemical sit-in, the 1968 Little 500 sit-in to protest racial inequality, the May 1969 student fee class boycott, the related Ballantine Hall lock-in and the October 1969 Vietnam War Moratorium Day protests. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface, but there is much more to be found.

I plan to present more details of each of these events in this blog as the summer progresses, so that we all might understand a little more about a controversial and influential time here at IU.

Until next time.

This week in the archives…

Hello again. Interning in the archives this week has been relatively less busy from previous weeks, but of course there is always something interesting going on here. Having finished W.T.K. Nugent’s publications series, I moved on to his academic life series, since that ties in directly to his time at Indiana University. So far it’s mainly been a process of sorting through correspondence dealing (mostly) with colleagues and publishers, though I have found a few sensitive materials such as loan forms, and some less important items like television receipts. This series will be restricted to patrons for awhile, for a couple of reasons: Nugent specifically marked the boxes out for restriction, and as archivists we must follow the donor’s wishes; and although these materials are around four decades old, they still deal with people – and their families – who are alive and perhaps do not know we have their correspondence with Nugent, and it is advisable to keep this kind of information restricted for privacy reasons. Researchers, don’t despair. If you’d like to research Nugent’s correspondence from his time as an IU professor, this series should be entirely open in 2035 (as per Nugent’s wish).

Privacy and sensitivity is a daily issue in archives, especially when dealing with personal papers and correspondence. Some donors may not care if their personal correspondence can be read by researchers forty years later, but some donors want to keep that information private for as long as possible. It’s a personal preference, and archivists should learn some PR skills in dealing with donors. As I learned in my internship readings, if archivists can explain their typical restrictions on files, some donors can be persuaded not to keep their files closed forever. There is no point in preserving papers indefinitely if they can never be accessed and used by researchers. Having said that, Nugent’s collection has typical restrictions on correspondence, financial information, and personal information. This is fair, since researchers are more likely to want his professional information.

Sorting through Nugent’s professional correspondence has allowed me to get a better indication of how he worked, both with his publications and with his colleagues in his department. Though the majority of the series so far is made up of letters, notes, and memos, there are the occasional objects that make the job more interesting, such as air mail letters, postcards, and the occasional receipt. Once again it is proven that you can find almost anything in the archives. Earlier this week I happened upon this drawing, mixed in with meeting notes and agendas:

"Indiana Triumphs Against the Forces of Evil"
"Indiana Triumphs Over the Forces of Evil"

This appears to be an inspired New Mexican-influenced drawing. At first I thought Nugent had a talent never before displayed, but turning over this drawing I found this:

The abstract image was drawn by one of Nugent’s colleagues in 1975, curiously titled “Indiana Triumphs over the Forces of Evil.” I would love to know the story behind this drawing, but unfortunately there is no mention made of it anywhere other than the date Nugent collected it. This is one of the few mysteries in Nugent’s collection. I hope I can find more information about this particular piece of paper.

Arts, Crafts, and Preservation

These past few weeks have been a flurry of activity in the archives as fellow co-worker Amy finishes her exhibit of Robert Borkenstein, inventor of the Breathalyzer. She’s done a great job putting together such a large exhibit in so short a time, and it will be ready this weekend for the SAA-SC Conference being held at IU. If you can, come up to the archives office and check it out! There is a variety of materials in the exhibit, from Breathalyzer prototypes to newspaper clippings to photographs. It is a visually interesting exhibit!

While I had little to do with curating the exhibit, I was able to help out a little bit by mounting some of the photos. This was a big deal for me; I’ve never had this opportunity before. As an undergraduate student archival assistant, I was probably not trusted enough to try my hand at mounts that would adequately support and display the photograph. Dina Kellams taught me how to cut through thick foam board with an Exacto knife and straight edge, then attach strips of clear plastic to the corners to hold the photograph or newspaper clipping. (All these materials are, naturally, archival quality.) I found it a little nerve-wracking to size up and create the foam board backing – after all, one of the first principles taught in archival preservation is to keep knives and pencils away from the materials – but I would say that the four photograph mounts I created turned out all right. We have boxes of old mounts that can be recycled into new exhibits, but finding a mount that exactly fits your material is tricky. I had to leave one oddly-cut newspaper clipping on the table for a more experienced worker to handle. It will take a little work to become an expert in archival mounting, but my first foray into that project was a fun experience.

Reference questions for the archives, though very usual, have not been fielded my way in the past two weeks, so I’ve had time to finish up the publications series in Nugent’s papers. There is still a little cleaning up to do, but for the most part they have all been organized into 17 boxes. It’s pleasant to open up the boxes and see the neat, clean rows of manila folders. That might be one of my favorite results of processing. Of course, the organization and accessibility of the papers is an important result as well. For the most part, the publications series is organized chronologically, within the subseries of monographs, articles, and reviews. Nugent has been a very prolific writer and it’s not unusual for him to have written, and kept, over six drafts of one article, which takes up space quickly. I haven’t counted how many different publications are in those 17 boxes, but I would guess well over 100. Looking around me at all the boxes in this room alone, it boggles my mind at how much information and knowledge (institutional, professional, and personal) in so many formats is kept and preserved in archives.

In Nugent’s older writings, nearly everything in the boxes were bound with rusty paperclips or staples. Needless to say, this is undesirable from a preservation standpoint as the rust will stain and wear away at the paper, in addition to creating “rust dust” that is not pretty nor healthy for the papers. One of the main reasons processing can take so long is that all these paper clips and staples must be removed before the papers can be filed away. As I’m sure many processors have done, I used to have competitions with my co-workers to see who could fill up a jar with discolored metal faster. Newer paperclips and staples that have not yet become discolored are less of a preservation concern, since the climate control in archives helps prevent rusting, but it remains a problem to watch for in archives.

All in all, it’s been a good two weeks for learning new preservation skills and reinforcing old preservation standards.