Friday, May 28, 2010

day 09: moving along

I finished processing Thomas Riggs Jr letters from during and after WWII. While transferring letters into folders I found a Christmas list from Thomas. It read:

"Dear Santa:
gem razor blades
a picture of a monkey
the ears of Adolf

Just more entertaining humor from Tommy. I was sad to finish his letters so quickly, but there weren't nearly as many correspondences as John Beverley had. Overall, I had completed two boxes of the ten. Within the remaining eight boxes were correspondences that I had included in these two parts, so I am slowly working down all the boxes in this collection.

The next and what I hope is the final group of correspondences that I will have to process was a group of letters and calling cards sent to Renee Riggs and her children Lisette and Thomas Jr from friends and family expressing their condolences in the passing of their husband and father, Thomas Christmas Riggs.

Fun fact: Thomas Riggs was Governor of Alaska from 1918-21.

I processed these letters pretty quickly and moved onto planning the next subseries for processing in this collection. Most of what's left in the eight boxes is mixed up, so it's going to take a bunch of organizing and sorting before I can place everything into boxes and folders. I decided this was a good stopping point before the long holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

day 08: tommy boy

While rummaging through Tommy Riggs' letters I found numerous photographs and negatives. There were groups of pictures of Tommy and of his campaign in Africa during WWII. I did not want to place them within a group of documents without protection from other elements. Jen and I wandered down to the second floor and found a box of clear photo sleeves for me to use. I had two sizes, 4x5 and 5x7. I carefully placed each negative and photo in a protective shell. I found that I would process this box significantly faster than the last set of correspondences. I have one folder of letters left to organize into folders and boxes before I am done. Significantly less time!

I enjoy skimming through some of the letters and uncovering Tommy's humor and his perception on the events and life he was led to live. I wanted to share an excerpt from one of the numerous letters that caused me to chuckle.

A little background, Tommy wrote a letter to his father responding to his account of Tommy's sister Lisette's wedding: "It certainly must have been a first class spree, and I take it unkindly that you should wait till I am half way around the world to dig in for the champagne. However, there was a blot on the paper which you had labeled champagne, and I have been sleeping with that under my pillow to see if I will get any effects. None so far."

I also enjoy when he requested items that he needed and wanted to be sent to him from home he would state "gimme, gimme, gimme" at the end of each list. It is so simple and humorous for a grown adult to write something so childish.

Each consecutive day of my internship is my favorite personal discovery and learning experience.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

day 07: and then

I finished processing John Beverley Riggs correspondences today. There are now many boxes with many folders - look at how many there are! I did that :)

There were only six folders that I had to place out of order in the boxes, but will be denoted in the finding aid. I attached a note to the first box so that when I enter everything into Archivist Toolkit I will have all the details I need to include.

The next part of the collection that I started processing was letters from Thomas Riggs Jr, John Beverley Riggs' cousin. Endearingly called Tommy, he traveled with the army to various locations. So far, I've seen letters and photographs from Africa, Ireland, and the United States. Jen and I decided this box would be processed differently from J.B. Riggs' letters. Tommy's letters had previously been arranged in overflowing folders. Instead of filing each one in an individual folder, multiple letters will be placed in folders and numbered as a part of a series. Tommy had a great sense of humor that is reflected throughout his letters. I'm looking forward to processing the rest of this box.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

day 06: i can see the light

I finished the last stack of letters I had and began rummaging through the boxes again in search of more letters. Of course, I found a large pile in one of the boxes and I returned to processing them. I think I have finally finished processing all the personal correspondences of John Beverley Riggs. Well, at least all the letters that was dated. I haven't decided how to process the undated letters yet. I'm not sure if I should put them all in one folder or put each one in its own folder. Individual folders would keep it consistent with the rest of the subseries, so that's probably the best idea.

I also added and organized the folders I processed yesterday into numerous boxes. I will have to renumber a few folders, but it isn't as bad as I had initially feared. I'm really excited to have this part of the collection processed and ready for the next step, which I'm actually not entirely sure what that step is. I still have a few more days of putting finishing touches on these correspondences, but I feel very good about what I have accomplished thus far and look forward to learning the next steps in archiving the Riggs Family papers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

day 05: lmnop

I started today where I left off on Friday; processing more letters to John Beverley Riggs. They ranged from 1945 to 1972. It was a little repetitive but luckily, most of these letters were interesting. I enjoy reading the different language styles and the observations made by people during the 1940s and 50s. I still have a small stack left to process before I go back to my box survey and find more letters to process. I currently have at least 100 folders organized to place into boxes and arrange chronologically. I think that tomorrow I will organize some of the letters that I've processed so far, before I find more to add. The entire process is taking longer than I had expected. I've only processed personal correspondences so far which has been slightly difficult. Eventually I will have to figure out how to include and process business related letters in the subseries as well.

Friday, May 21, 2010

day 04: new processing

Since I had decided to use Jen's suggested method for processing, the order of correspondences before processing was insignificant. Previously I had organized the letters chronologically before processing them and now I decided to organize them after I completed placing each letter in a folder. I moved folders around and organized numerous letters written by John Beverley Riggs from between the years 1942 to 1945. I had a few minutes left and started processing letters to J.B. Riggs from 1950. I discovered that I preferred this method of organization leaving the numbering process until the end. It will allow for a lot of flexibility while working through the rest of the collection.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

day 03: ideas

Over the past few days, I considered numerous options, but was most looking forward to hearing the ideas that Jen would offer me. I told Jen that I hadn't realized/considered/remembered the extent of correspondences in the collection. Having examined each box, I was frustrated that I didn't think to include or search more than the two boxes that were only filled with letters. She reminded me that the purpose of the internship is to learn, and that in the processing stage anything can change.

We discussed a collection that she is also currently processing. There are significantly more boxes in this collection that she divided into general categories. What she has found is that there is an occasional overlap of topics in some of the boxes. In order to process everything and not have to erase and renumber folders and boxes, she labels each folder with basic information. So each folder includes the collection number, series number, subseries number, and the words box and folder, without a number. This way, she can reorganize folders and boxes as seems fit with the collection. Afterward she returns and numbers each box and folder once organization is seemingly complete. This idea is the best idea, and I found my enthusiasm and felt my frustration melt away. Although I had already processed and numbered around 300 folders Jen also informed me there are numerous options that won't require me to renumber everything. Depending on the number of letters in the collection that were written before 1942 and before 1946, there are numerous options for processing and presenting the collection in the finding aid. It isn't important that the physical collection is in exact order, but that researchers understand how and where to find the information they desire.

In learning this, I went back to my box surveys and selected two boxes that I had listed as containing letters. I pulled out numerous letters and stacked them. Unfortunately these letters were kept in boxes that were filled with dust, dirt, and dead bugs. I pulled and cleaned off the letters and placed them inside another box that was significantly cleaner. I spent the rest of the day pulling and cleaning letters from these two boxes. I've been using a document cleaning pad by Lineco to clean the dust, dirt, mold, and dried tiny bugs. It works amazingly well! Tomorrow I will be ready to start processing this stack of letters using the new method Jen and I discussed.

I found this video that demonstrates using a document cleaning pad, which is similar to what I've been doing. The only difference is that I'm cleaning envelopes and letters. The cleaning pad contains tiny granules that are similar to pieces of an eraser. It causes dirt and dust to cling to it which helps clean the document.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

day 02: frustrated

Today I finished processing the remaining correspondences to John Beverley Riggs from World War II. Jen was busy in a meeting, so I decided to be proactive and see if I could figure out what I should do next. While I was reviewing my box surveys I realized that I was no where near finished with letters to/from J.B. Riggs. Although a large portion of letters had been grouped into two boxes, there were still more letters randomly stored in other boxes. Once I dug out the other boxes and found the letters, I realized there were letters that started from 1930s through the 1970s. I had just finished numbering boxes and folders for letters starting from 1942 through 1945. I also noticed there was a gap between October 1945 and January 1946, that I should've paid more attention to. The letters that were written after 1945 I don't consider a problem for the current boxes and folders that I had processed. I could continue processing them chronologically without issue. The letters that were written in 1945 and earlier however, presented a problem.

I had already taken the time to number boxes and folders. Renumbering boxes isn't a big deal, since there are only 4 so far, but each box has 70 numbered folders. Inserting these letters into these boxes requires a lot of shifting and renumbering, and I realized a lot of time that I have now potentially wasted. I was incredibly frustrated, but luckily it was time to head out and consider the potential options I had for reorganizing these letters. Also, first thing on Thursday I have decided to discuss my thoughts and ideas with Jen before processing anything further.

Monday, May 17, 2010

day 01: the beginning

Today was the first day of my internship at George Washington University at the Special Collections Research Center in Washington, DC. Since this is a continuation of the internship I worked for my Archives class this past spring semester, I already had an idea of what to expect.

Jenny requested that I contribute to the SCRC blog about the work and experience I've had thus far. I wrote a fair amount on my experience during the initial 40 hours and she posted it online! Please feel free to view my blog post on The Riggs Family papers. I'm planning on writing more blogs about the project as I continue my internship throughout the summer.

The project that I've been working on is a second donation from the Riggs family. For those of you not up to date on your local history, the Riggs family has been a prominent family in Washington, DC for the last two hundred years. They are widely known for the establishment and success of Riggs Bank. This collection was donated in 10 various sized boxes (9.5 linear feet) which included papers, photographs and artifacts that relate to the family and not the bank.

Throughout the spring semester I surveyed and recorded the items of each box and developed a processing plan. I first began processing correspondences to/from John Beverley Riggs until I finished the required hours for my Archives class. I spent the remainder of my first day processing more correspondences that were written in August of 1945. I remove each letter from their envelope, flatten the letter and place both papers inside the folder. Each folder has been labeled with the call number, series number, sub series, box number, folder number, heading and date written (or post mark). Occasionally there are news clippings inside each letter which I photocopy onto acid free paper and replace the original clipping in the folder with its corresponding letter. It is difficult for me to throw away these clippings knowing they are authentic! But the point of this collection is to maintain its relevance to the letter. There are a small handful of letters left and I hope to have them all processed soon!