archivists

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Zoe Wilbour, daughter of renowned Egyptologist Charles E. Wilbour, was born in New York in 1864. Zoe split her time between the family’s home in Little Compton, Rhode Island, New York City, and Paris before her untimely death in 1885 at the age of 21. In 2005 a relative of the Wilbour family donated a large collection of Zoe’s personal letters to the Museum, which houses the Wilbour Archival Collection and the Wilbour Library of Egyptology

Processing this new collection has been a component of my work as a Pratt Fellow in the Brooklyn Museum Archives. I began this work by crafting a processing plan, outlining the steps I will take while working through the collection, and making recommendations for the organization of the documents. 

The collection contains letters pertaining to multiple members of the Wilbour family, as well as ephemera including menus, postcards, dried flowers, and even the remains of a bird’s wing! With input from Paper Conservators in the Conservation Department, as well as the Library Preservation Associate, we determined that the documents in need of conservation were safe to handle with a dust mask, safety glasses, and disposable gloves. I dry-brushed these documents into a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining sediment, and the documents were then flattened and enclosed in Mylar. Over the past month I have been processing the collection, rehousing materials and creating the accompanying finding aid. Stay tuned for more updates!

Posted Kristin Iemma
Photo Brooke Baldeschwiler

I need two things:

1) for someone to photoshop Priya’s face onto Mona Lisa Saperstein’s body

2) for these @quichehound and @graceking comments to be enshrined in dogblr history

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Processing archival photo collections can often feel like a journey through the history of photography, where you’re bound to encounter all manner of photo formats. Case in point: these slides from the Thomas Porro Collection of Perkin-Elmer Photographs, which were still in the original Kodak carousels! Of course, they needed to be rehoused in fancy plastic preservation sleeves, but we managed to snap a few throwback photos along the way. And speaking of throwbacks, these slide trays remind me of the famed “Carousel” episode of Mad Men, where Don Draper re-brands Kodak’s slide wheel as a carousel built on nostalgia. Which is an apt reference since, when a collection of photos is finally rehoused all nice and pretty, I feel as relaxed as Don Draper meditating on the California coast. Archivists say “Om….”

Originally posted by giphy

washingtonspectator.org
Meet the Press
Rick Perlstein on the the press and the hustlers, hucksters, and cowards who helped elect Donald Trump.

America’s media establishment endlessly repeated Republican claims that Hillary Clinton was a threat to the security and good order of the republic, because she stored official emails on her own server, and erased about 33,000 of them she said were private. The New York Times ran three front-page stories about FBI director James Comey’s surprise review of another set of emails found on the computer of Anthony Weiner’s wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. This second review, however, like the first, ended up showing no wrongdoing.

The elite gatekeepers of our public discourse never bothered with context: that every Secretary of State since the invention of the internet had done the same thing, because the State Department’s computer systems have always been awful; that at the end of the administration of the nation’s 41st president a corrupt national archivist appointed by Ronald Reagan upon the recommendation of Dick Cheney signed a secret document giving George H.W. Bush personal, physical custody of the White House’s email backup tapes so they would never enter the public record. (A federal judge voided the document as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.”) The White House of his son George W. Bush erased 22 million of its official emails, including those under subpoena from Congress. Newspapers archived by the Lexis-Nexis database mentioned Hillary R. Clinton’s 33,000 erased private emails 785 times in 2016. I found six references to George W. Bush’s 22 million erased public ones: four in letters to the editor, one in a London Independent op-ed, another in a guide to the U.S. election for Australians, and one a quotation from a citizen in the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun.

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In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some of the fascinating women who have worked at the National Archives.

Mrs. Margaret M. H. Finch worked for the National Archives between 1940 and 1949.

Finch began her federal career in 1919, at age 42, shortly after her first husband died in the 1918 influenza outbreak. She started as a clerk in the War Department but soon moved to the Bureau of Pensions in the Department of Interior. While there, she worked primarily with pension and bounty-land files from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

When she became chief of the Revolutionary and War of 1812 pension branch, she became the main contact person for historians, genealogists, and other researchers seeking copies of pension records. The paperwork these requests generated–marked with her signature–were subsequently filed with the records themselves.

In 1940, as the pension records were transferred to the National Archives, Finch transferred with them. She continued to help researchers locate pension files but also gave numerous talks about researching in the records. At that time, she knew the pension files from the nation’s first two wars better than anyone else, lovingly referring to them as her “heart throbs.”

In an interview conducted upon her retirement, she explained the files made the men who served “almost become living people, and their descriptions of battles in which they fought are so real you feel like you’ve been an actual participator.”

Finch reluctantly retired from the National Archives in June 1949 after 30 years of federal service. She passed away in 1958.

Look at this wall of post-it notes:

These are in the Union Square-14 St. Station in Manhattan. I am a professional archivist and a historian, so I’m already concerned about the future of this ongoing political and emotional outpouring. 

I’ve contacted the New York Historical Society (@nyhistory), the Museum of the City of New York (@museumofcityny), the New York Public Library (@nypl), and the NYC Department of Transportation to inquire as to the future of these notes, and to volunteer for any collections and preservation projects going further.

Because as I see it, the entire wall needs to be carefully photographed so that the original placement of each note is preserved, there has to be some way of denoting/maintaining/preserving original order, and each note needs to be individually photographed and scanned. And that’s before we take preservation and storage into account; all of which would have to deal with the problems posed by the adhesive. 

To any NYC archivists who read this blog–have you seen any discussion of this? If so, who is discussing it and where is it happening? Let me know here, my inbox, by email (historicitywasalreadytaken@gmail.com), wherever.