Tiny Archives Project Quick Tips I: Could You F*^king Not?

Tiny Archives Project Quick Tips: Making Nice Folders!
Nice boxy boxes...
I have never worked or volunteered in an archive where I did not have to re-process collections, though most places do encourage you to “leave well enough alone.” If you happen to be in a place where everything was done correctly the first time and there is nothing left to do but add accruals or process new accessions, consider yourself an outlier. But I find weirdly processed collections everywhere I go, causing me to build a long list of pet peeves. Here are just a few to start things off. Consider this a “Quick Tips” post to be continued next month!

Folder Titles

Are you able to use the original folder titles that came with the materials? Good for you! The rest of you: are you forced to make up titles for bundles of stuff? Okay then.

Rule 1: Those are not “Papers”, “Documents”, or “Information” in that folder. Come on. You can do better. Did you even look at this stuff? Is it correspondence, memoranda, reports, deeds, dockets, permits? What? Whatwhatwhatwhatwhat!!!! Tell me or I will harm you.

Rule 2: Give those things in the carton box.folders numbers. Countless times I have run across collections boxed up with continuous folder numbers or with no numbers at all. Now, archives are about finding information, no? And finding aids are meant to help you find it, right? Here’s the thing: if your finding aid tells you that unnumbered folder “Correspondence: Laurel to Hardy, 1929” is in box four of a particular collection and the folders in that series don’t happen to be in alphabetical order, that’s going to slow you down. You now need to refer to the finding aid not only to figure out where that folder is, exactly, but also to put it back. This whole process is made easier with geography. Give your folders coordinates (i.e. Box 4, Folder 18 - or just 4.18) and life instantly gets better for everyone involved.

Rule 3: The only three things that need to go on that folder tab are the Collection Number, Folder Title and Box.Folder number. Nothing else. Just don’t. In the past I have seen the following other things painstakingly written out by some hapless processor: series titles, subseries titles, accession numbers, separated materials notes, subject headings, and weird little boxes outlining things. It’s simple. You don’t need or want to write the great American novel on the folder tab; just what’s necessary to find it, to know that it matches up with the finding aid, and to be able to replace it in the right spot when you’re done.

What About You?

What are your pet peeves when it comes to processing. Share them in the comments section below because we all know we could use a good gripe session from time to time.


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