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

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.” In this post I continue with some “Quick Tips” on processing. Find more from previous posts from April and June 2018!

Some Housekeeping Items

Rule 1: Unless you have some crazy quota on how much you must process in a month/year, you should be removing fasteners. Metal corrodes, plastic eventually changes and rubber bands… just... yuck. I understand when big university archives programs with hundreds of linear feet of records choose to take the MPLP (More Product, Less Process) approach, but the rest of us don’t have a ton of excuses. You will only do this once with a collection, it will go in folders and boxes for the next hundred years and will not need to be touched again if you just go ahead and take this step. At the very least, take out paper clips, document clips, rubber bands or other fasteners requiring no tools to remove them. The next Archivist will sing your praises rather than cursing your name, that of you father, and that of your father’s father.

Rule 2: Crease your damn folders. Almost every archives-grade file folder you’ll ever encounter has crease lines near the fold so that you can square off the bottom of the folder around your documents. Use them. It helps keep the folder from sagging all over the place. It’s a preservation technique that is completely free, takes no time at all, and doesn’t make you look like a jerk.

Rule 3: Give yourself hard and fast rules about duplicates and unneeded materials. If you want to keep two copies of something when you find a stack, keep two. Do you hold onto multiple copies of published reports and items from other institutions when you find them in a collection? Decide if that’s really your job or not. For example, when you find “Gov Docs” ask yourself, “Am I The Gov?” If not, why bother holding onto them? I hear The Gov has a pretty good system for taking care of their own. You can note what you tossed in the finding aid.

Rule 4: Neatness counts. Sorry folks, but your everyday, post-it note scrawl (for the rare occasions you actually write with your hand holding a thing and no typing is involved) doesn’t cut it for folder labeling. Write everything - EVERYTHING - in nice, block letters, in all caps LIKE A F*^KING ROBOT! Leave no letter to doubt. These are labels meant to convey real information for decades to come, not some cute, handwritten folder label idea you found on Pinterest.

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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