A Year-End Roundup for The Tiny Archives Project Blog
And so it has come to the twelfth installment of the Tiny Archives Project blog! Who knew way back last December the project would come this far and that my own Archives journey would be so winding and wild? After the craziness of managing an archives move in the last quarter of 2017, and dealing with a tiny new space for much of 2018, I am finally breathing a little sigh of relief here at the end of this chaotic spell. It's been so chaotic, in fact, that I'm waaaay behind in posting for December. But that means I'm early for January, right? Right?! Therefore, I am combining the two and taking a short break to pull things back together. Regular, first-ish-of-the-month posting will begin again in February 2019.
Anyway, to recap: the start of 2018 found me in a very tight spot, fresh off of a Fall 2017 office move by my non-profit organization. Our org's Boston headquarters had been in the same three bow-front, brick row houses for just shy of 95 years! Sensing it was time for a change (and a functional elevator) our leadership located a somewhat younger building and we moved across the mighty Charles River (though still within Boston city limits) to Charlestown. Moving is never easy, and moving an office of almost 70 people plus 95 years of accumulated stuff could be ranked as cringe-worthy. It certainly was for me.
Move accomplished and space allotted, it was quickly realized that the Archives did not fit in the new setting (and yes, I'm going to use the word literally here. The Archives LITERALLY did not fit). The decision was made early in 2018 to move them out of headquarters altogether and bump them up to one of the org's lodging and educational facilities in the mountains of northern New Hampshire. Great! I've always wanted to live in the middle of nowhere!
No. For real. I have.
Planning ensued. Renovations on a the new space began. Fundraising was cranked up to eleven. I never truly unpacked after the first move, so whilst all of the aforementioned activities were going on I was still, of course, trying to be an archivist, replying to research requests and processing collections, even when I could barely locate the right box. Shelving was planned for the new space, movers were hired, my husband and I worked on our own house-hunting (for the win! Eventually.). Delays happened, as they do, and the summer dragged on. Move day finally came in the first week of October and surprisingly went off without a hitch. The new space is still small and everything is crammed into it while I look for more funding to complete our shelving system, but it's here.
Things are very slowly getting back to normal. I've had a couple of researchers come by. A few materials donations have come in. I'm working with staff here to integrate what the Archives have to offer into their programs and events. Plus I am in a beautiful setting. I was never a city person to begin with, and fifteen solid years was far too long for me to live in one. The noise, the crowding, the close living were never for me. Here we have space. For my commute, I spend half the time going more than twice the distance; no longer crammed inside a metal tube underground facing whatever nonsense and garbage the MBTA has to throw at me on any given day. Yes, things are farther away when it comes to food, culture and services, but it's worth it.
As we embark on 2019, I hope all of you out there in Lone Arranger Land can look forward with optimism and hope. Even if you knowingly face challenges, either fiscal or logistical, in the coming year, keep plugging away at the work. It's important that we do what we do. And just so this post has some content related to the original idea of the blog - giving you a Tiny Archives Project for every month of the year - here's something to do either in the last couple of work days of this year or the first few days of next year: Accession One Thing.
If your Archives are like mine, there is a backlog. There are unprocessed collections, mystery boxes, finding aids that never quite made it to the published stage. And there are things that came in years ago, probably before your time, that were never even accessioned at all. Perhaps you have no documentation of precisely when or how they arrived and you are hesitant (or too busy) to dig into their provenance. Block out some time. Do some digging and give it your best effort. If nothing turns up, go ahead and assign them a current accession number and write up a record with the exact date. Although accession numbers are meant to mark that moment when the collection came into your institution, its important to give them even a late-dated number. It marks the fact that, sad as it may be, the item's origin story has been forgotten. However, that too, becomes part of its story.
One way to make the otherwise mundane task of accessioning more exciting is to choose the day on which to accession something. Here's how I'm going to make this fun for you. Accession an item or collection you find particularly fascinating on your birthday. Accession something on an important anniversary, in your favorite month of the year, or on one of those weird national days. FYI: National Fruitcake Day conveniently happens to be coming up on December 27th, and you can bet I'll be accessioning something that Thursday! Even if you do not record this particular piece of information in the accession record itself, it will be your own special piece of knowledge that you can put in your memoir down the road.
I hope that you, too, find some joy in this mission (should you choose to accept it). May the next year be full of fulfilling work, cool patrons, awesome historical surprises, conferences where they serve snacks absolutely all day long, and many calm, contemplative moments listening to the voices of the past.
Happy Holidays and All The Best in 2019!