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PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project » Blog Archive » Douglas and Dorothy Steere … concluding thoughts

Douglas and Dorothy Steere … concluding thoughts

Written by Leslie O'Neill on November 11th, 2009

Our very first collection at Haverford College was the Douglas and Dorothy Steere papers. Douglas and Dorothy Steere served the Society of Friends for a large part of their adult lives and their influence remains strong to today, as illustrated in the size and depth of their collection. Based on the initial PACSCL survey, we thought this would be ideal for minimal processing, and although it was large in physical size, much of the collection was thought to be already processed, and virtually ready for access. After further review, we discovered that while material was foldered and labeled, it was not always correct. Documents were often incorrectly marked or had been given inaccurate subject headings. The Steere collection also contained an immense amount of correspondence, some of which was already arranged by sender or date. However, we found that a large portion of the correspondence was in no order, and much time was spent sorting letters. Once organized, our correspondence for both Dorothy and Douglas accounted for close to 100 boxes!

Once processed, the collection is divided into two series: Douglas V. Steere and Dorothy M. Steere. The Douglas Steere series has been arranged into 12 subseries. We decided to arrange based on research value, as Douglas Steere is best known for his writings regarding the Quaker movement. Douglas was a prolific writer and we spent hours organizing and arranging his writings. He was also heavily involved and influenced by contemporary Quaker scholars, as reflected in his writings.

When we began the collection, we knew very little about Dorothy Steere. But upon completion, we had gotten to know her very well, and found that she and her work was very well represented in the now processed collection. Dorothy was an integral part of Douglas’s life and work, and that is reflected in both of them. I was especially struck by her involvement and work in the Civil Rights Movement, from the early 1950’s through 1970’s. Found in the collection is her correspondence with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 1956-1958, and programs, pamphlets, and other illustrated depictions related to the movement.

This collection is beautifully represented through many different types of materials, such as letters, books, newspaper clippings, audio cassettes, albums, photographs, typed and handwritten notes, and journals. When we arrived at Haverford, the collection was virtually unusable, there was even a lovely box labeled “The Box of Despair,” (filled with utterly random and initially unidentifiable documents) and as we processed, we found several other boxes that were also rather, well, despairing. Our end result was a collection measuring 60 linear feet, comprised of 256 boxes, an extremely comprehensive finding aid down to the folder level, and a collection that is now completely accessible. This collection did require more time than our expected 2 hours per linear foot. However, I do not think it would have been possible to spend less time than we did.

See previous post on Douglas and Dorothy Steere!


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