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PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project » Leslie O’Neill

Leslie O’Neill

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The Mutter Museum records at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

In March, Forrest and I began processing at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. This is a historic and impressive institution to be working at, and we are looking forward to the many collections that we will be processing over the upcoming months as well as working with the wonderful staff of the library.

Unknown size: small.

Our first collection was the Mutter Museum records, a collection that measured, pre-processing, about 28.75 linear feet. The Mutter Museum records (1887 to 2006) is a collection comprised of sixteen series. This collection contains material relating to the Mutter Museum’s operations and history such as correspondence, activity and visitor records, reports, photographs, catalogues of the collection, and event programs and flyers. The sixteen series are the following: “Activity and Accession Records,” “Catalogue of the Mutter Museum,” “Correspondence,” “Curator Reports,” “Education,” “Elizabeth Moyer,” “Ella N. Wade,” “Events,” “Exhibitions,” “Index of Collection,” “Journal on Giants,” “Staff Newsletters,” “Thomas Dents Mutter Lecture,” “Visitor and Group Records,” Miscellaneous,” and “Gretchen Worden.”

Unknown size: small.

This collection was an excellent choice for minimal processing. A large majority of it was already processed, however we did find portions that were completely unprocessed and required extra time to folder and arrange. After processing, the collection measured 16 linear feet and took 54 hours to process.

I found the Mutter Museum records to be an excellent collection for those studying the impressive and fascinating history of the medical museum, as well as the history of medicine, and specifically, medical deformities and oddities.

Unknown size: small.

Also of note in the collection, is the “Gretchen Worden records” series. Worden began working at the Mutter Museum in 1975 and was appointed Head Curator 1982. She is best known for her role as Director, a position which she held from 1988 until her death in 2004. She appeared several times on the David Letterman Show and was very well known both locally and nationally for her role in the growth and expansion of the museum. For researchers studying Worden, this series illustrates her life, work, and great passion for the Mutter Museum and its mission.

Jean Scobie Davis papers at Bryn Mawr College

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Unknown size: small.

This week Forrest and I completed our third collection at Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections, the Jean Scobie Davis papers. This collection chronicled the life of Jean Scobie Davis (1892-1985), who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1914 and later received her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. Davis was a professor and taught at such colleges as Vassar, Pierce, and the American Women’s College in Beirut. She also held a lifelong interest in prison reform, serving on the Board of Visitors of the New York State Reformatory for Women at Bedford Hills. Davis studied and researched the development of professional social work in Atlanta, and was heavily involved in studying women’s prisons and reformatories for teenagers.

Unknown size: small.

When we first opened the 10 cartons holding this collection, we knew it would need a bit of attention. While parts of the collection were carefully arranged, other parts were completely disorganized and in great need of foldering and description. We spent quite a bit of time sorting through materials and identifying additional series, but at the same time, attempting to process the collection at our MPLP standard: 2 hours per linear foot. Once we completed, we had seven defined series and a collection that would be truly accessible.

Unknown size: small.

What was fascinating about this collection was the diversity and range of the materials. Within the collection were tintypes in cases, handwritten notes, bound diaries, loose journal pages, scrapbooks, institutional reports from prisons and disciplinary facilities, and letters.

I feel that the Jean Scobie Davis papers is an outstanding collection for researchers studying women’s history and social issues. Davis’ diaries document the struggles of women as scholars, and in academia, as well as her own personal experiences and reflections as a woman. This collection also holds material rich in the history and development of prison reform in the United States. The Westfield State Farm material contains reports, minutes, and accounts of life for not only inmates, but employees and staff inside a mid-century prison.

Olivia Stokes Hatch papers at Bryn Mawr College

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Unknown size: small.

This past week Forrest and I started and completed the Olivia Stokes Hatch papers in the Special Collections at Bryn Mawr College. Dating from 1859 to 1993, the collection measured approximately 12 linear feet and was in ideal condition for minimal processing: material was accurately foldered and arranged by series, and needed very little hands on processing. With the exception of the foldering of a few items, the collection was essentially ready to be entered into Archivists’ Toolkit. The bulk of our time was spent actually reading off and inputting 408 folder labels into AT. The collection is comprised almost entirely of correspondence and had it not been well processed before we arrived, it would not have been a good candidate for minimal processing. However, letters had already been removed from envelopes, and then arranged by sender and date, which saved us valuable time.

Unknown size: small.

We divided the collection into three series: Olivia Stokes Hatch; Anna V.S. Mitchell; and Collected Correspondence. The first series, Olivia Stokes Hatch, included biographical information, material she collected, correspondence, family material, and photographs.

Olivia Stokes Hatch was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1908, and attended Bryn Mawr College from 1925 to 1930. Prior to her marriage she was very active with the American Red Cross and American Conferences of Social Work. In 1939, Olivia Phelps Stokes married John Davis Hatch, Jr. an art collector, consultant, and museum director. They had four children: John Davis Hatch III, Daniel Lindley Hatch, James Stokes Hatch, and Sarah Stokes Hatch. Much of the correspondence in the collection is between Olivia, her husband, her mother Caroline Mitchell Phelps Stokes and her father Anson Phelps Stokes.

Unknown size: small.

The second series, Anna V.S. Mitchell, is comprised also largely of correspondence, as well as diaries, and essay. Much of the correspondence is regarding her work during World War I and domestic fundraising efforts on behalf of Russian refugees in Constantinople. Her diaries date from 1896 to 1925, and provide an intimate and firsthand account of her work and experiences in World War I.

The final series, Collected Correspondence, is more correspondence! This correspondence is mostly between friends and relatives of the Mitchell and Stokes families.

This collection is an excellent resource for those researching family dynamics and relationships in the early to mid 20th century. The collection also provides an intimate look into the relief work of women during World War I through correspondence and diaries created by those involved directly. The work of women in the American Red Cross is also well documented through correspondence within the collection.

The Harold Chance papers and a goodbye to Haverford

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Our final collection at Haverford College was the Harold J. Chance papers. This collection was relatively small in size and for the most part, processed to the folder level, but oddly enough, unfoldered. Documents were bound with metal fasteners and tabbed with pieces of paper noting the subject of papers. There were quite a few of these bundles of documents, and each one required foldering and labeling. Greene and Meissner noted the University of Washington project that concluded that “up to 80% of processing time was spent on tasks related to refoldering.” This certainly rang true with the Chance papers.

To offer a short background on him, Harold J. Chance (1898-1975) worked for peace education through the American Friends Service Committee, the Peace Caravans, the Youth Section of the Emergency Peace Campaign, the Institutes of International Relations, and the Friends Peace Service from 1934-1964. Included in the Harold Chance papers are correspondence, journals, writings, mailings and materials on the Friends Peace Service. Also included are lectures and course notes by Howard Haines Brinton (1884-1973) on topics such as history and religion, mysticism in various religions, religion and social change and the philosophy of pacifism. Mr. Chance traveled throughout the United States lecturing and speaking on the Peace Movement. He authored several books including: Bases of a Spiritual Peace Ministry, 1944; A Report on Friends Intervisitation, 1944; For the Consideration of Friends: a Survey of the Society, 1945; Toward Fellowship with God and Man, 1948; and Tradition and Challenge: The Historic Peace Testimony of the Religious Society of Friends, 1952.

This collection required quite a bit of sorting of correspondence. The end result was correspondence arranged chronologically from 1938 through 1962, organized by the individual year. Of note in Chance’s correspondence is the reaction of Friends Peace Service regarding Quaker G.I.’s to military service from 1947 to 1948. Also requiring additional attention and sorting were Chance’s journal entries. While most were bound together by date, a good bit of his entries were bundled with no order. This resulted in more time spent discerning dates and sorting.

After completing this final collection at Haverford, it was astonishing to see what had been accomplished. We began here in mid October, and by mid December, Forrest and I had processed six collections which were previously un-accessible. Working as a team, we developed our system of processing that allowed for both speed and accuracy. As we move on to our next repository, I believe that we are both hopeful that our success will continue. On to the next one!

James Wood papers… perfect fit for “MPLP 2 hours”

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Unknown size: small.

The James Wood papers at Haverford College is a collection that is a perfect study for minimal processing. While at first glance, it may have looked a bit messy; it had already received the attention needed to accomplish processing in a very short amount of time. The collection was originally housed in about 5 cartons, and documents were foldered and accurately labeled. Identifying each series was not hard, we chose to divide the collection up into twelve subseries, and the processing could not have gone better.

Unknown size: small.

James Wood was born in 1839 on a farm just north of Mt. Kisco, New York. He attended Haverford College, graduating in 1858, and later, received an honorary master’s degree, also from Haverford. Wood was involved in quite a range of activities, and had many interests. According to the American Bible Society’s biography of Wood, he was “interested in education, philanthropy, in the various branches of agriculture, in archaeology, history, Indian lore, anthropology, science, in prison reform and above all, in the Bible and religion.” This quote was represented almost exactly in the materials we found in the collection.

My favorite part of this collection was the “Agriculture” series. Wood kept meticulous records of his livestock and within this series were photographs, awards, and pamphlets, as well as Wood’s own writings on agriculture. Also of note, is his correspondence regarding “bulk sheep.”

Unknown size: small.

Included in the collection is work by Hugh Barbour, a biographer of Wood. Hugh Barbour wrote on Wood’s life in Mount Kisco, as well as his involvement in the Quaker movement at Braewold. Barbour presented these writings at the Earlham School of Religion (1994) and at the Quaker Historian and Archivists Meeting (1996). Barbour’s work is represented by letters and papers, and provides an excellent insight into the life this extraordinary man.

Douglas and Dorothy Steere … concluding thoughts

Wednesday, 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!

Douglas and Dorothy Steere at Haverford

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Unknown size: small.

After two and a half weeks of processing the Douglas and Dorothy Steere collection, we are finally about to start Archivists’ Toolkit. The collection, which began at about 60 linear feet, initially appeared fairly organized, with many of the boxes arranged chronologically or alphabetically, as well as placed a loose arrangement. This made processing at the start very easy, however we later encountered many boxes containing loose material, random correspondence, as well as the “box of despair” (not our label). Dealing with these materials slowed down our minimal processing considerably. Yet after spending two-three days processing loose material and correspondence, we were ready to begin the arrangement and, finally, Archivists’ Toolkit today.

Unknown size: small.

Over the past two and a half weeks, we’ve learned quite a bit about minimal processing and archival methods, including how to select appropriate series and subseries titles for intellectual arrangement in archives. We’ve also developed a better feel for what type of collection works well for minimal processing. The Douglas and Dorothy Steele collection is an appropriate choice considering how much of it was already organized chronologically and alphabetically. While the loose material has presented a challenge, we’ve remained on track to complete processing significantly quicker than traditional processing. We’ve taken advantage of the great resources surrounding us here at Haverford College, particularly Diana Peterson, Head Archivist of Special Collections and Manuscripts. Diana has been a wealth of knowledge and a great help to us on multiple occasions. We hope to be finishing this collection up by the end of next week and will continue to share our thoughts on our first official collection processing.

By Forrest Wright and Leslie O’Neill