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Efficiencies and Access at Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Written by John Anderies, Head of Special Collections, Haverford College

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Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections was one of the first institutions to be treated to the excellent work of Holly, Courtney and the fabulous student processors (hi, Forrest and Leslie!) hired for the Hidden Collections project. As a semi-official Guinea Pig, we really benefited from the extra time and attention given us by the PACSCL processing team.  All involved did first-rate work and brought some much needed order to 10 of the high-research-value collections in our backlog.  Participating in the project also jumpstarted our adoption of Archivists Toolkit to process new collections, has inspired us to find additional ways to open our holdings to researchers, and has provided our staff with ample opportunities to debate the pros and cons of minimal processing!

Today, we now record all accessions and process all new collections in Archivists Toolkit.

For accessions we record all gifts no matter the format (manuscripts, archives, books, photography and fine art) and any purchases that are not reflected in the acquisitions module of our ILS (such as manuscripts and photography).  Eventually we hope to include retrospective accessions in AT too.  In addition to the original 10 finding aids produced by PACSCL, we have completed 19 more in AT, all of which now reside on the PACSCL EAD Repository hosted at Penn, in addition to our local web server.

Our instance of Archivists Toolkit is installed on a Tri-College server located at Bryn Mawr College and serves the needs of four individual repositories across the consortia: Bryn Mawr Special Collections, Haverford Quaker & Special Collections, Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, and the Peace Collection at Swarthmore College.  Accessions and Resource (or collection) records for our four repositories are partitioned within AT.  However, we do share the tables for Subjects and People, which is very useful when the topics of our collections overlap, which they frequently do.

In addition to moving ahead on creating new finding aids in AT, we have spent the past year making our legacy finding aids more accessible.  Previous efforts at moving our finding aids into the 20th century had produced only a handful of fully searchable guides online and a mish-mash of Word files, PDFs, XML files, Excel files, ASCII text files, and Filemaker Pro databases living on a single staff computer, inaccessible to our researchers without the direct intervention of staff.  A decision to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good” finally freed us from our paralysis and has produced extraordinary results.

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When the PACSCL crew left us in 2009 we had—in addition to their 10 finding aids created in AT—approximately 45 other finding aids online. By agreeing that it was better to supply our researchers with something “quick and dirty” than nothing at all and through the dedication of our students and staff, we turned all of the other finding aid formats into PDFs and mounted them on our web server.  These are listed on two web pages in both Collection Name and Collection Number order and the complete lot of nearly 250 finding aids is searchable using a Google Custom Search.  The results lists are not always pretty and neither are some of the finding aids, but for the first time the majority of our materials are discoverable online and our researchers seem pleased with the access.

As the work of the PACSCL team has discerned over the course of the grant, there are those collections which work well with minimal processing and there are those that do not.  Historically, we have never given the same level of attention to each of our collections.  Personal and family papers have often received more detailed processing than business papers and archival records.  While we have not adopted an MPLP approach at Haverford, we are interested in discerning ways of saving time and money while still providing rich access to our researchers and offering fulfilling and educational opportunities to our student employees and interns.  In the coming months we hope to try our hand at an “iterative” approach at enhancing collections by revisiting selected series within some of the collections processed to a minimal level under the PACSCL project.  And we aim to improve the remainder of our online finding aids bit by bit.

As one of the first institutions to dive into the PACSCL Hidden Collections project, we are pleased to see it wrapping up and hope that the other institutions who have participated have been as pleased and inspired as we have.

Art in the Archives: Doodles, Sketches, and Fine Art

Monday, January 24th, 2011

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People often think of archival collections as dusty boring boxes of papers, but even if the boxes are dusty and full of paper, they are rarely (never, in my opinion) boring.  Who knows what you will find when you pop open that liquor store or candy bar box ?  One of the things that I love finding is artwork, which is very prevalent in archival collections, in varying degrees of artistic quality.  Regardless, I love it because it really allows you to see the world through the creator’s eyes.  Textual material allows you to discover the way the creator thought , but art allows you to see what they saw (or maybe not … maybe it is what they wanted to see).  Fascinating!

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The kind of art that our project has revealed was created for lots of purposes:  work, clarity, creativity, and boredom (or perhaps nerves—I am a nervous doodler).  Workwise, we have found amazing sketches in the Academy of Natural Sciences Exhibit records reflecting the creation of the dioramas  with plans for the backgrounds, the foliage, and habitat.  A professional artist’s work is represented in the Thornton Oakley collection on Howard Pyle and his student.  The John H. Mathis Company records contains ship plans; and when we process the Armistead Browning, Jr. papers at the University of Delaware, we will be working with landscape plans.  Natural historians documented their scientific studies as well as amazing new things they discovered:  Pierre Eugene du Simitière and J. Percy Moore are notable examples.  The Logan family papers include some drawings that show James Logan’s interactions with the Native Americans in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.

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We also have student artists who saved their work—this is evident in the Reinhardt, Hawley and Hewes family papers, the Marvin Rosefield Keck, the Vaux family papers and Nicholson and Taylor family papers.  The artwork in these collection is far beyond amateur and both William Nicholson Taylor and Mary Vaux Walcott studied art formally.  Taylor and Keck used their considerable talents to draw humorous cartoons of the world they observed.  Mary Vaux Walcott created beautiful paintings from her experiences with the United States Board of Indian Commissions.

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Others drew plans of their hopes … James Rush has amazing sketches of architectural features for a home he was building on Chestnut Street.  In John Dickinson’s papers, there are sketches of a bathtub (introduced by Benjamin Franklin) as well as plans for succeeding in a military battle.  I can only imagine how wonderful a bathtub seemed in a time when plumbing was scarce.  The Logan family papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania include tons of land surveys—quite beautiful … I don’t know if the Logan, Dickinson and Norris families were planning to buy land or or already owned it.

Unknown size: small.

Finally we have the doodlers … and I love the doodlers!  I cannot decide if I like the doodles on the inside covers of Benjamin Rush’s financial books or John Dickinson Logan’s doodles on the list of rules for officers serving in the Civil War.  Either way, these doodles are of a most decidedly human nature … I have a strong suspicion that I, and many of the readers of the blog post, would doodle in similar situations.  Hopefully, you have not been doodling during the perusal of this post!

End of Year Report: 2009

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

PACSCL/CLIR “Hidden Collections” Project
July to December 2009
Well, the first six months of the “Hidden Collections” Project have come and gone and it has been a whirlwind! The entire project team was assembled, manuals and standards were created, student processors were trained, 18 collections were processed at the rate of 2.84 hours per linear foot, and we learned that minimal processing works for almost all collections, not just late 20th century institutional records!

The project team consists of Project Archivist, Courtney Smerz; Student Processors Leslie O’Neill, Laurie Rizzo, Eric Rosenzweig and Forrest Wright; and me, the Project Manager. We worked with a wide variety of collections which span the 18th to 20th centuries and cover, at the broadest level, the topics of Quakerism, colleges and universities, and medicine. These collections include institutional, family, and personal papers.

As proposed in More Product, Less Process by Greene and Meissner, institutional records do work best. On average, these collections, largely at Drexel University, were processed at an average of 2.18 hours per linear foot. Personal papers, at Drexel University College of Medicine and Haverford College, were the next easiest, and these were processed at an average of 2.25 hours per linear foot. Family papers are, by far, the hardest, taking significantly more time per collection. Our average for processing family records is 4 hours per linear foot (which is still in the minimal processing range, as suggested by MPLP). The issues that make family papers difficult, to name just a few, are the number of family members contributing to the collection, the time span of the collection which often crosses several generations, and the fact that a good deal of the correspondence is not actually addressed or signed with a person’s name. Quite frequently, letters are sent to “Dear son,” or signed “Your loving mother.” When working with one person’s records, this is not quite as daunting as when you have 4 or 5 potentials for the “mother” and an endless number of possible “sons.” The 19th and 20th century Quakers, the main source of our family collections in this first semester, have a few truly delightful quirks which made processing their collections just a tiny bit trickier. For example, they consistently name their children after relatives … so it is entirely possible to have several Jane Rhoads in one collection. Moreover, in these collections, once they married, in-laws became “mother,” “father,” “sister,” and “brother,” making even the most general identification of senders and recipients virtually impossible in the minimal processing world.

We also discovered that there are some downsides to minimal processing, particularly in the description of collections. Moving through a collection at the rate this project demands means that absorbing content is really difficult. For the first semester, I created processing plans (Courtney is taking over for the rest of the project) for the collections on our list and wrote biographical/historical notes. I think minimal processing at 2 hours per linear foot without the processing plans and rough notes would be absolutely impossible–sometimes the physical processing cannot be done in that time frame.

At this point in the project, I am not sure that I would recommend minimal processing at 2 hours per linear foot–it is just too fast. 4 hours per linear foot, I think, would be a completely different story. Minimal processing, of which I am a fan, really does work and more importantly, it makes the collection available to the researchers long before it could be if we demanded full processing. Although I have not had the luxury of trying minimal processing at 4 hours per linear foot, I am convinced those additional two hours would result in more content and more thorough and accurate biography/history notes and scope and contents notes. My biggest fear with our notes is that we don’t know enough to let the researchers know that the collection contains the material they are seeking. Time will tell once researcher discover these previously hidden, and now “unhidden” collections!

Following, a list of collections processed, the project timeline from June to December, and looking forward:

Collections Processed
18 Collections
255.5 linear feet at an average of 2.84 hours per linear foot

Drexel University

  • College of Engineering Records
  • Evening College Records
  • Library Records
  • Drexel University College of Medicine

  • American Women’s Hospital Service Records
  • Anny Elston Papers
  • Bertha Van Hoosen Papers
  • Bradford Collection
  • Knerr/Hering Collection
  • Haverford College

  • Bowles Family Correspondence
  • Douglas and Dorothy Steere Papers
  • Harold Chance Papers
  • Hilles Family Papers
  • James Wood Family Papers
  • John Davison Papers
  • Nicholson and Taylor Family Papers
  • Reinhardt, Hawley and Hewes Family Papers
  • Sarah Wistar Rhoads Family Papers
  • Vaux Family Papers
  • Project Time line: July to December 2009
  • July 8, 2009: Holly Mengel starts work as Project Manager
  • September 28, 2009: Courtney Smerz starts work as Project Archivist
  • October 2, 2009: Leslie O’Neill, Laurie Rizzo, Eric Rosenzweig and Forrest Wright are hired as Student Processors
  • October 13-15, 2009: Processing Boot Camp
  • October 19, 2009: Laurie Rizzo and Eric Rosenzweig start processing collections at Drexel University and Drexel University College of Medicine
  • October 20, 2009: Leslie O’Neill and Forrest Wright start processing collections at Haverford College
  • November 10, 2009: Refresher training
  • December 11, 2009: Finish processing at Drexel University and Drexel University College of Medicine
  • December 15, 2009: Laurie Rizzo and Eric Rosenzweig start processing at the Wagner Free Institute of Science
  • December 23, 2009: Finish processing at Haverford College
  • Looking forward:

  • Currently processing at the Wagner Free Institute of Science (due for completion on January 19).
  • Begin processing at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (tentative start date: January 20).
  • Currently processing at Bryn Mawr College (due for completion on February 18).
  • Finding Gold

    Monday, January 4th, 2010

    As I mentioned in my last installment, I have been working at Haverford College on the Sarah Cooper Tatum Hilles family papers.  This was my first real experience with a true family papers collection, loaded with handwritten correspondence, and I am dazzled and delighted, and exhausted by it!  So, please excuse my reflections on the collection, which may not seem so novel to those of you already indoctrinated in the family papers world.

    This collection ranked 8 on the survey and I can see why – it’s pretty amazing and though I admit I have not read most of the letters, the collection seems thorough, at least for a period of time in and around the 1850s and 1860s.  Though the collection is named for Sarah Hilles, as she was the compiler and primary recipient of a majority of the letters, the collection actually provides evidence of the lives of dozens of her family and friends through the letters they wrote to her.  Not only do they speak about the goings on in their own lives, they often reflect on the happenings in the world around them.  For starters, this is a great Civil War era resource.   Sarah’s husband, John Smith Hilles, who wrote often, was a Quaker involved with helping freed black men and women in the South in the 1860s, and at least one letter written to Sarah by a friend or cousin reflects on the death of Abraham Lincoln.  Another potentially interesting topic evidenced (though possibly only slightly), is John Hilles’ work managing shipping operations for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

    This is also a good collection about family relationships.  For me, one of the most striking relationships in the collection was that of Margaret Hill Smith Hilles with her son and daughter-in-law, John and Sarah.  Margaret Hilles wrote with incredible frequency, always expressing deep pride and affection for her children and grandchildren.  My favorite parts of her letters, however, were her (dare I say) complaints, intermingled among the declarations of love and family news, to her children who did not write frequently enough.  Just goes to show that some things don’t change—family relationships, even in the most obviously loving and attentive of families, are very familiar throughout time.

    Most of the letters are between women, from friends and cousins of Sarah, but there is a fair amount of correspondence from John to Sarah during his seemingly frequent times away from her and their family.  The letters are written with the casualness of speech and, more than anything, this collection has made me want to pick up a pen and start writing to the people most important to me in my life.  I have been thinking a lot about email and telephones, and what will ultimately be missing in the archives someday about our world and lives because of these technologies–technologies which oddly enough keep us more in touch with each other than ever before.  I guess I am not bringing up anything new for those archivally minded readers, but this problem has been particularly apparent to me in the past few weeks.  As I said before this is my first real family papers processing experience, and one thing that I learned is that as personal as institutional or business records can be at times, they do not compare to papers and letters that were produced as intimate and candid communications between close friends and families.

    Minimally processing this collection was a challenge, an admittedly unexpected challenge by me personally, but completely anticipated by others (a testament to my lack of experience with such collections).  What I have learned is that simply removing nineteenth century letters from envelopes and unfolding them is time consuming.  Even more than that, correctly identifying correspondents and dates is even more time consuming.  This is ALL I had time for.  What’s worse is that I have no idea the scope of information that may be obtained from the collection.  Based on what I know now, this could be a gold mine or it may just be another collection of correspondence written between family members with only one or two truly insightful or especially telling letters.  My gut tells me that this collection is a gold mine–but, I cannot say for sure.

    The family paper saga continues: Reinhardt, Hawley and Hewes at Haverford

    Saturday, December 12th, 2009

    Unknown size: small.

    Family papers, as you may know from previous (and I am sure, coming) posts, are tricky to minimally process in the project’s 2 hours per linear foot goal. I will say that, as far as family papers go, the Reinhardt, Hawley and Hewes family papers are as good as it gets thanks to the donor, Ann P. McCormack, who, prior to donating to Haverford, used the collection to write a genealogical history of the her family. As a result, she identified almost every item in the collection and grouped all like materials together. This collection was actually processed in just over two hours per linear foot (2.4 hours per linear foot to be exact).

    As stated before, if you will read other blog posts here, you will find that “quick” is not a term we have often used when describing the processing of family papers–and generally speaking, I don’t necessarily think that family papers are good candidates for minimal processing at this speed. Quite frequently, the physical arrangement of collection cannot even be completed in the two hours per linear foot. That said, processors not constrained to two hours per linear foot could probably use minimal processing on family papers and get really good results. In two hours, the collections look pretty good and are organized and usable. An archivist used to perfect processing might faint in horror at the letters still in envelopes, a lack of chronological order within folders, etc., but the bottom line is that the collection is available. As stated in a few earlier blog posts, what suffers in minimal processing, in my opinion, is the description of the collections: the bio/history notes and the scope and contents notes.

    This processing of this collection produced yet another interesting insight into minimal processing. It seems that the better a collection is arranged prior to our processing, the less content we discover. I suppose that it makes sense–I did not have to read anything to discover where it should go in the intellectual or physical arrangement of the collection. That work was done by the donor and workers at Haverford who had already removed letters from envelopes. The saving grace for me in this instance, however, is that Ann P. McCormack’s book, The Reinhardts and Hawleys of Chester County, PA: Lives and Letters, Also Including Related Families of Meredith, Mendenhall, Pugh, etc. and the Hewes of Salem County, NJ, is available at the Haverford College Special Collections. Many of the documents in the collection are transcribed in the book, which made writing a bio note possible and will make any initial researching of the collection a lot easier.

    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.

    The Hering-Knerr family papers and a peek into the Hilles family papers

    Friday, December 4th, 2009

    Unknown size: small.

    A big part of my job here is to tackle some of the more complicated collections that have been included in the project but that absolutely require more than the allotted two hours per linear foot.  Over the past few weeks I have been juggling two collections; the Hering-Knerr family papers at Drexel University College of Medicine and the Hilles family papers at Haverford College.  Though both have been deemed family papers and both are nineteenth century collections, the two could not be more different.

    The first, the Hering-Knerr family papers, I actually finished on Wednesday this week.  It measures 6 ¼ linear feet and processing was completed in approximately 38 hours.  Physical processing took about 19 hours, data entry and description took another 19 – TOO LONG.  It sounds silly but data entry was slow going because there were a lot of files containing German language articles, which were difficult for me to type into the AT fields.  Description was slower because of the need to learn about Calvin Knerr, a large contributor to the papers, and include a short bio on his life, and to fully describe the nature of the series within the collection, which were not always completely straightforward.  Much of the collection was housed in envelopes and identified though it required quite a bit of arranging and foldering for almost the entire collection.  Papers, especially contemporary newspaper clippings, photocopies of related archives from other repositories, notes and other miscellany were also added to the collection over time, and needed to be removed.  In this case, those items were given their own series at the end called Reference Materials.

    Though considered a collection of “family papers,” it is actually primarily a collection of papers of Constantine Hering, none other than the “father of homeopathy in America.”  What ultimately makes it officially a family collection are the discrete groups of material of Calvin Knerr, Hering’s son-in-law and a homeopathic physician himself; Hering’s and Knerr’s children; and correspondence of Hering’s wife’s family.  The collection content is reflective of family relationships as well as Hering’s and Knerr’s medical careers.  Hering’s career is especially showcased as it was lived and seen by himself, Knerr and his son Carl.

    Unknown size: small.

    There are a few gems in the collection, all connected to Constantine Hering.   There is, a letter (pictured to the left) written by Hering as a child to his mother on her birthday; an uncut telegram tape, supposedly measuring NINE yards long (MPLP does not allow time for double checking such claims), that describes the symptoms of a patient to Hering for consultation; a manuscript written by Hering about the issue or possibility of cholera contaminating New York City harbor; and a letter about one of Hering’s patients requesting exemption from military service based on his contraction of “National Hotel Disease” in 1857.  What’s National Hotel Disease you ask?  That year, at the National Hotel in Washington DC, hotel guests, including soon-to-be president, James Buchanan, were stricken ill with a gastrointestinal ailment from which numerous people died.  I am not quite sure exactly what was decided to be the cause, but many theories, some citing foul play, were discussed at the time.

    The Sarah Cooper Tatum Hilles family papers still have a LONG way to go!  As you can see from the picture below, this is a collection of unidentified bundles of letters from the nineteenth century (and that is only a small sampling of the number of bundles actually in the collection).

    Unknown size: small.

    It was quickly established, both from the survey and from the correspondence itself that a majority of the letters were addressed to Sarah Hilles, but beyond that identification required considerably more effort.  And since the whole point of this project is to provide even greater accessibility to these hidden collections than the survey did, I started to open envelopes, unfold letters and sort them by correspondent.  Phew!  What a task – especially at this rate!  I think Holly already alluded to this when discussing the Rhoads family papers and I am sure any of you who have been in my shoes will not be surprised, but these families were big and they all wrote to each other and they all had the same names across generations.  Needless to say, this has been going FAR SLOWER than two hours per foot, but it still feels like rapid fire when you consider the condition of the materials.  More on that later…

    In the meantime, here are a few more snapshots from the Hering-Knerr family papers.

    Vaux Family Papers and the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners

    Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

    Unknown size: small.

    The Vaux family papers at Haverford College offer a unique look into the affairs of the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners during the early nineteenth century. George Vaux, Jr. (1863-1927) was appointed to the Indian Commissioners in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, and served until he passed in 1927. During his appointment he traveled to Native American villages, documenting his visits.

    George Jr.’s papers also include official government documents regarding his interactions with various tribes, as well as correspondence with other appointees to the Board of Indian Commissioners.

    Unknown size: small.

    George Jr.’s sister Marry Morris Vaux Wolcott (1860-1940) also became involved with the Board of Indian Commissioners, being appointed to the Board after George’s death in 1927. Her papers include correspondence, official government documents, and meeting minutes all related to her role with the Commissioners. She also collected material related to Native customs.

    This collection goes beyond providing a fascinating glimpse into the past; it also holds some contemporary relevance. Contained within the collection are records related to tribes (specifically the Blackfeet) involved in the recent landmark restitution case where Native Americans won $3.4 billion dollars from the United States government.

    A complete MPLP success: The Bowles family correspondence

    Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

    Unknown size: small.

    I processed this super quick, super fun collection, the Bowles family correspondence, as a result of having only a few hours at Haverford one day. I only needed an hour and a half for this collection which was already beautifully arranged. All the letters had been removed from the envelopes and were placed in folders by year: pretty much done before I set eyes on it. I had the collection in the Archivists’ Toolkit in fifteen minutes, which meant I had an hour and fifteen minutes to actually look at the letters. Pure pleasure!

    Unknown size: small.

    This collection consists of wonderful newsy letters from Gilbert and Minnie Pickett Bowles, Quaker missionaries who were in Japan for most of the time covered by the papers, to their son Gordon and later to Gordon and his wife Jane. The entire collection reads almost like a diary and is enjoyable on almost every level. Warning: the handwriting is a little tricky and definitely hindered my ability to read the bulk of the collection in my allotted time. So, if you choose to use this collection, give yourself a bit of time. You will want to read every letter anyway–the Bowles draw you into their world after only a few letters.

    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!