Thursday, October 21, 2010

SAM visits JMM

This past Sunday I hosted a group of University of Maryland students from Master of Library Science program. All of the students also belong to the Student Archvists at Maryland (SAM) group -- including former BHU intern Kristin Davidson (you won't see her as she's the one taking the pictures).

Archivists in training listen to my introduction to the museum

I've never given a tour to future archivists before. This was new and exciting because it gave me the opportunity to talk about all those things that fascinate me (organization, finding aids, and pH neutral folders), but don't generally fascinate other people. We started with a look at the photo archives.

Photos, of course, are the domain of our Photo Archivist, but they are part of any talk on archives. I would guess that most of the collections we receive have both paper documents and photographs together. The photographs also gave me the opportunity to talk about various preservation techniques and our digitization plans. We are far away from being able to digitize our entire archive collection, but we have been working on scanning our photographs. Preservation and digitizing are two of 'those things' that archivists get excited about, but not everyone else does.

Me showing the photographs in their archival sleeves

From photos we next visited paper -- my collections. Besides showing off some of the items in our collection I was able to talk about the quirks of working in an archive. As with all careers, what we learn in the classroom is neat and precise, but doesn't always transfer neatly and precisely to the real world. Each archive or museum is unique and has had many unique archivists bringing their own views to the care of the collections over the years. After fifty years of collecting the JMM archives has been managed in a variety of ways that reflect the nature of the materials and the evolution of the Archives field itself.

Me (again) displaying the smallest size of our manuscript collections

Our last stop was object storage. Though most of our collections are either paper and photographs or objects we often receive collections that involve all three. Objects and historic documents work together to give each other context and to not only tell but also show history to researchers and visitors. Not only are the objects interesting to look at (and the JMM has some amazing and quirky objects including department store hangers and a shelf full of spittoons) but archivists do need to understand the basics of their care and preservation. Just because someone ends up working in an archive doesn't mean they only have to deal with paper -- objects tend to sneek into collections.

SAM members look at some of our wood-based objects

After the collections tour I took the group through our exhibition Voices of Lombard Street and left them to view the other exhibitions on their own. From my side it was a success, and I hope they felt the same way.

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