Chaos & Order

Last week we did an accessioning exercise where we looked at an unprocessed box from a new collection and thought about ways to establish order. It was a fun exercise to dig through the contents of the box, and think about ways to organize the chaos. Ultimately however, it was overwhelming and intimidating to see the sheer volume of work ahead for the archivists who will make the collection accessible.

Fastforward to today, where I spent the day in the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland. When I arrived, the archivist wheeled out a cart of boxes I had reserved and we chatted about the collection. Ten minutes later I was diving in to a tidy box of viewer mail, roughly organized by year.

While I was excited to see the sources and each one felt like a fun discovery, I was continually reminded of the number of hours of work and care that went into establshing the order of each folder and each box.

Not only can I imagine the chaos that this collection may have arrived in, and marveled at how much sense each box made. But I also thought about the detailed work done on each folder. Metal paperclips were replaced with plastic ones. Photos are sandwhiched with acid-free. Some fragile materials had duplicated photocopies.

In the course of the day, I only made it through four boxes. There are seventeen more just onĀ Sesame Street, and about 300 more in the entire collection. Sitting here, processing my day of research, I cannot help but be awed and incredibly thankful for both the work that went into making this collection accessible, but also for being more informed about this otherwise invisible process so I could truly appreciate it.

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