GCIHS News 1998
15 July 1998
Free Archival Workshop
The Great Cranberry Island Historical Society today sponsored a free Archival Workshop at the Ladies Aid building, from 9 am to 2 pm.
The course was tutored by Pat Burdick, an independant archival consultant with a Master of Library Science degree from Simmons College, Boston. She is currently a part-time staff archivist at Northeast Historic Film (Bucksport) and a part-time on-site consultant for the Society of Maine Archivists.
Topics covered were acquisition procedures, archival security, and presentation issues. Pat also spoke of the need to take a closer look at our purpose and goals, and to confirm directions for the future.
Participants at the workshop were Marian Connor, Hugh Dwelley, Bruce Komusin, Priscilla Richardson, Beatrice Weinreich, Ruth Westphal, and Susan White.
Summary of the Workshop
We introduced ourselves, and then reviewed the statement of purpose: "The Great Cranberry Historical Society, established in 1993, has as it's main purpose to collect, preserve, present, and study the history of Great Cranberry Island and the other Cranberry Islands."
Pat suggested rewording this to focus on GCI because of limited resources.
Pat says we should have a collection policy listing types of materials & subjects acceptable, to help keep us focused, and allow us to say no, rejecting trivia. She stressed that to collect and preserve stuff takes a long-term commitment in money, and is not to be entered into lightly.
She suggested the collection policy should include:
- visual documentation
- correspondence, letters, post cards (individual life)
- flyers, pamphlets, announcements of past events (community life)
- personal & municipal letters
- audio & video materials
- rare/unique bound volumes like diaries, journals, day books, scrap books
Items can be paper-based or 3-D ephemera and artifacts. Paper and photos require no heating in winter. 3-D items generally require more space and a heated environment.
We may want to limit accepting 3-D items to only those contributed along with money for their own maintenance.
We should go over (touching on highlights only) our collection policy at the annual meeting. We should send out a newsletter to everyone to keep ourselves before the public eye.
One good way to get community support is to have a regular "show and tell." People bring one or more photos or interesting items and tell a story about them for some minutes. Not just at the annual meeting, but maybe regularly throughout the summer. Later when we get more organized, and of course with permission, the descriptions could be recorded, the photos duplicated, and the interesting items themselves photographed, for posterity.
We must keep an acquisition record with data about each item we receive. It's very important to know provenance, i.e. as much info as possible about the donor, former owners, location of source, etc.
Hugh Dwelley showed an excellent idea; he's made up book plates with adhesive backing which have a blank acquisition number, and the name, logo, and address of the Islesford Historical Society. The idea is a potential donor pastes this in a book, but keeps the book in his possession. The book will eventually find it's way to the Historical Society on the owner's death, and patrons will know who it came from.
At the annual meeting we should discuss where to store our stuff; maybe someone will donate land, or at least alternative ideas might emerge.
Good Organizations to Know
- Maine State Archives - Has grants for archival storage materials. Roy Wells & Ted Weeden hold group learning classes weekly (Tuesday) at $10/person in Augusta. You can learn how to distinguish tintypes, daguerreotypes, etc.
- Island Institute - Has info about grants.
- Maine Archives and Museums Association (MAM) - 800-452-8785 x296
- American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) - Technical notes on archiving, 172 2nd. Ave. N., Suite 102, Nashville, TN 37201
- Maine State Library - Books about preservation.
- Maine Grants Info Center at the University of Southern Maine - Jacqueline Reed
- Maine Community Foundation (Ellsworth) - They usually fund programs of inter-community nature.
- New England Archivists - It's helpful to get on their mailing list by sending to: Susan J. Von Salis, membership services, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138
Note: in applying for grants, they look for evidence of structure in the requesting organization such as list of officers, and a formal mission statement and collection policy. Also important for many grant givers is a project that furthers collaboration and knitting together of multiple communities (such as us & Islesford.) And it's highly desirable if the project includes means to disseminate its results to the community and the general public. In the latter instance, the Internet seems to making great progress.
Hugh Dwelley suggested we could do a project on "the whale" that apparently beached itself here.
Suggested Collection Policy
No items presented as an indefinite loan - we don't want to undertake expensive preservation unless we know the item will stay with us.
No restrictions on use. (But Priscilla says a nice way she does this is to have a donation form with an empty box to list any possible use restriction, which most donors leave blank.)
But we want to use good judgment as to possible outside use, for example if Coke wants to use a photo as a "old-timey backward" image that would demean the spirit in which it was donated
Hugh mentioned he often rejects simple portrait photos, which would usually be of interest only to family members, in favor of portraits which show an interesting background, such as a factory
Clear plastic acid-free photo sleeves come in three materials, listed most desirable first:
We should use open metal shelving (naturally acid-free) or wooden shelving covered with mylar shelving material (to make it acid-free).
Use archival-quality (acid-free) cardboard boxes.
Use archival-quality (acid-free) file folders which fit into the box vertically; small photos are stored vertically, large ones flat.
We should buy supplies from reputable experts like:
- Gaylord Brothers, 1-800-634-6307
- University Products, Inc., 1-800-628-1912; they have a free catalog with many informative notes, etc.
In any case, we should try to batch-order, for example with Islesford, in order to get good rates.
On acquisition, we should keep a log record, and write on the back of each photo the acquisition number, with an indelible acid-free marking pen. Pencil can also be used, but it doesn't "stick" to some papers, and requires more pressure which could dent the item.
Photos should preferably be handled with white gloves, or at the very least with clean-washed bare hands but then ONLY on the edges.
Group the photos logically, if possible, for example all the same subject, or all came from the same page of a scrapbook.
For random hodgepodge of photos, group by size to make them easier to file.
Each one can be put in a plastic sleeve, with a piece of acid-free bond paper slipped in the back with pencil or acid-free felt pen indicating subject, date, acquisition number, etc. Alternatively, the same information could be written on an adhesive foil-back label pasted on the plastic sleeve.
It is also possible to Xerox the photo onto the acid-free bond so as to make a rough-and-ready "backup" of the photo, and to easily identify the match between the photo and the sleeve if they become separated.
But never place a photo and non-acid-free paper, such as newspaper clipping, in the same sleeve.
Less expensively, the photos can simply be enclosed in a piece of acid-free bond paper folded in half (or two pieces - one on each side - for larger photos.) This is called "interleaving".
Then one or more photos can be kept in each folder, which are then put in the box.
The KEY hallmark of good archiving is REVERSIBILITY. No gluing labels to photos, for example, as they can't easily be pulled off.
Creating our own History
We should not overlook current events by focusing solely on the past. Twenty years from now, people will be wanting photos of Cranberry Island in the 1990's.
We should keep our own records. Regarding new photos we take for the House and Quilt projects for example, black and white photos will always last the longest -- two hundred years was mentioned -- but color photos do last for quite some time, and are more interesting. So Pat suggested we should take both at the same time.
Bruce notes: "My personal opinion is that only color photos should be taken. Black and white copies of the color negatives could be made -- and paid for -- fifty years hence, when the color photos start to deteriorate."
Pat had some doubts as to the longevity of computer-stored documents and images -- not from any inherent weakness in the method, but simply because data stored now may be physically unreadable in future, when equipment has totally changed. (But, this simply means the database of accumulated images and documents must be rewritten to latest available equipment every so often -- say every ten years -- as new technologies appear but older ones are not yet completely phased out.) She also admitted that many current grants are asking for digital cameras for house studies.
Short Term Goals
- Get a storage spot
- Get archiving materials
- Get started on House & Quilt projects in order to show progress at August annual meeting
- Show demonstration of archival materials and collection procedures at annual meeting to impress with our efficiency and encourage donations
Bruce should order archiving materials
- some storage boxes, lignon-free (legal size, 5" thick)
- 100 acid-free file folders for inside the boxes
- 2 reams (500 sheets ea.) of acid-free bond paper
- several "pigment pens" i.e. acid-free indelible markers
- foil-back labels for labeling the clear plastic sleeves with subject & date (although these would seem to be redundant if we use the method of labeling photos by slipping in a piece of acid-free bond behind the photo)
- staple remover
- large roll of acid-free tissue paper to wrap fabric items, e.g. Ruth's flag
- fabric box for Ruth's flag (Ruth may pay for this)
18" x 14" sheets of tissue paper from Priscilla Richardson