Archive for ‘Archival work’

Thursday 5th December, 2013

Sittler Archives website videos

by Matt Frost

Well, for a while (unnoticed by me, but brought to my attention by patrons), the video section of hadn’t been working.  It’s back up and running with what videos we had available still in digital format (or could find), now hosted through YouTube and embedded on our page.  The story, if you’re interested, is below the break.

For users of our “Theological Reflections” series, with the study guide prepared by Robert Saler, those videos are now working directly from the site again. Robert Rothgery had also made his video, “The Debonair Giant,” available on YouTube, and we have embedded that video link as well, so that it can be viewed from our site again.

There are some videos we didn’t have DVD backup of, and those have now been removed from the page until we can digitize the tapes. Friend of the Archives Bill Maloney, who has equipment we don’t and the experience and time to use it well, has helped us with our reel-to-reel tapes and odd-format video media before. Bill has agreed to help us get the VHS materials into DVD format so that we can begin making those available digitally. It’s very good to have friends, and we’re grateful to Bill for his help!

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Tuesday 21st June, 2011

Finds at PTS

by Matt Frost

The Barth-Aquinas conference has been great, but I just missed Amy Marga’s presentation on Grace and Justification for an appointment to spend 3 hours in the Luce Library’s Special Collections room.  Ah, conflicts!  There’s only so much time.  Kenneth Henke, the reference archivist, was a great help.

The Pauck manuscript collection is very nicely organized, and in letter-sized 5″ boxes.  Every box has folders labeled “Box ___ folder ___”, and the materials are not described on the folders, but in a separate archival description (found online at the website — it’s what I used to find which boxes I wanted in the first place).  There are some nice pieces in there, including correspondence between both Wilhelm Pauck and his second wife Marion — still alive and apparently a great conversationalist!  The great find was a Sittler typescript of a speech he delivered in honor of Wilhelm Pauck, of which we now have a photocopy from the original left with Pauck.  Its context data happens to be in the same box, in another folder of correspondence.  It’s always nice to have identifying information!

The McCord manuscript collection is plus formidable!  It doesn’t come in 5″ boxes, but letter-size file boxes that weigh a ton each.  Where I asked for 5 Pauck boxes, and they were convenient, I feel bad about the eight crates of McCord papers!  Some very good finds — a set of 1968 correspondence with handwritten notes and a speech in memory of Joseph Haroutunian, papers from the Chicago Theological Discussion Group in the 40s, and a full file of New Delhi papers and context information — but otherwise quite a lot of misses in places I thought might have been hits.  But I got data from them anyways — ruling out events.  There’s more that I didn’t get to see, too, but there’s only so much time to squeeze in.  You have to pick your best guesses!

Oh, and the leads I have to follow up!  More work…


Thursday 16th June, 2011

Some Princeton Spelunking

by Matt Frost

The beginning of next week will be spent out at Princeton Sem for the Barth-Aquinas conference, so while I’m out there, I may be spending some free time in their archives. We have several recordings of Joe at PTS, and those are first on the list, for researching some of the details. I know there were other occasions where Joe and Pres. McCord were in the same places, and McCord’s files show correspondence from the Institute of Theology. In Pauck’s files there’s a Sittler bio of Pauck and some correspondence, and the McIntire files have something as well. (Which is a big win for web-accessible standard archival descriptions – a benefit to a) standard fonds collection and organization at the institution level, and b) a paid archivist.) That’s a fantastic start, before I get there! To have leads in hand with series and box numbers, from the website … I want that for the Sittler Archives. Obviously I’m also interested in the materials, but gleaning methods is part of the job, too!

Monday 6th June, 2011

“Hidden Collections”

by Matt Frost

Part of my job is cataloging, and part of that job is taking the paper sheets we write up for our inventory and figuring out the best way to turn them into digitally accessible records.  In 1997, when the Sittler Archives was founded at LSTC, one of our “if the money exists” desiderata of the charter was an OCLC-compatible catalog.  Now, it’s been quite a while, and that’s more or less a joke with no full time archivist and no full-time cataloger, only a 10-hour fellow and the volunteer labor of the founders.  But shrugging off the idea of making MARC records, the basic idea is to make this collection accessible to off-site users in increasing ways, and so to extend the mission of our Archives beyond its walls.

So, in my reading, I came across a whole issue of RBM devoted to a dear subject to my heart: Hidden Collections.  (All of the pieces in it are available in full in PDF.)  There but for the grace of God (and the Georges, and the Sittler family) go we!  You see, the Sittler Archives shares LSTC’s archival vault with a whole vast trove of predecessor-body archives from other seminaries and churches, including a few scraps of the old Suomi Synod archives.  All for the most part unused, and quite qualified for the label “Hidden Special Collection.”  The Sittler Archives aims to be as unhidden a special collection as possible, but all this means is we’re trying to solve the problems that plague our shelf-mates in the vault.  And as a dedicated independent organization, we can do that in ways that the Jesuit-Krauss-McCormick library that houses us can’t — it is our sole mandate to take care of this particular special collection.

First off, Mandel is quite right about the “white elephant” nature of these bequests and acquisitions!  JKM’s archivist has been hobby-working on some of them for years, and if he were to turn full-time to it, it would still be a massive undertaking!  In today’s budget climate, the library can no longer spare him even for the hobby-work.  And so the collections sit in climate control and wait.  Which they can do — but that’s not the point!

And reading through Jones’ whitepaper, “Hidden Collections, Scholarly Barriers,” I have to say that I see all of the issues she raises!  But many of the solutions she proposes in 2003 now exist in usable and practiced form in 2011, which is an advantage.  The tools are there.

Katz’s article, emphasizing “partially processed” as a perfectly valid category, and the primary use audience of scholars and teachers, has an appeal to me.  Especially as we have just had a visiting scholar doing research with our collections!  It’s a very useful way to gain perspective on what it is you’re doing, and which materials you should be doing it with, first!

Tabb’s emphasis on “preliminary record” cataloging is where I’m headed, for the simple reason that I love the materials in our files far too much to get a sizable swath of them accessible by digitizing full records for each and every one in one go.  It’s horribly time consuming!  And I know I won’t be on this job forever, and that the next student won’t necessarily have the experience I have.  It’s better by far to turn over a working bare-bones structure that can be easily embellished, than a mountain of work to be climbed one box at a time.  And the key there is also “working” — if we can get basic listing access available to the public, it’s a usable first step.  “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

So, some of the things the Archival Fellow is thinking about lately.