Currently viewing the tag: "Processing"

Our day began with verifying authority data in the creator field of our photographic slides inventory spreadsheet. On that account, we substantiated and/or edited about 100 records, which got us pretty much up to speed on all the collections we’ve described thus far. Some names were not found in the library’s OPAC or Library of Congress, so we’ll have to deal with those later.

The issue that arose in today’s processing concerned the authority file of one photographer, ambiguously labeled on 9 boxes as “Fisher.” Someone had previously credited an influential photographer on the spreadsheet, by the name of Clyde Fisher, who has turned up in many other print and slide collections. The tricky part is, the slides were dated circa the 1960s and 1970s, while the authority record of Clyde Fisher indicates a death date of 1949…so something doesn’t add up. None of the slides were numbered, none were labeled, and they numbered literally in the thousands. Regarding whom to credit, we’re still unsure. But one thing is certain; he was genius at capturing human emotions.

We’re not sure what these people are smiling about, but we’re happy to be working our way through all of these remarkable slide collections…


In an effort to bring various aspects of the collections to light we have spent a great deal of time in description mode. This can be a sensitive activity because the materials found in one collection may overlap into the subject fields of another. Today we came across a number of slides that were somehow at the bottom of a collection from a different part of the world. What had happened was the images were grouped by the photographer not by the exhibition. If you don’t make note of the details there is no telling what confusion may be created.

Another issue that we have come across is determining where a “collection” begins and ends. Many of the prints, negatives, slides and other visual images from various Museum expeditions were housed in the same drawers (though not intermixed). For our purposes, is it important to carry out the time consuming effort of distinguishing each specific collection or tie them all together based on themes, providing detailed information within the spreadsheet? Since this is only the first and most basic step in the process, we decided to combine and provide as many details as possible so that an informed decision can be made about how the record catalog will look later on in the process.

For your pleasure, we have attached a photo from an exhibition memorabilia collection we inventoried today. Jumbo the Elephant was PT Barnum’s most prized elephant. His skeleton was donated to the Museum but our man Akeley stuffed it, enabling Jumbo to travel with the circus for years.

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Today’s work in the Anthropology Archives was greatly influenced by a project status meeting held last Wednesday. The meeting was primarily focused around establishing respective target paces for the Cataloging and Risk Assessment projects. Based on the number of collections left to be cataloged at the time of the meeting (about 50) and the time remaining before the Risk Assessment aspect of the project is slated to begin in Anthropology, Phoebe and I were asked if we could create catalog records for roughly 10 collections each day. While we fell one collection shy of meeting this daily quota, a couple of the collections we completed today were fairly large and a great deal of ground was covered. As there are only two Curatorial Field Notes Collections left to be cataloged before we move on to the Photograph Collections, we feel comfortable about our pace moving forward. It seems as if we’ve reached a certain degree of efficiency, moving quickly through the collections but still finding time to note interesting items and take some photographs for the blog.

Of note today were some sketches of Teotihuacan figurines from the collection of George C. Vaillant, the passport of Wendell Bennett from the year 1926, and a well-illustrated field notebook created by Richard Allan Gould and Junius Bird. We were also pleased to observe a collection of photographs in excellent condition from Stanley A. Freed’s expeditions to India. All of the photos were housed in plastic sleeves and stored either in leather bound albums or archival folders. There was no evidence of curling or deterioration.

Working solo on Tuesdays for the time being, my first day on the AMNH Archive Project consisted of surveying the T. Donald Carter manuscript collection for possible improvements in arrangement and description. It is a truly fascinating collection of materials produced by a highly accomplished zoologist. From the OPAC record: “Carter participated in 27 expeditions in North and South America, Africa, China and Indochina, and collected over 10,000 specimens, mostly mammals and birds, with some reptiles, contributing significantly to the contents of the AMNH exhibit halls for Asia, Africa and North America. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and spent a year with the Pigeon Service of the Signal Corps”. I’d love to find out more about the Pigeon Service of the Signal Corps. The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, manuscripts, articles and reviews, clippings, memorabilia, photographs and audio recordings. The arrangement is basically good, but there are certain redundancies and head-scratchers, like the physical separation of pages from diaries from those diaries. The question I would offer moving forward from my afternoon of surveying is in regard to the Field Notes Registry that Smithsonian is developing and that we’re contributing to. There are probably two dozen or so bound volumes of varying size and length that include field observations, so I’m wondering what the procedure is to flag them for inclusion in the Field Note Registry.