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  • Accessioning work with new collections

 When accessioning a new collection, some preliminary research is required:

  • Who is the creator of the collection? 
    • Do they have an existing LCNAF heading?
    • If so, is the existing record correct? Do death dates need to be added?
    • If not, is there an existing Hollis record that you could use as the correct form of the name?
    • If you want to update an existing authority record or create a new one, email Paula for guidance.
  • What should the title be?  

Choice of creator and title in MARC records for new accessions:

  • Generally, the creator for an archival item or collection is the person, family, or corporate body “predominantly responsible for the creation assembly, accumulation, and/or maintenance of the materials.” (DACS 2.3.4) Note that this person may not always be the donor, and in this case the creator should not be the donor but rather the person most responsible for creating the materials. For example:
  • Where the materials are collected by an individual about another individual or a topic, the collector should be the creator. If the collection is about a person, that person should be a 600. For example:
  • There may be cases at Schlesinger where we choose to bend this rule to center the person who was the focus of our acquisition decision. For example, letters to a wife from her spouse about their divorce. Because we are interested in the woman’s position in the relationship we may choose to identify her as the creator. For example:
  • The creator (as indicated in the 1XX) should almost always match the creator segment of the title. One example of when that rule has consciously been broken is in the case of the bill of sale for women and girls who were enslaved. Although the enslaver was named as the creator, he was not listed in the title. For example:

Additional preliminary work:

Take a look at the deed of gift and notice any restrictions and what the donor says about returns. If there is clearly out of scope material that comes with the collection, returning it to the donor at the point of accession saves headaches for processing archivists later on. Curators may not accurately record restrictions on the accession sheet they fill out. Look at the actual deed of gift, and if there isn't one, discuss further with curator.

Do a brief survey through the material; use this time to consider what kind of work you can/must do. If the material is fragile, much of it restricted, very messy, or dirty, you will probably plan to close the collection until processed.  In all other cases, do as much descriptive and physical work as possible when accessioning to make the material easily usable if open to research. This might mean: boxing like material together (all diaries in a carton, all file folders in another carton); identifying an order for material in file folders and trying to box in that same order; boxing any restricted material separately if the rest of the collection could be open to research.

If the accession has a significant amount of A/V or photographs, discuss with Joanne. If you want to make the material open to research, it is especially important to check in with Joanne about these two formats and what kind of work they might need to be open for research. In a number of cases, we have made paper material open to research and closed A/V until processed. This is an option.

If you determine the collection can be OPEN TO RESEARCH, follow these suggestions for physical and intellectual required work.

Archivists doing accessioning work must develop assessment and appraisal skills so they can see what kinds of collections lend themselves to what kinds of accessioning approaches.  Ask questions and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

First, determine your end goal for online access. Can your collection be easily processed right away? If so, then go ahead and do so with all the trimmings (refoldering, MC#, add to processing stats spreadsheet and end processing queue when done, etc.) You'll need to think about this in a little bit of a more nimble way than we may have done in the past for processing projects. If you want to make more than 2 or 3 series for a collection you are doing accessioning-to-processing work on, you may need to reconsider what you're doing. You shouldn't really need an in-depth processing plan to move forward with this kind of project.

If your collection is a Small A or B, you will be both accessioning and processing it now.  See the special guidance provided here: Small As and Bs: Accessioning and Processing

Summer/Fall 2020 update: full-on processing is more easily done right now for small collections - one carton and under. Depending on the content and format of these smaller collections, consider whether you can do basic physical work and put into the digital processing queue.

If you know there will be more material coming, or you think that the collection is in good physical shape and usable as is, you can make a more basic online container list. This can take a number of forms. The basic goal is to make the collection as accessible as possible for research. You can make a very basic box/carton listing while doing no real physical work. "Carton 1: Diaries, 1984-1988; Carton 2: Diaries, 1990-1995" is ok. A more detailed inventory where you list each diary and its date is better. If material is in titled folders and you think you could easily type up a folder list, go ahead and do it. 

Descriptive work:

Take notes while reboxing on material formats, inclusive dates, and subject matter to use in the creation of the bib record and finding aid and/or container list.  Use preliminary research and notes created while reboxing to create a bibliographic record for the new collection. 

For standard language used in typical bibliographic fields, see: G:\SCHLES\COLLECTION SERVICES\MANUSCRIPTS\Standard Language for mss. bib records.doc

Ask someone else to proofread your MARC record.

If you have created a container list for a closed collection, save it in the "Container list" folder on G. Include "closed" in your title.

If you have created a container list for an open collection, do the work to create a new XML file. You must tweak the existing template a little bit; you can use the terminology "A Container List" instead of "A Finding Aid." Follow the normal process to get this online. Once it is online, print out a copy and add it to the collection files stored in lateral files on the 4th floor.

Physical work:

Assess what you're reboxing, and try to put the material in cartons going legal-sized (EVEN if it's currently in letter-sized folders). This makes material easier to move in and out if the collection is open to research. If cartons or boxes are not entirely full, use spacers. Be as decent as you can be to the material even if you are not "fully processing" it.

Other things to do as you're reboxing:

  • rough weeding of duplicates if/when possible
  • separating out of scope material
  • set aside oversize, rolled, folded, etc. items to be conserved and separately housed
  • if there is mold or lots of dirt, consult with conservator as needed. We should try NOT to accept and accession moldy material; you may need to discuss with acquiring curator.
  • if there are a lot of letters in envelopes, assess whether they can be unfolded as a student project (if doing this would help open the collection to research. If already closed until processed, don't bother)
  • if the material will be open to research, do basic preservation work - unfolding documents, removing egregious rusty fasteners, etc.
  • separate A/V into a separate container if possible (if separating from related paper would lose original context, don't separate UNLESS you're preparing the material to be open to research). If only a few items, you can separate them to give to Joanne loose, but she prefers a container. Count numbers and formats of A/V to record in the accession log (10 VHS tapes, 3 audiocassettes). If there is a lot of A/V, you can give it right to Joanne and she will report #s/formats right into the electronic accession log once her students count/record info on each item. Summer/Fall 2020 update: If possible, take photos of A/V material (that show titles) and then you can save them in Joanne's folder for future item-level spreadsheet needs. You still need to let Joanne know # of A/V material even if you don't hand it directly to her.
  • separate born digital material if possible (if separating from related paper would lose original context, don't separate UNLESS you're preparing the material to be open to research). Count numbers and formats of born digital carriers to record in the accession log. If a lot, you can box, but this container DOES NOT receive a label or barcode. Give born digital material to Jen Weintraub with the creator's name or collection title and the accession number.
  • If you re-folder material (do so only if necessary), transcribe any original information and put it in quotations; or cut off information from original folder and put it in the front of the new folder

As you're doing the physical reboxing work, think about (and take notes!) how you're going to describe the collection in the bibliographic record. This is the same kind of work you do when doing a processing plan. What kinds of material are present? What subjects are covered? What are the date spans? Are there similarities to or connections with other Schlesinger collections (if so, you may be able to look at existing bib records or finding aids to get ideas for subject headings.) Is the material mainly from a certain time period in the creator's life? Are there particular kinds of material not present?

Summer/Fall 2020 update: while working mainly remotely, collections with the following issues will be problematic to attempt to open to research:

  • rolled, folded, etc. items that need conservation
  • mold, dirty. We should try NOT to accept and accession moldy material; you may need to discuss with acquiring curator.
  • lots of letters in envelopes, other formats that would be hard to use in reading room
  • lots of photos or A/V

When reboxing is complete:

  • print labels for each box. The accessioning label template is the file called "labelslarge" in : G:\SCHLES\COLLECTION SERVICES\MANUSCRIPTS\Accessioning\Accessioning procedures, forms, etc.
  • barcode boxes, add "HD SCH" sticker to each box, and complete a barcode sheet to give to Johanna. Follow normal procedures as to how to fill out the barcode sheet. If any containers are only A/V, note that in the "notes" field on the barcode sheet.
  • Talk to Johanna about shelving materials/sending the new accessions to HD
  • If oversize material needs to be filed in drawers do that yourself
  • Transfer A/V material to Joanne with any available list. She generally has a student list it and then sends it to HD herself.

Record final extent in accession book. Accession book must have total information: (total quantities, including estimates of photographs, audiovisual, and born-digital material).  If the a/v material is housed in a container, use the word “including” as in “1+1/2 file boxes (including 4 ¾” videotapes)”.  If there is only one tape or cassette say: “1+1/2 file boxes, 1 ¾” videotape”.

 If you determine the collection must be CLOSED UNTIL PROCESSED:

If the collection will be closed until processed, you don't need to focus as much on how you're reboxing as long as you're making sure the material will not slump or be harmed in any way while it's waiting to be processed. You still need to do most of the descriptive work described above.

Thoughts on creating MC#s for new accessions:

If a collection is not expected to be added to, and you can make it open to research, there is no reason not to give it an MC#, a basic finding aid, and number the folders. Add this collection into the normal processing stats spreadsheet and do all normal processing work including routing it through the end processor.

The Mabel E. Houghton papers; Joan C. Tonn collection on Mary Parker Follett; Anna Steedman Seely diaries and Priscilla Marie Tremper Leith papers were all made into immediate MC#s with finding aids. Note that these collections received the following work: acid-free folders and boxes; standard box and folder numbering ("1.3.")

The  Janice Raymond papers were made into an immediate MC# with a finding aid, but material was not rehoused (it arrived in titled folders) and Carton #s were used in the finding aid rather than folder #s. If this is your preferred way to go, discuss with Johanna what traditional end processing work is needed.

Practices are shifting for the use of call numbers for more basic container lists. Past practice at the Schlesinger was to not assign an MC# unless something was "really processed." Many of our current online finding aids have accession #s (or ranges of accession #s) as their call number because the collection was never considered fully processed, but these inventories were marked up as part of a retrospective finding aid project. We should use MC#s for any online list going forward to facilitate future additions of addenda as well as to better facilitate the future use of ArchivesSpace container management. We can use a processing note to say that a collection is minimally processed if we want to.

Finishing up small As and Bs:

File the folder with the other small As and Bs. 

Fill out a location sheet for each small A and give to Johanna for input in Tracker.

Make a shelflist card and file it.

Make a finding aid following normal practices. You don't have to print out a copy.

For more information and on accessioning and processing Small As and Bs, see this chapter of the wiki: Small As and Bs: Accessioning and Processing

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