Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ardra Whitney: Week 4 @ The HistoryMakers

My family's first photo in Chicago
I’m so excited that my family is coming to visit me in Chicago next week for the 4th of July! I spent the past few days trying to decide what we’re going to do when they get here and I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to a few really fun activities. Skyla Hearn, 2012-2013 Carter G. Woodson Chicago Public Regional Library, Vivian Harsh Collection Fellow and Aaisha Hayka, 2011-2012 Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Fellow, were also gracious enough to recommend some events for my family and I to enjoy this upcoming holiday. If you're interested in learning more about the various events and festivities going on throughout the City of Chicago in celebration of Independence Day 2012, check out the following link:

On Friday, June 29th, fellows went on a field trip to the University of Chicago Archives; where we met with various staff members of the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), including: Daniel Meyer, Director and University Archivist; Kathleen Feeney, Head of Archives Processing and Digital Access; Isabel Gonzalez, Archives and Manuscripts Accession Manager; Eileen Ielmini, Assistant University Archivist and Ashley Locke, Processing Archivist . Mr. Meyer provided fellows with an overview of the SCRC’s institutional history, organizational structure, technology-equipped spaces, innovative processes, dynamic collections, enhanced services and state-of the-art exhibition gallery. I enjoyed listening to Mr. Meyer speak about the funding and financial support the SCRC received from donors in order to renovate and improve its facilities. I also enjoyed learning about the university’s automated storage and retrieval system located underground in the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library-- which has a beautiful glass dome above it. Although, I wish there had been more time during our field trip to actually view the library from the inside. The Mansueto Library gets its name thanks to a $25 million gift from Morningstar CEO and alumni, Joe Mansueto and his wife. Construction on the building began in fall of 2008.
Tour of the University of Chicago Archives

Following the introduction, fellows took a tour of the SCRC’s exhibition gallery, classrooms, stacks, archives and processing facilities—led by Isabel Gonzalez, Eileen Ielmini and Ashley Locke. During the tour, Ms. Ielmini pointed out that the Joseph Regenstein Library used to have color coded carpeting on each floor to denote a particular discipline of study. Ms. Gonzales showed us her work station in the processing office and explained how she manages graduate students who assist her in accessioning new collections. Additionally, Ms. Locke discussed the archives’ tiered processing program, which helps make available the broadest possible range of archival collections and manuscripts in all formats. After the tour, we returned the Marie Louise Seminar Room, where Ms. Feeney gave fellows a presentation on digital collections at the SCRC. We looked at items from the University of Chicago Photographic Archive and large scale digitization content from a mid-19th century paper dolls collection. Ms. Feeney also briefly touched upon the complexities of preparing born-digital collections for public access.

This week I added web clips into FileMaker Pro for my first two interviews and created an EAD/EAC-CPF for PoliticalMaker/EducationMaker, Crain Woods. I also completed interview evaluations for, television news anchor and former CBS newscaster, Russ Mitchell (MediaMaker) and EducationMaker/ArtMaker, Zenobia Washington. Washington was inspired to embark on a new phase of her life as an artist, after the death of her only brother in 1998. She began creating handmade dolls a way to heal herself from the intense pain and deep depression that the loss of her brother caused. Washington was raised in the port city of Georgetown, South Carolina and influenced by the Gullah culture; therefore, through the art of doll making, she is also able to reconnect with the wonder and beauty of her Gullah heritage.

On Tuesday, June 26th, fellows attended Dr. Celia Salvatore’s archives seminar on archival selection and appraisal. We discussed readings by Frank Boles and Mark Greene, “Et Tu Schellenberg? Thoughts on the Dagger of American Archival Appraisal Theory”; Luciana Duranti,“The Concept of Appraisal and Archival Theory”; and Larry Hackman and Joan Warnow-Blewett, “The Documentation Strategy Process: A Model and a Case Study”. During the seminar, Dr. Salvatore addressed the difficulties in applying theories and methods for archival appraisal to oral history collections (i.e., authenticity, reliability and preservation). Fellows also completed a documentation strategy exercise using their respective host institutions’archival collections. I enjoyed learning about documentation strategy, which was a new concept for me. What’s more, now I know how to use the methodology in order to guide selection and assure retention of adequate information about a specific subject, geographic area, process or event documented in existing records.

At this week’s African American history lecture, fellows listened as Dr. Christopher Reed, discussed the sectional tensions resulting from U.S. slavery during the 1850s and the historical importance of the Civil War. Dr. Reeds’ mention of the archaeological dig taking place at 32nd Street and Rhodes Avenue— in order to find remnants from the Union Army prisoner-of-war camp, Camp Douglas, was particularly fascinating to me—because the historic site is located minutes from where I live. For further information about the excavation of this Civil War site, click on the following link to view an article from the Chicago Tribune:,0,5892510.story.

In archival news, the new summer issue of Metropolitan Archivist, with contributions highlighting the theme
of trends and transitions, is now available on the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART) website or for direct download here.

Ardra Whitney
IMLS Fellow
Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

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