On September 13, 2014, NEA and REPS members volunteered for a Day of Service at four New England institutions: Brookline Historical Society, Historic Newton, Norwich University, and Connecticut Historical Society. The day was a huge success — lots of work was accomplished, including processing, rehousing, and transcribing collections. Thank you to all the volunteers who came out that day! NEA and REPS hope to plan another Day of Service in the future, so if you missed it and want to join in next time or if you want to volunteer again, please stay tuned! And if your institution is interested in hosting a future Day of Service, please contact us!
If you’re interested in how the projects went, read the summaries for each location below. You can also check out a Storify of tweets from the Day of Service.
We had 12 total volunteers throughout the day, working in 2.5 hour shifts. We worked on one collection, the Owen and Lillian Carle Collection, which contained a mix of paper records, out-of-print textbooks and directories, and various memorabilia. The folks at the Brookline Historical Society were very friendly and grateful for our work. They bought us pizza for lunch (with enough leftovers for afternoon staff) and also served cookies in the afternoon.
Most of the volunteers were current Simmons students, but there were also 3 professionals at various points in their career. There were 4 people from the Brookline Historical Society present, though I didn’t get a sense of who were paid staff and who were just active volunteer members of the Society.
I think we could have done a better job managing the workflow of volunteers, in terms of consistent practices. People were labeling folders differently, based on whatever methods they were used to, so there was a lack of consistency in the way things got labeled. Also, people took notes differently, (some had laptops, some were taking notes on paper, etc), so it complicated the process of passing this information along to the BHS to compile.
Other than that issue, I think the event was really successful and we managed to process most of the 15 or so boxes in the Carle collection.
– Dan Bullman
We had an extremely productive and enjoyable day at Historic Newton. All of the volunteers were very eager to get to work and we had an array of collections to work on. Historic Newton is about to undergo a renovation to expand and improve archival storage space and its collections will need to be moved; thus, establishing better intellectual control over some of its most often used collections was very important to get the archives through this period.
Volunteers created box lists and rehoused some items. The collections we processed included nineteenth-century school portraits, family and municipal photograph collections, materials related to World War I and World War II, and the records of several women’s societies, the Newton Natural History Society, and the Hunnewell Club. We found many interesting items in the collections — including WWII ration books and arm bands and practice materials for the local Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Services. We also enjoyed puzzling over some of the names written on the backs of photographs.
The Curator of Manuscripts and Photographs at Historic Newton, Sara Goldberg, and Bridget Jeffs, the Assistant to the Director, were extremely helpful and excited to have the REPS volunteers at Historic Newton, and they would love to host a Day of Service again in the future!
– Annalisa Moretti
Six volunteers and three staff members had a fun-filled day at the Norwich University Archives transcribing letters from the papers of the University’s founder, Alden Partridge. Altogether we transcribed nearly 70 letters, which was more than double the staff’s original expectations! The volunteers were offered the opportunity to work in two shifts, but everyone wound up staying for the whole day. The highlight, in addition to the volume of work that we accomplished, was the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that filled the day. Everyone learned a lot, improved their transcription skills, and had fun working together to decipher handwriting and chuckle over some of the surprises we found in the letters (like a casual mention of someone being bayoneted…?!?). The staff were extremely grateful for our efforts, and several volunteers mentioned that they would love to make the Day of Service an annual tradition!
– Mary Margaret Groberg
The Connecticut Historical Society was a veritable beehive of activity during the NEA REPS Day of Service. Our host was Barbara Austen, Florence S.M. Crofut Archivist, but all the staff we encountered were very helpful and appreciative of the work we were doing. Early Saturday morning, nine volunteers arrived to assist with two different projects. Four volunteers went into the stacks with Barbara and assisted her with shifting collections to reunite divided collections and maximize the available space. The remaining five volunteers worked in a meeting room adjacent to the research center on rehousing and relabeling small collections that ranged from individual documents and papers to an index/finding aid to a large manuscript collection that was compiled in 1963 by Florence S.M. Crofut, a past CHS archivist. After lunch and a change in volunteers, there were three volunteers working in storage and five working on the rehousing and relabeling project.
Volunteers included some early professionals who were graduates of Simmons, Kent State, and URI and students enrolled at Simmons, URI, and Pratt. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and was thankful for the opportunity to help CHS. The students appreciated the change to gain hands-on experience with collections.
In a note to the volunteers, Barbara Austen noted that she was “… thrilled by the amount of work you accomplished. For those who were moving collections on the shelves, I was able to improve the oversize shelving area so the boxes are in order and there are more shelves to hold fewer items per shelf. I know it seems minor, but to me and reference staff here at CHS it is a major improvement. We also were able to move collections from the alphabetical ranges to the manuscript number ranges again making it so much easier for the reference staff. You are all welcome back any time. I don’t know how to thank you!”
As the volunteers were saying their goodbyes, there was talk of returning to CHS in early 2015 for another volunteer day. Nothing formal, just another day of helping a colleague and sharing some more wonderful camaraderie doing what we love to do. Everyone sincerely hopes that the NEA REPS Day of Service will become an annual tradition!
– VivianLea Solek