The Life of a Rookie Archivist

I started working at the Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge in October of 2015. Two of my colleagues nicknamed me the Rookie or Rook for short. In this blog post, I will give you a glimpse of some of the projects I have and are currently working on. A day at the archives is never the same, but I always start the morning the same way. Before leaving for the Archives in the morning, I have a cappuccino, which helps me get right with the morning time.

Since starting at the Archive, I have worked on some projects besides fulfilling request made by the general public as well as other state agencies. Some of the material I have pulled for researchers include: probate records, election records, corporation charters, pardons, campaign finance reports, court records, and process verbals.

My first project upon my arrival was to inventory 96 shelves of oversize collections. I recorded the accession number, the location, a short description of the material and condition of the material. After I conducted the inventory, I transferred each collection from the oversize collection shelves to map drawers for proper storage of the materials.

My second project, I worked on was the mortgage books’ that belonged to the Clerk of Court’s Office of my home parish, which is Jefferson Parish. The Clerk of Court had twelve mortgage books microfilmed. 256The microfilm company left copier paper between the pages in each of the mortgage books. The copier paper had to be removed due to it being acid as well as the ink on the copier paper could bleed onto the pages. Also, it is not good archival practices to leave copier paper on top of old pages. In this photograph, I am removing the copier paper from the mortgage books. I wore white gloves in order to protect the old pages of the mortgage books.
The project that I am working on now  is rehousing 613 boxes of Supreme Court Cases. There were originally put in Manila Envelopes. These envelopes are not acid free. Archival best practices says that one does not place things in acid envelopes in order to preserve them for future generations. So, I am taking them out of the envelopes and putting them in acid free file folders and than putting them back into the acid free box. I have knocked out the first 30 of the 613 boxes. But you know what they say about eating an elephant. You eat an elephant one bite at a time.

I also have created a container list for a collection of Lafourche Parish Clerk of Court’s mortgage books as well as Attorney General Opinions. I have also processed as well as created a DACS complaint finding aid for twelve collections.

Another part of being an archival professional is professional development. I try to listen to at least one webinar a month as well as read professional journals in order to keep up with the archival profession. Also, I  have also attended a Hands on Disaster Recovery Training for Books and Paper workshop as well as a Digital Forensics workshop.  Sometimes time does not permit me to listen to my monthly webinar or I may have to listen to it after it occurred (thankfully most of them are recorded therefore giving me a second chance at listening to them).

Last month I listened webinar called “Collections care you can do and what to leave to conservators?”. The speaker was Scott Carrlee, the curator of museum services at the Alaska State Museum.

A few things I got out of the webinar were:

  1.  Carrlee suggested creating a light map that shows the light levels throughout the exhibit space. This map would help staff know what areas of the exhibit space could be used to display archival materials such as  water colors, color photographs, textiles, oil materials and ceramic material. For example, Carrlee said oil painting should be displayed in a space that has a light level of no more than 15 foot-candles (150 lux). So the light map would help staff know what areas of the exhibit space receives no  more than 15 foot-candles (150 lux) levels of light as well as what areas receive more than that.  Yes, you can put UV filters on windows as well as on the light fixtures, but damage can still occur.  In theory creating a light map sounds like a good idea. The real question is the practicality of using a light map in a museum.  It was an interesting idea.

 

  1.  Another point that Carrlee made was that just because an artifact is broken does not mean it needs to be fixed. The example he gave was a pottery pot housed in an box that is already broken. His view was that the pot should be repaired only if there is a need for it to be repaired such as it being put on display. The pot, if properly stored, will not be further damaged if it is not fixed. Now, if the pot was going to be further damaged than conservation treatment would be warranted. I think the point of this example is to find the artifacts that actually need conservation treatment and fix those artifacts. I guess it boils down to the question of what needs to actually be done and what can wait? What will give you the biggest bang for your buck?

By: Blake E Relle

 

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2 thoughts on “The Life of a Rookie Archivist

  1. Great post, super interesting! I supose i’m the rookie here at the Canadian Museum of History though i’ve been here almost six years now (I’ll always be the young guy).

    Cheers!

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