Processing the Educational Cookery Collection, Part 2

I know I missed a week, but I didn’t get to work on the Education Cookery Collection too much last week. My major work on it during the last two weeks was making sure all the books were on the inventory, getting cataloging slips into all those items, and finding space for them on a cart temporarily. There are 80+ publications to be cataloged. Here’s one shelf’s worth (of about 1 1/2 shelves):

In addition,  I worked on creating a list of publications in the record for the soon-to-be manuscript collection. Since it’s not done, it’s not public yet, but here’s what part of the list looks like for me (it’ll be much nicer-looking in the finished finding aid!):


Next up, there’s a stack of manuscript materials. At the moment, those items are organized into four folders, which match up to my thought process when I started looking at them, but in reality, don’t represent the final arrangement.

Folders: the archivist’s best organizational friend!

I wanted to look at what items in this collection align with/are similar to ephemeral items in other culinary collections. So, my post-it notes read things like “Adds to Ms2012-040” [the State/Regional Home and Agricultural Publications] or “Acc2017-083 Make into new collection?” The more I’ve considered it, though, I’m not going to break up the collection into three existing ones, plus one new one. The fact of the matter is, we usually organize collections by creator or collector, and this is one combined group of materials relating to aspects of educational cookery. It should stay together.

Sometimes, figuring out how to organize a collection is a case of “two steps forward, one step back.” I thought I knew what would make sense for this collection, but I then I started to waffle. I’ll have to back up a little bit, undo a few things, and move forward again. Rather than taking some items out and arranging what’s left, this collection now has a couple of possibilities: breaking out materials based on the type of creator (an individual, a cooking school, a corporation, a state or national government agency), thinking about them in terms of formats (corporate pamphlets, government publications, advertisements/trade items, cooking school catalogs, printed notes and information sheets, recipes, etc.), or sorting them by subject area (nutrition education, cooking instruction, fundraising, etc.). I went around and around a bit, confused myself, then I did the smart thing: I got a colleague’s opinion and he helped me get out of the weeds (thanks, John!). We looked at what we had, what we thought we could see happening with the collection in the future, and agreed that the simplest option was to rely on the alphabet and arrange materials in folders by creator name. (Asking a friend is always good advice and colleagues make great sounding boards!)

Alphabetical sorting–an invaluable, if boring, skill for archivists!

Anyway, I think I’ll finish up this post for this week and get back to my sorting. I expect to wrap up this series next week, when I get the materials foldered, boxed, and a finding aid completed to share. Hopefully this series is providing some insight into how things can work around here (and not just my sometimes-convoluted process). One of our favorite sayings in the archives field is “it depends” and for me, it’s something I say all the time when processing manuscripts. Every collection is a different and each one requires different attention. This is turning out to be a prime example!

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2 thoughts on “Processing the Educational Cookery Collection, Part 2

  1. Jean B.

    Thank you for this post. I primarily collect books and ephemera related to cookery, although I do stray into other fields. I struggle to organize the ephemera, so it is useful to read about your decision to alphabetize by creator and how you arrived at it. It is also somewhat comforting to think that I am not the only person who heads down a certain path and then decides that it just won’t work as planned.

    1. One of our favorite phrases in the archival world is “it depends.” I find that even when I have an idea, or even a more concrete plan, for working with a collection, I have to be ready to adapt and change when I get into the thick of things! I may find things aren’t as simple as I thought or are a lot easier. Every collection is a different in some way and sometimes you just have that “uh-oh” moment where the plan changes!

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