Scope and Content Notes

This week I've continued to work on processing the amazing photographs and documents contained in our Nag Hammadi collection! In addition, I've completed a bit more work on the Dead Sea Scrolls files. Specifically, I have created something called "scope and content" notes for each series and subseries in the collection. In this week's blog post, I thought it might be helpful for me to explain the purpose of these notes, and also to introduce everyone to the closely related concept of a "finding aid."

In brief, a scope and content note is a prose paragraph(s) telling the researcher "the range and topical coverage of the described materials, often mentioning the form and arrangement of the materials and naming significant organizations, individuals, events, places, and subjects represented. The purpose of this scope and content note is to assist readers in evaluating the potential relevance of the materials to their research. It may highlight particular strengths of, or gaps in, the described information entered in other parts of the finding aid" (many thanks to my erudite Honnold/Mudd supervisor, Lisa Crane, for this excellent explanation). 

If you're a researcher, one of the first things you'll want to do when you're in an archive is examine the scope and content note(s) for a collection in which you're interested. These can save you a ton of time, because they'll clue you in fast and early to the contents of a particular grouping of documents. If there's nothing useful to your work there, you know it would be more productive for you to move on and spend your time elsewhere.

So what do these notes actually look like? To help orient you, I've taken a couple of screenshots of the ones I designed today. You'll notice I've already entered them in Archivist Toolkit. Here's an image of the Series-level Dead Sea Scroll scope and content note:

DSS Series level scope and content note_blog ready.bmp
If you want to get even more detailed, you can then proceed to investigate one of the Subseries-level scope and content notes, which look like this:

DSS Subseries level scope and content note_blog ready.bmp
Does that make sense? I hope so! With this in mind, then, it's possible for us to learn more about what a finding aid is. You can think about a finding aid as a much more detailed version of a scope and content note. People have created these for centuries in order to try and help make vast quantities of documents more manageable to sift through (think about how important that would be in the pre-digital world!). In fact, there is even evidence that the ancient Sumerians carved finding aids into clay tablets so that they could easily locate important bureaucratic records (!

Finding aids will often contain a significant amount of background information, such as a biography of the documents' creator, a historical chronology of important events which relate to the collection, etc. This can help a researcher contextualize the records s/he will find if they choose to study a particular group of records. The finding aid will also probably explain how the collection is organized, and perhaps even contain a detailed overview of the materials it includes. A good archivist will normally create a finding aid in the course of processing a collection. Indeed, this is usually the final step in processing, because by then the records will have been properly conserved and arranged in their final order, and the archivist will be quite familiar with the contents of the entire collection.

If you're interested in doing archival research anytime soon, I urge you to become comfortable reading scope and contents notes, and in using finding aids. Even the best-organized archive will look like a vast and chaotic sea of records without them! On that note, here's a great finding aid tutorial created by San Diego State University Library. You may wish to explore it -


History's Mysteries!

Hi Everyone!

I am just finishing up working on the Koike Collection. This week, I finished arranging all of the folders, labeled them, and put them all up onto Archivist's Toolkit! It is very exciting to have almost finished arranging a collection from start to finish. By going through the Koike Collection, I was able to learn quite a bit about Kenzo Koike's life. Although, as someone who is simply arranging the collection, I do not have to do too much research on Koike's life, I found it very interesting and wanted to learn more and more. Through extensive internet research, I was able to answer many of the questions I had about Koike, who died in 2010, but there were a few mysteries that I am still trying to solve.

The first mystery is of the missing brother. Kenzo Koike moved from Seattle to Los Angeles in 1932. There are multiple photographs and portraits of the Koike family before this time with 2 parents and 4 sons, while in Seattle. However, right before the move to Los Angeles, the eldest son is no longer included in any of the photographs. In addition, Kenzo Koike labeled many of the photographs, saying the names of his brothers and parents, but the eldest brother's name is never mentioned, despite being in these photographs. The eldest brother would have been in his late teens at the time of the move. He may have stayed up in Seattle, Washington and worked up there. On the other hand, because of the lack of documentation on this oldest brother, where the other brothers have some files in this collection, perhaps maybe he died. There are many possibilities of what could have happened to this brother. A mystery that may never be solved.

Another mystery is of the Milwaukee Hotel. The Koike Family, before moving to Los Angeles, has multiple photographs outside of the Milwaukee Hotel in Seattle. There is even a card to Kenzo Koike's mother mentioning this hotel. After doing a bit of research, I found that this hotel is in China Town in Seattle. People saw this hotel as the beginning of China Town and an area of the city where immigrants could be welcomed into. I am not sure if the Koike Family was drawn to this hotel for this specific reason, or if the family had other specific connections to it. The world may never know.

Although I have a few questions left unanswered, it has been an amazing experience being able to sort through these materials and arrange them in a way that will aid future research.



This week I've continued my efforts to arrange and preserve Special Collection's many photographs of the Nag Hammadi texts. In doing so, I've begun to think a lot about the role the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) plays in helping preserve antiquities. This institution was critically important in helping Claremont's own Dr. James M. Robinson publish a facsimile edition of the Nag Hammadi trove approximately 40 years ago.

What might motivate UNESCO to engage in this endeavor? Interestingly, UNESCO sees protecting pieces of cultural heritage as a form of peacebuilding. As its website explains, 

"In today's interconnected world, culture's power to transform societies is clear. Its diverse manifestations - from our cherished historic monuments and museums to traditional practices and contemporary art forms - enrich our everyday lives in countless ways. Heritage constitutes a source of identity and cohesion for communities disrupted by bewildering change and economic instability. Creativity contributes to building open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. Both heritage and creativity lay the foundations for vibrant, innovative and prosperous knowledge societies" ( 

With this in mind, I've been wondering how all these precious Nag Hammadi images might prove a unique source of creative inspiration and spiritual guidance in a world that is very different than the one in which these records were originally created. I am fascinated by the ways in which ancient scriptures and philosophies are used, revised, and re-purposed in light of each generation's changing/historic needs. I hope over the next few weeks I'll be able to find and share some examples of how people - both inside and outside the scholarly community - have found new and unique meaning in the Nag Hammadi texts!

On that note, I'll sign off by pointing you in the direction of a really neat document I found this afternoon: a copy of UNESCO's magazine, The Courier, from May 1971. Check out the article Dr. Robinson wrote on the Nag Hammadi findings inside!

Photographs and Frames

Hi Everyone!

I just finished my 2nd week working on the new Koike Collection. It is a fascinating collection! It contains mostly photographs and portraits from 1921 to 1948 centered on Kenzo Koike's life. Through looking through these photographs and the documents in the collection, I feel as though I have gotten some insight as what it was like to be a Japanese American before and during World War II. Koike was born in 1920 in Seattle, Washington, and moved in 1932 to Los Angeles. He attended Junior High, High School, and College in Los Angeles. A year after graduating college, in 1942, Koike and his family were sent to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. He was only able to leave the internment facility by being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. It wasn't until 1945 when Koike was sent as a translator/ interpreter to Japan. He took some amazing pictures during his time in Japan. He was also able to visit many of his relatives.

Although it has been really fun working on this collection and going through all of the photographs, it has been quite a bit of work! I've had to sort and arrange all of the materials and place them into folders. I also created series to organize all of the materials and make it easier for researchers to navigate. I photocopied a few newspapers and military documents. The most difficult task this week was to take out the nails of picture frames to place the photographs in mylar to help preserve them. I got to use a real Archivist's Toolkit!

I'll keep you all updated on how arranging the Koike Collection goes!


Archivist, meet your new best friend: Mylar

Hello everyone! I've finished up another productive few days as a CCEPS Fellow here in Special Collections, and I'm excited to have accomplished so much. 

Most of my time this week has been devoted to arranging and preserving the Nag Hammadi Codices Project records. Of the 14 boxes which comprise this collection, 10 of them are almost exclusively facsimile photographs of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts. Although we always make sure to carefully preserve everything Special Collections accessions, it's doubly important that these Nag Hammadi images are kept in as pristine a condition as possible. This is because the Nag Hammadi manuscripts themselves are losing more and more of their legibility with every passing year (see this link for more information:; it turns out being many centuries old will do that to reading material! Given these circumstances, the best way to make sure the information written on the Nag Hammadi papyri is passed down to future generations is to make sure facsimile image collections - such as the one I'm working on right now - are meticulously preserved.

My best friend in this endeavor is a shiny little substance called mylar. Mylar is a clear, acid-free polyester. It won't ever yellow, and when it is used to encase photographs, it is a powerful tool to prevent image deterioration (see here for a little bit more of an introduction: As you can see in the below photograph, mylar sleeves come in a variety of sizes:

mylar sleeves_blog ready.jpg

If you're having trouble finding a sleeve which is the right size, you can also cut your own - I've definitely done that this week!

Although it takes extra time and effort to place every individual photograph in its own mylar case, any archivist will tell you it's 100% worth it. If you're interested in preserving some hard copy images at home - especially really important ones (e.g. old family photos of your great-grandparents!) - do consider investing in some mylar of your own! It's much less expensive than losing an irreplaceable image!

Kruska and Koike!

Hi Everyone!

I am just finishing my 2nd week working at CCEPS! It has been an amazing experience! This week, I pretty much finished arranging the Kruska Japanese Internment collection and entered it into Archivists ToolKit to make it accessible to researchers. I thoroughly enjoyed working with this collection. It has a wide variety of materials. Some of my favorite things to look through were the newspaper clippings, some of which are from 1905 when the Japanese Exclusion laws were just being put in place. Some of the photographs are also very interesting! They depict some aspects of life in the Relocation Centers and Internment camps. There is even a photograph of the Manzanar High School band!

Today, I just started surveying the Kenzo Robert Koike materials. Although this collection is also on Japanese American Internment during World War II, it feels very different from Kruska's collection. Koike's materials are all from his time before and during World War II and are personal to Koike. Most of the collection is photographs, which are very interesting. Some are very graphic, like the photograph of 10,000 dead bodies or the ruins of bombed cities in Japan. But others are quite comical. For example, one photograph is captioned "This man wanted me his picture take. Looks too stupid to be a cousin." It has been interesting to see his journey from Washington, to L.A., to an Assembly Center in Pomona, to a Relocation Center in Wyoming, to joining the military, to Japan. Working with this collection, you really get an insight into life as a Japanese American before and during World War II. After surveying these materials, I proposed to arrange them into 4 series; photographs, personal records, realia, and postal materials.

Next week, I will start arranging and titling folders. I am so excited to be working with this collection!

I'll keep you all updated!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

I am happy to announce that I have begun processing a new, 14 box collection: the Nag Hammadi Codices Project (NHCP) files. That is basically a fancy way of saying that Special Collections has accessioned an amazing group of documents and images, most of which are related to the publication of the Nag Hammadi gnostic text library.

Although the topic and the records are fascinating, we were dismayed to find that before they arrived at their new home here, they had not been stored in the best of which I mean they had been stored in a garage. And although garages are an amazing and wonderful thing, trust me when I say they aren't an awesome place to put your precious records. Why? Because you will likely end up with mold, bugs, and water damage all over the lovely things you were trying to save!

Now, when I think of water damage, usually what pops into my head is crinkled up pages of paper (what you would encounter if you were to drop a book in the bathtub). Well, it turns out that in addition to wrinkling pages, water can also cause rust! And then you end up with things like this:

Rust and water damage_blog ready.jpg
Yes: that, my friends, is the picture of what a rusting paperclip left on a stack of documents for years will leave you to remember it by! Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of time removing rusty paperclips and staples from this collection's contents this week. There's no way those rusty little suckers are heading into the archives if I can help it!

My time-consuming encounter with rust this week made me wonder about the chemistry of this interaction. So I looked it up. It turns out that - of course - paperclips are made of steel, and steel is derived from iron. Over time, as iron and oxygen meet and mingle, a chemical reaction takes place which transforms the iron into iron oxide. The common term for iron oxide is rust.

The good people who make paperclips know this, and so to try and prevent it, they coat paperclips in a layer of zinc. This works - until the zinc layer erodes due to humidity, water saturation, etc. (Many thanks to Shaun McGonagal over at eHow for this explanation! See for more information.)

Which brings us full circle to why you don't store documents in a garage. Garages, generally speaking, are not weather-proofed...and that means water and/or humidity will hit all your paperclips...and then you will open up a box in 30 years and find this:

Rust damage_blog ready.jpg
But all is not lost! Fortunately, Special Collections accessioned these documents in time to halt their they will be around for a long time, and many researchers will get to enjoy them. Still - I thought after learning all this it was worth using my weekly blog post to make a public service announcement about rust!

Happy storing (your documents somewhere other than a garage) :-).

First Week!

Hi Everyone,

 I just finished my first week at CCEPS! This week, I started arranging a collection called the Kruska Japanese Internment Collection. To begin the week, I read and took thorough notes on the Processing Manual, but then I began working with this collection. This collection has a HUGE array of materials. Some of them are very interesting, like a sign from one of the Japanese Internment facilities, and a tea towel, and a scroll, which was hung in Manzamar Internment Camp. Some of the materials are not so interesting, like printed web pages used by the collector to do research.

I began my journey with this collection by surveying all of the materials. Much of the collection was already arranged and placed in folders; however, I went through all of the documents, artifacts, and materials to think of a way to arrange all of them in an order that made sense. This was difficult because there is a huge variety. At first, I proposed to arrange the collection into similar categories, like having the newspaper clippings with other newspaper clippings. I was trying to create the most logical order I could think of. I then photocopied newspaper clippings, some of which were completely falling apart, like those from 1906 and 1907 about the Exclusion Laws being created in California. Often, it is best to photocopy newspapers in order to preserve the information being presented. I also sized some folders to fit large documents that were not originally fully covered. I did this to help preserve these materials. I also labelled and dated all of the folders, which took a while because there are a bunch of folders, many with only a single item inside.

After looking over my processing proposal, Lisa came up with a great idea to arrange the collection in a series, like Newspapers and clippings, photographs, postal materials, printed matter, realia, and reserach materials. Having the collection organized this way will make it easier for a researcher to find what they are looking for. Today, I re- arranged the materials into this new order and soon I will put it all up on Archivist Toolkit!

Overall, it was been a fantastic first week! I was able to work with some interesting materials and think of creative ways to organize the collection. I'm very excited to continue!

Archivist Toolkit

Hello everyone! I am happy to report that my efforts to process Special Collections' Dead Sea Scroll files are going very well. I accomplished a lot this week, especially in terms of creating records for this series in a program called Archivist Toolkit (AT). 

AT is an open source data management tool. As the AT website explains, it was developed by the "University of California San Diego Libraries, the New York University Libraries and the Five Colleges, Inc. Libraries, and is generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation" (

So you can get a sense of what using AT is like, I've included some screenshots here. The first thing I do when opening the program is go to the "Resources" section. There, I find the collection where the Dead Sea Scroll files "live;" in this case, that means I go to the James M. Robinson Collection. 

A little historical background is useful here in understanding why we organize things this way. As you may know, Dr. Robinson is Professor Emeritus in Claremont Graduate University's Department of Religion. With Dr. Robert Eisenman (Cal State Long Beach), he helped publish A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1991. The publication of this book, along with the Huntington Library's decision to make thousands of photographic negatives of the Scrolls available to researchers, made these texts available to the entire scholarly community for the first time. Prior to these events, access to the Scrolls was controlled for decades by a small in-group of scholars who kept these ancient documents to themselves. The twists and turns of this story, as well as the involvement of Dr. Robinson and Dr. Eisenman in breaking this "scholarly monopoly," make a fascinating tale. I highly recommend you explore their work - and maybe even read through Special Collection's series of Dead Sea Scroll files when they're ready! They contain all sorts of intriguing details about what Dr. Robinson and his colleagues had to go through in order to publish these texts.

All of this is to say: when Dr. Robinson retired, he graciously donated his personal papers - including the Dead Sea Scroll files - to Special Collections, so that the scholarly community could continue to be enriched by his work. This is why you'll see that I go to the "James M. Robinson" collection in AT when I want to work on digitally organizing the Dead Sea Scroll series:

James M. Robinson_resources screenshot_blog ready.pngOnce I'm inside the series, I organize it on the subseries and folder levels. I can also add notes to help researchers get a sense of what's inside a particular file. For example, in "Subseries 1.1: Project papers for A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1991), edited by Dr. Robert H. Eisenman and Dr. James M. Robinson," I have a folder entitled, "News related to release of Dead Sea Scrolls." And inside of that record, I have a further record - a note which explains that this file:

"Contains both popular and serious news articles related to the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also includes information related to political conditions during the time period surrounding their release, and a copy of the Society for Biblical Literature's 'Statement on Access' to ancient materials."

When I'm working to describe the collection on a folder level, the AT screen often looks something like this:

AT Instance_blog ready.bmpTo sum up, AT is a great piece of archival technology, and I'm happy I'm getting the opportunity to learn how to use it - especially since it will make it so much easier for researchers to find what they need in the Dead Sea Scroll files once I'm done recording everything! If you're interested in learning more about this program, or downloading a copy of AT for personal or institutional use, I encourage you to go to the AT website. And if that's not enough to quench your archival curiosity, you can even follow AT on Twitter (!

The Week of Fantastic Photocopying!

I've enjoyed another fascinating week here as a CCEPS Fellow! 

This week I finished arranging Honnold/Mudd Special Collections' Dead Sea Scrolls files. During this process, I spent the majority of my time carefully going through each file and putting everything in chronological order. 

After concluding this process, I attended to the necessity of photocopying all fragile documents on acid-free paper. After making these xeroxes, I discarded the original records - which were falling apart! This allowed me to rescue content without keeping a crumbling document in the collection - one which could very well end up illegible down the road, and perhaps even damage other documents as it decayed. To illustrate: I recently encountered a decrepit newspaper clipping which seemed intent on self-destruction - and had already stained the record next to it a nasty yellow! Fortunately, we had an unharmed duplicate of the stained document, so no long-term harm was done. However, this is a good example of what can happen when cheap paper products are allowed to sit for years on end, unpreserved.

Among the materials in this collection that necessitated photocopying were any periodicals printed on inexpensive paper (particularly newsprint), carbon paper, carbonless copy paper, and thermal paper. This last item was commonly used in earlier fax machine models. As it turns out, Dr. James M. Robinson - who donated the Dead Sea Scrolls collection to us - communicated extensively by fax. This meant there was a plethora of thermal paper to be dealt with over the last week! I'm so glad Special Collections received these documents when it did, because records printed on thermal paper can fade rapidly with time, handling, and exposure to light - and the ones in this collection were doing so. Thermal paper is a highly unstable medium.

In case you're hankering for a look, here's an image of the oh-so-hardy photocopier on which I made many dozens of xeroxes for this collection:

Photocopier_blog ready.bmp

And here's Special Collections' well-stocked, acid-free paper bank - a corner I came to know well while I worked!

Acid Free Paper Bank_blog ready.bmp
As I hope you've seen this week, the world of archival preservation and paper chemistry is really pretty fascinating. If you're interested in reading more, I recommend you check out Michigan State University Libraries' piece on deacidification ( Australia's National Archives also have some clear and helpful guidelines on paper preservation as well (