The Final Weeks

Hi Everyone!

It is the beginning of the end. I am just finishing up my time as a CCEPS Fellow. So far, I have had a fantastic time learning about archival work. I have worked on 7 different collections, each with a variety of materials. I have learned many ways to preserve items and use the most out of the resources at hand. Most importantly, I've had a great time working here. Before I depart at the end of the semester, I wanted to share a little bit about what I learned when arranging a collection.

1) Keep in mind the researcher. The researcher will be using these collections, so arrange it in such a way that it presents the important information upfront.

2) Keep it simple. Again, researchers will be using the collection. Make it easy to follow and arrange it in a way that is logical.

3) Try to conserve your resources. If two photographs can fit in one sleeve of mylar comfortably, just cut the mylar in half! But don't cut the photographs...

4) Pay attention to the details. There are A LOT of little details, but if you are consistently double checking your work, it'll save quite a bit of time in the future.

5) Learn about the materials. The collections are all very interesting! When arranging collections, it becomes so much more interesting if you know more about it. There is so much information to learn!

6) Take care of yourself! Make sure you either eat before or plan a lunch break because you're not allowed to bring food into the archives. The food may ruin documents. In addition, bring a sweater just in case! The archives are kept a little bit cooler to help preserve materials.

7) It may sound cheesy, but have fun! This is a great learning experience and opportunity!

I am so grateful for being a part of the CCEPS program. I have been able to learn so much in such a short period of time. I have never had the opportunity to work this closely with so many primary sources. It truly is a fantastic opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone!

Phoebe

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Hi Everyone!

This week I started a new collection filled with over 80 citrus labels. Many of these labels are quite rare and were generously donated by Alice Oglesby. The most interesting aspect of these labels from citrus boxes is that the majority of them are from Claremont and Pomona. I am currently a senior at one of the Claremont Colleges, so I have spent quite a bit of time in the area, but I never fully realized its rich history until now. Exactly where one of my favorite restaurants is today used to be a packing house that would ship local lemons, tangerines, navel oranges, ruby red grapefruits, and other citruses across the country. The citrus labels in the collection range from as early as the 1890s to the 1940s. After learning about this history, I decided to dig a little bit deeper.

Historical Packing House.png

The California Fruit Growers Association was established in 1893, only six years after the city of Claremont was founded. It wasn't until 1909 when the Packing House was built. The Packing House became more than just a place for shipping of fruit. It became somewhat of a town center, selling other items useful for the citrus growers. The height of business in Claremont was between the 1920s and the 1950s. By 1972, the production halted and the building was sold.

ClaremontPackingHouse_SallyEgan[1].jpg

The Claremont Packing House today

I have loved working on this collection. Through looking through the citrus labels, I have been able to see beautiful artistic renditions of what Claremont used to look like about 100 years ago. I feel as though I have gotten to know the city I have been living in for the past 3 years so much better.

Phoebe

Information found on: http://claremontpackinghouse.com/history.htm

The Secret Life of the Nag Hammadi Texts

Hello everyone! Because I've devoted so much time to processing the Nag Hammadi Codices Project, I have - as you might imagine - had ample opportunity to consider the scholarly potential of this collection. Recently, though, I decided that it would be fun/enlightening to take a break from the academic side of things and learn a little more about the popular religious culture that has sprung up around the texts since they were re-discovered in 1945. 

Once I started looking for information, I discovered there was a lot to find! One of the most entertaining aspects of what you might call "Nag Hammadi Pop Culture" is the connection some people have argued exists between these gnostic texts and...global alien invasion. The basic gist of these conspiracy theories is that gnostic/Nag Hammadi writings about beings called Archons prove that aliens visited earth. And the alien activity didn't stop back then, they argue. Even today people are being "invaded by Archons," and that is why we have so much suffering in the world (http://perdurabo10.tripod.com/galleryl/id113.html).

If you're interested in hearing a little more about the "Archon as ET" perspective, you can listen to this New Zealand radio show's exploration of the topic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_BnbVfaA0A) and read this article (http://www.metahistory.org/gnostique/archonfiles/AlienIntrusion.php)!

But if you're finding yourself shaking your head in skepticism, know you're not alone. Scholars certainly don't view the Nag Hammadi texts as histories of extraterrestrial activity. Although it is true that the Archons loomed large in the gnostic imagination, it's not because they had recently landed near the Nile in a spaceship. Rather, they were discussed with frequency because they were important mythological figures in gnostic theology. Different gnostic groups propagated different interpretations of Archon theology, but the general themes were usually the same. Namely, gnostics believed that the Archons were powerful, non-human beings. They had less authority than God/the Ultimate Creator, but they had vastly greater power than human beings. As such, they were often presented in ancient writings as hostile or threatening figures that divided humans from their God. 

With this in mind, you can imagine how interesting I find contemporary arguments that the Nag Hammadi library is "factual evidence" that the Archons were alien invaders! While I don't get on board with this theory, I do think it is a fascinating example of how a group of people very far removed from the culture in which the Nag Hammadi texts were created can come up with a very creative interpretation of them...based on contemporary cultural anxieties and concerns. In scriptural studies, there is a term for this: eisegesis. Specifically, eisegesis means "an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eisegesis?s=t). The goal for scholars, of course, is to avoid eisegesis and understand how the original record creator's culture and background shaped his or her perspective and - in turn - the text. 

What do you think about this? Had you heard that the Nag Hammadi library was being used by some as "evidence" for supposed extraterrestrial life? Maybe you should come look at our Nag Hammadi collection when we're done processing it and examine the evidence for yourself! 



Social Movements

Hi Everyone,

I am just finishing a new collection I began working on this week that I am very excited about! This new collection is about social movements throughout the 20th century in the United States, which is my area of study. It is the beginning of the collection and it will expand over time. As of right now, there are materials from the Civil Rights movement from as early as 1938, the Chicano movement, the United Farm Workers, Zoot Suit riots, and the Young Lords Movement. Some of my favorite materials are paños hand drawn by prisoners. These paños have stunning details and are beautifully presented.

I was very excited to begin learning more about these documents and materials. At first, it was difficult to find an arrangement that is suitable for an expanding collection; however, after some work, we decided to arrange it based on the social movement the material belonged to. In order to help preserve some of these materials, I placed the posters and photographs in mylar sleeving. This technique will prevent people from touching the original material too often. I then arranged everything into folders, some of which I had to make myself, and labeled them. I then entered the information onto Archivists Toolkit.

My favorite aspect of working with this collection is that it presents the struggles people experienced in order to create a better society. Often times, the 1960s are represented as a time full of hippies and great music; however, much of the social change we see today stems from the efforts of people in the 1960s. It took great effort and resistance to make the difference we see in the world today. Although there is a great way to go, the people of the 1960s and before have allowed us to be able to create a better world.

See you all next week!

Phoebe

Life Pre-Photoshop

Hello everyone! This week I've continued to work hard on processing the Nag Hammadi Codices Project collection. That is to say, I've spent a great deal of time organizing photographs of the Nag Hammadi texts, as well as photocopies of these photographs.

One of the things that has made an impression on me as I've moved through this collection is how difficult and laborious a process editing images was in a pre-Photoshop world. The phrase "cut and paste" is ubiquitous in our society, and of course it refers to the process of removing a phrase or image from one part of a document and placing it somewhere else. But in a BC (before computer :-) world, to "cut and paste" was no digital metaphor! It was what authors and editors literally had to do in order to create a book of images.

As you can imagine, there was a huge amount of cutting and pasting to be done for the Nag Hammadi Facsimile Edition. The gnostic texts had in many cases crumbled to fragments. Where pages still existed, they had often come loose from the binding and were incomplete. Thus, a significant portion of the job performed by Dr. James Robinson (to whom, as you may recall, this collection belonged) and his fellow editors was to try and piece together which fragments and pages went where. 

Fast forward approximately forty years, to the point where I am organizing the drafts and edited images they came up with during this process. Many times I will come across something like this:

fragment pasted_blog ready.jpg(Disclaimer: I recognize this photo is a little fuzzy, but in order to stay on the right side of copyright law, I need to make sure that none of the text in the image is identifiable! Still, it's clear enough to provide an interesting example.) If you examine this image closely, you can see multiple layers of images that have been cut out and glued, one on top of another. This is what an actual "photoshop" job looked like back then!

With this in mind, I'll leave you with a great blog post from the website petapixel.com - http://petapixel.com/2013/05/08/how-photographers-photoshopped-their-pictures-back-in-1946/. Check it out! The author, Michael Zang, has images and advice from an actual "how to" book on photographic retouching published in the 1940s. My favorite part is the chart of what tools the photo re-touchers would have used when doing this by hand (hint: rubber cement is on the list!).

I hope you have fun learning a little more about this!

Reference Requests!

I filled my first reference request today! A professor at one of the Claremont Colleges is doing research that involves the Nag Hammadi texts, and of course that means she's interested in what we're processing over here at Special Collections. 

 

I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly on Wednesday, and followed up on her request to learn more about how she could view the facsimile images of this amazing gnostic library. Although the collection I'm processing won't be open for scholarly research until I'm done organizing and conserving it, I was able to point her in the direction of some resources that might be helpful for her work in the meantime. I thought I'd share them with you all today, so that any other Nag Hammadi fans out there could settle in for some great weekend reading! There are three main areas I'd recommend looking:

 

1.     Special Collections has already digitized many of the Nag Hammadi images, and anyone with an internet connection is free to study them! These are located here: http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/nha.


2.     If you're interested in purchasing (or finding at your local library!) the official, 15-volume facsimile set, the publication details you'd need to reference are here: http://blais.claremont.edu/record=b1152906~S0.


3.     Not fluent in ancient Coptic yet? No problem! There are at least three scholarly translations of the Nag Hammadi library into English of which I am aware: one by Bentley Layton (http://www.amazon.com/The-Gnostic-Scriptures-Translation-Introductions/dp/0385478437), another by Claremont's own James M. Robinson (http://www.amazon.com/Nag-Hammadi-Library-James-Robinson/dp/0060669357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415390002&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Nag+Hammadi+Library+in+English), and the last by Marvin Meyer and Elaine Pagels (http://www.amazon.com/Nag-Hammadi-Scriptures-Translation-Complete/dp/0061626007/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415390002&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Nag+Hammadi+Library+in+English)


These should be enough to get you off to a strong start! If I find anything else, I'll let you know!

A Little Punk

Hi Everyone!

This past week has been very exciting while working in Special Collections. I began working on a new collection about punk flyers from San Francisco and Rancho Cucamonga in the late 1970's and early 1980's. There were over 80 flyers with names of local bands, bands from the U.K. and Canada, and some pretty famous bands. There were also flyers from a large variety of venues all around San Francisco, like the Mabuhay (Fab Mab), On Broadway, Berkeley Square, The Savoy, and more. Not only were the venues and acts very interesting, but the art on each of the flyers was unique and dramatic. Punk Flyers.JPG

While looking through the flyers, I was able to get a little more insight into the Punk scene during this time in San Francisco. I was able to learn a little bit more about this little pocket of counterculture during the 1970s and 1980s, which had a large impact on music and culture today. Also, I got to learn a little more about some popular bands before they became super famous, like the B52's, the Dead Kennedys, U2, and the Talking Heads, and about the venues they performed at, and the flyers that were used to advertise them. I also learned about some smaller bands that had great names, like Psychedelic Furs, Peter Accident and the Duck Revolution, and Shankin' Babylonians. I had a great time looking through all of the art on the flyers and understanding more about this counterculture. Next, I will be working on a collection about Social Movements, which is very exciting!

Phoebe

A Couple of Smaller Collections

Hi Everyone,

Last week, I finished the Koike Collection on Japanese American Internment. This week, I am continuing the trend and I have been working on two smaller collections. I just finished working on the Yamano Japanese Internment Collection and another collection on Japanese American Internment is in progress. Unlike the Koike Collection, this collection had very little information on it. Very few photographs had captions and dates on it. Most of the photographs were of several unidentified people. As someone who was trying to arrange this collection, it was a little bit frustrating. In the Koike Collection, I was able to learn so much about Kenzo Koike and have a small glimpse into his life. On the other hand, this collection does not have quite as much information. I had to do more and more research without much reward in learning more about the collection. This made it more difficult to arrange the collection. However, it was a really fun challenge! I had to be much more creative in placing materials together in a way that would make sense to the researcher.

Yamano Collection

Eventually, I did it! It was a more challenging collection to work on, but I feel like I learned quite a bit through the process. Not every collection is going to be perfect and easy to organize. All I can do is arrange it to my best ability.

Phoebe

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 (http://thediscoverblog.com/2012/02/28/discover-finding-aids/)!

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 - http://library.sdsu.edu/guides/tutorial.php?id=8&pid=30.

Enjoy!


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.

Phoebe