March 2015 Archives

It's Been a While

Hello to all! First, I must apologize for my absence on this blog as our spring break was last week and it would have been unfair of me to create a post without any substance. This post will take a different tone than in my previous posts. This entry will be centered about the technical and organizational aspect of being an archivist, an often looked over area of the archiving world.

Me and my fellow CCEPS fellow, Sara, are closing in on the end of processing the IAC collection and we have discovered the second half of the archiving universe. The first half of this fellowship brought with it the excitement of learning about new areas of academia previously left out of my mind. However, the learning has not stopped, if anything it has continued in different directions. It has continued from the scholarly to the archival realm and it still contains the same level of excitement that I was able to translate onto paper (digital really). I have been able to connect to this area of the work because the German efficiency expert inside me loves the fact that I get to organize this collection in the simplest way possible, making it easy for researchers to find what they want. Since I am unable to change the world all on my own, conquering the archival world will have to do in the mean time. 

O.K., so now to get down to the thick of it, the meat and bones of the Claremont Special Collections. The IAC collection is nearing its completion! We have placed (mostly) everything into neat folders and boxes just ready for research to be carried out on the extensive Nag Hammadi codices contained within. 


Here you can see our folders, tucked away neatly into the proper boxes. The process was a long one but filled with interesting twists and turns that included finding pictures of Henry Kissinger looking at the pages of the Nag Hammadi codex. With the processing out of the way, I am now able to focus on developing a comprehensive finding aid. This includes taking all of the information from the individual folder titles and placing them in the correct order within Archivist's Toolkit. This program allows for easy access to all of the finding aids for all the collections in the library. It also allows for me (or any archivist really) to fiddle around with the structure and content of the finding aid to ensure order and efficiency are achieved. With the toolkit, we are able to catalog all the files, maps, and seemingly countless audio tapes.


In the very near future, researchers will be able to look up the finding aid and find all that they need thanks to the tireless efforts of the CCEPS Fellows. 


The boxes for the cassettes and the index cards came in this week, so we got to work moving them in. These are mostly recordings of the regular public lectures hosted by the IAC over the years. A few of the tapes are from the Nag Hammadi expedition and seem to be of interviews with the people who discovered the codices.


Miraculously only one of these had an empty spider egg sac in it. It was a considerate spider though, it chose one of the blank tapes.


Still working through these too:


They're fun to look at; it's interesting to see all the different information that the archaeologists needed to conduct the their digs successfully. What the ground consisted of seems to be particularly important, which makes sense. They charted the types of stone and ancient building work and where they were in the site:


Wouldn't want to lose anything! That's why you went there in the first place. Next step is getting all the information put into Archivist's toolkit - series one and a chunk of series two are in there now but the cassettes are going to have to be described on the item level. Until next week!

- Sara


Even Further Adventures in Archiving

I spent most of this week sorting and deciding how to organize the contents of the last three doc boxes. Most of the remaining documents are Nancy's artwork, as well as a few family documents. I learned how to use envelopes within folders, which has made organizing small, loose things like photographs way easier.

Lisa and I walked through entering everything into Archivists' Toolkit, so I would have a better idea of how the collection would be presented to researchers. That was really helpful, and I think I have a decent idea of how I'll organize the last few doc boxes. I've also started gathering info for the bio that I'll eventually put up on Archivists' Toolkit.

I'm going to folder Nancy's artwork by medium, as there aren't enough dates for chronology to be very useful. She has scrapbooks, picture books, pastels, pencil and pen sketches, a few oil paintings, and mementos of her time in France.  

I'll leave you with an "action shot" of this table trying and (mostly) succeeding to contain all the stuff I spread out on it while I was trying to get everything organized. 

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Until next week,



Well it's suddenly the week of spring break, hard to believe the semester is already half over! The end is in sight and the proof is in those tidy boxes. This week I finished up the photos / slides and also started digging deeper into the maps. These are the most substantial thing remaining to be done, but luckily the mapmakers had an order system. Can't take chances I suppose when you're trying to keep track of a dig, seems like it'd be pretty important to know where things are. Unfortunately, some of these are so massive that we're going to have to keep them rolled up. It's always best to avoid leaving them that way but any folder big enough for these could also double as a queen-sized bed cover. Some of the maps look like they've been through the mill a bit, like the dirt-covered field notes, and must have seen a lot of use. It would be interesting to find out just how each kind was used in the course of the dig. We're still working on entering all the folder names into archivists toolkit as well, and getting some research done for the front material of the eventual finding aid. It's definitely shaping up!

Until next week -




The first series is complete! Everything has been sorted, refoldered, and put into new boxes so now we can work on getting them entered into the database. We've just got the rough edges of series two to smooth out - slides, a few photos, last week's maps and the audio tapes. While we were sorting through Series 1's photos I wrote about some interesting coins held by the IAC - now I've got some photos to share. Here are a few of my favorites from the collection:


There is no size reference for the coins, and they are in black and white, but the amount of detail on these animals and people is impressive. I want to look into how these were created, and what materials they're made of. I'm not even completely sure these are monetary coins.


This fellow doesn't look like he wants to be on a coin, and has lost his eyes.


 Lion surrounded by/excited about eating conches(lilies?)


It's great to see the collection coming together! Soon enough the finding aid will be done too. There's still work to be done but it's moving along really well. Until next week!

- Sara



Blog Post: Cats Edition

I was out sick last week, but I'm feeling much better now... So here is the promised cats post!

I spent some time last week putting Nancy's many scrapbook pages in Mylar sleeves, as well as sorting through and making notes about the other contents of the three doc boxes. There are scrapbook pages, handmade cards, picture books, sketches, and memorabilia from Nancy's time in Paris--needless to say, she was an artist (more on that next week).

Nancy's scrapbook has lots and lots of pictures of cats (about a third of the pages have cats on them), but there are also other things: pictures of her home, places she visited (mostly state parks around California), and holidays.

The cats have fantastic names. Some of my favorites are Lucifur (with a 'u' instead of an 'i' because he's FURry, of course), Fluffy Mae Simpkins Reed, Roderich "Rod" Vich Alpine Dhu, Carmichael Reed, and Chiquita.

They were obviously a big part of her and her mother's lives. My guess is that they were rescue cats, since they have so many of them and they are all different types--big fluffy cats, smaller, short-haired cats, and jet-black Lucifur.


Now, for some pictures of cat pictures!


Here's a whole page of cats:

Whole Page.jpg


If you thought I was kidding about the great names:



Two cats... one has its arm around the other! These two were often pictured together.



What a pretty kitty...



That's all for the cats (for now...), folks. Nancy was both a chemist and an artist--next week's post will feature both of those things.


Until then,



Half Way There

I have just realized that we have just about hit the half way point in my time as a CCEPS Fellow. While we have have finished a great deal of the IAC Collection there remains a great amount of details that need to be addressed before the collection is ready to be used by researchers. I am currently in the midst of placing everything in the proper order and preparing to write up a good finding aid for the collection. Now that I have raced you through the technical side of archiving, I can bring you to the interesting bits and pieces of history.

These small pieces of history that I have shown you are all found within the plain white boxes that adorn my work station. Last week I gave the story of Muhammad Ali, discoverer of the Codices, and that the story was incomplete. After a bit of research I was able to uncover more of his story and the reasons for which his mother burned one of the books. It seems after they were found, Ali and his brother had just placed them on some hay next to the over. Ali's mother simply used the book as kindling for fire since the family was completely unaware of the significance of their find. While the story of Ali and his family is compelling, I would like to move on to other characters in this world. 

In several pictures that I came across, I found prominent individuals visiting the small town of Nag Hammadi. These dignitaries and scholars alike came to the Coptic Museum after it was brought into the Egyptian National Museum system of support and protection. Of the most recognizable names was Boutros Boutros-Gahli, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Egypt and former Secretary General of the UN, who is also a Coptic Orthodox Christian. Unfortunately, the picture of him is only a poor photo copy as the original is in a different collection. Not to disappoint my readers, I have included a couple other pictures that garner the same interest at previous ones I have attached. 

Here is a picture of the Queen of Denmark making a visit in 1962 to the Coptic Museum in Nag Hammadi.

Why Danish royalty would visit a Coptic Museum is beyond my knowledge! But I will probably do some proper research should time allow. 

Next, is a picture of the Minister of the Imperial Court of Egypt. The name on the back of the photo is illegible and several attempts at Google resulted in nothing. However, that should not stop one from imaging what is being said at the moment.

I could easily pepper in more pictures, but that would just be irresponsible as I have yet to discovering the interesting stories behind them. One of those is a picture of a banner honoring then President of France, Giscard, and Anwar El-Sadat of Egypt. Once I know what is going on, I will surely pass that knowledge down to you! Just remember, big historical events are only the tip of the iceberg and the remaining pieces could be found in plain white boxes. 

Mapping the Area



Next up is a box of maps and drawings from the archeological expeditions to Nag Hammadi. Inside we found maps of the general area, hand-drawn guides to the dig site, and (in a separate tube) a satellite image of the area. I've never been on an archeological dig but from what I've seen mapping has got to be a key component.


We've put materials relating to the dig into their own series, which contains these maps, field notes, photographs, audio tapes, and correspondence. The expeditions are divided into seasons that span from 1976 until 1980, when it seems their funding ended.


It's difficult to tell just from the labels, but I suspect the tapes are interviews from the dig. Some are labeled Mohammed Ali, and I'm curious if this is the same Mohammed that originally discovered the codices. Jason has mentioned this story in his posts, it could be that the tapes contain Ali's complete account. Maybe we'll come across some information on these tapes as we continue processing this week! Until next time - 

- Sara