September 2017 Archives



So, I've been working on the same piece for a while now (the Chaffey Letters from the Ontario City Library that I mentioned in my last blog post) and I've been thinking about the work we do by digitizing these documents. The Chaffey Letters are composed of very thin and fragile paper that over time have begun to rip and degrade. As you can see in the picture, the paper has ripped in the sections that were written with ink. The ink was perhaps a very potent and thick ink because it has smudged heavily, making the beautiful handwriting a bit unreadable, but it is also the only parts on the paper that have ripped (it makes for quite an interesting image, aesthetically).

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Some of the only words I have been able to distinguish have been the sign off of almost each letter: "Yours Truly, Chaffey" the last word I cannot completely distinguish. I, personally, think it looks as though it says "bro" but considering these are documents from The Ontario Colony Land Company I think I might be just a little off (just a little).

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To continue what I first said, I have been thinking about what digitizing does for sources like these and people who access them.

Without the work of the CLIRWater project and those alike, the fast-paced modern world we live in would leave in the dust documents such as these. It may seem a bit sad or odd to think that so many individuals do not access physical sources like these, but expect their presence online. I like to believe that it is a sort of compromise. We allow the people of the ever so quick internet to access hand-written, historical, archival, beautiful documents that have come to shape today, but also we are giving new life to documents that are in many ways, dying. Although many are preserved and treated properly so as to assure that these documents stay intact and useful for year and years to come, they do not have the longevity as physical pieces in comparison to these documents as sources on the net (the internet). It is sort of resurrection. These very documents in specific have affected the very area we students, employees, workers, etc. are in. Seems a bit corny, but it does shed light on the special-ness of these documents and the importance to keep them around and accessible.

till next week,


Greetings with Unexpected Surprises



My name is Marissa Hicks-Alcaraz and I'm the final fellow assigned to the CLIR CCEPS water archival project for the Fall semester. I thought I'd begin my first entry by briefly introducing myself and my interest in the project.


I'm a second-year PhD student in Claremont Graduate University's Cultural Studies program with a focus on the representation of Chicanx/Latinx cultural identity in film and moving image art, as well as its curation by cultural institutions such as film festivals, cinematecs, and museums. I'm also the Programming Director at the Latin American Cinemeteca of Los Angeles, and teach undergraduate courses on Chicanx/Latinx and Middle Eastern cinemas at Cal Poly, Pomona in the Ethnic and Women's Studies Department as an adjunct lecturer.


What initially attracted me to the CLIR project was an opportunity to learn about the collaborative process among various Southern California libraries to digitize a mass collection of archival materials. I'm currently working on a grant to obtain funding for a similar project that would digitize materials across various personal and library collections in Southern California related to Chicanx film and filmmaking. A week in and I've already gained a lot of valuable insights regarding this process, such as the kind of equipment used to digitize archival material and the resources needed to execute such a large project.


I've also come upon some unexpected surprises as well. While reading through the beautifully handwritten notes (nearly a lost art in the 21st century as suggested by Alfonso in his last entry) within a minutes log book from a meeting of the board of directors of the Etiwanda Water Company held in October 1890, I was surprised to come across some juicy drama. While the entry was vague on details, it described what was referred to as a "grave and unprovoked assault" (fist fight perhaps?) committed by a father and son team against the board's Secretary of the Treasury, and also the author of the minutes log book. The board resolved to "take action thereon to vindicate its own respectability as well as to protect its officers in the discharge of their duties." It's fascinating to see how the motivations for taking the issue to court was just as much about defending the company's honor as it was about defending its officer...



I'm looking forward to filling you in on more water drama in the coming weeks!   

A Closer Look

Hello all!

For this week, I'd like to share with you more specific images of the Ontario Land and Improvement Company's land record ledger. 

Here we have an image of Block 7, an area of the town of Ontario. This page lists signatures, dates of deeds received, and remarks about purchase. 

Here is a page from the farm lots section, featuring lists of owners.

Here is another page of the ledger featuring purchase lists for smaller blocks in the town of Ontario. 


These purchases, as far as I have analyzed, seem to all have occurred during the 1920s. I don't know much about the specifics of land development, but in this ledger alone, I have found interesting variety in handwriting, which I think is really cool!

Paper Preservation

This week I thought I'd talk to you about paper preservation. Paper is only one possible medium found in an archive. Some others include electronic files, discs, tapes, photograph negatives, and more. However, when most people imagine an archive they picture paper and in the case of the California Water Documents, they would be correct. We are surrounded by paper here, and our job is to preserve and digitize these paper documents so that this archive is available to researchers. The preservation of paper is key and I am going to share some FUN FACTS about paper preservation that are important to keep in mind when you are considering archives.

The first fact is that paper is made up of organic material that will degrade and decompose over time. This might seem obvious since we know that paper is made from trees, but it is a harsh reality to face when considering the longevity of physical archives. It's not all sad, however. Chemical reactions that occur during the decomposition of paper are what creates the "old book smell" that many people love.

The second fact is that acidity is important. Lignin, a naturally occurring molecule in wood pulp, is acidic and is therefore corrosive over time. Although today most paper is acid-free, this was not always the case. Documents made before the dangers of lignin were recognized show clear signs of damage: they become yellow, frail, and brittle faster than acid-free paper.

The last fact is that the methods of storing files are important in not only organizing but preserving paper documents. Using acid-free folders and other storage materials is of utmost importance as we have now learned. Storing files in a clean, climate-controlled place is also important. When working with archival documents, there may be things you can do on a case-by-case basis to protect the collection. For example, unfold crumpled pages, remove rusty staples or paper clips, and be sure to stay away from pens, food, or drinks!

These are only a few things to keep in mind when working with paper. These are precious documents full of history, we want to keep them safe.

Aesthetics: The CLIR Water project

Recently I was asked whether I enjoyed working with aesthetically pleasing documents or written text. Immediately, I began thinking of all the written text I've been working with. Most recently, we received pieces from the Ontario City Library. The written text I've been working with have been, possibly surprisingly, quite beautiful. As you can see in the picture below, some of the emblems or stamps on these documents have their own aesthetic value. 

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Also, very aesthetically pleasing were the hand writing of the texts. Although I couldn't read some of them, I could still admire the precision and beauty of the hand writing. It makes the piece seems very personal, despite being government or company related documents.

I guess my answer was that, with a lot of the written text I've worked with, I've found incredible aesthetic value. It makes scanning for five hours on end a whole lot more bearable.


A New Day, A New Collection

Hello all!

This week, I'm finally finished with all of the metadata from items I worked on over the summer. I'm back to working on scanning items. We recently received items from the Ontario City Library's water documents collection. This time, I'm working on scanning a big book. Since it's a fragile book, we're using the book scanner to allow the book to be open upright as it's scanned. This is a Land Ledger from the Ontario Land and Improvement Company. 

Here are some pictures showing what I'm talking about:

Until next time!

Ontario City Library

This week I visited the Ontario City Library, one of our project partners, to pick up some new materials for our CLIR CCEPS fellows to scan. This field trip offered a nice break from document scanning. We are working with the Ontario City Library, as well as several other libraries, to digitize a massive number of documents pertaining to water resources in California. The Ontario City Library's collection, along with their expertise, is vital for the project to succeed, and it was great to get to see the library in person.

The Ontario City Library also has special collections, what they call the Model Colony Collections. This odd name is actually a reference to Ontario's history as the city was often used as a model for emerging settlements in the surrounding area. The Model Colony Collection is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Ontario using books, photographs, maps, and other archival material. While visiting the library I was able to spend time with the librarians in the Model Colony History Room and see the impressive scope of their collection.

As the librarian at the Ontario City Library reviewed with us the different materials we were picking up this week, I was struck by the breadth of information that our project is going to make readily available online for researchers. Within these boxes, there were water and land company stock certificates, water well data, letters, land grant deeds, water pump reports, and more. All these discrete documents are puzzle pieces to understanding historic water use in California, pieces that would be missing from our project without the hard work and dedication of the Ontario City Library.

History in the Palms of My Hand (literally)

Hello all,

My name is Alfonso Casares, I am a second-year student at Pomona College, originally from Northern California.

Today marks the end of my second week here at Special Collections working with Southern California water documents. Perhaps because of my interest in History, it has been just a bit surreal working with all these documents. History is always described as the past but I think we often forget that History is both the past and the present (and as a matter of fact very much so the future!) and working with these texts has shown me that both figuratively and literally, history is right in front of me.

I'm currently working on digitizing a record of transactions for Bear Valley Irrigation Company, (from the late 1800s!!) that is pretty thick. I'm on my second day of scanning with this text and I am not 100% sure I'll finish today. Perhaps because I'm new I'm a little slow. If so, I'm sure that'll change soon.

Apart from that, I'm really excited for what's to come as a CLIR CCEPS Fellow.
Talk to you soon!

Approaching the End of My First Batch

Hello all, 

I am finally approaching the end of finishing the process of digitization! All of the items from over the summer have been scanned, their metadata finished, and the uploading process is almost done! 

How do I feel about all this, you ask? I am really excited! There is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with finishing a task as long-lasting as this. This process has required meticulousness, precision, efficiency, and patience as I have talked about in the past. But, in the end, all of this hard work is going to pay off! 

Patrons have begun to see the California Water Documents Collection expand and grow over late summer. That's only going to continue as we move forward. 

My hope is that researchers will take advantage of the items we have uploaded. There are so many items in our collection that are very fascinating and exciting. 

Check out the Claremont Colleges Digital Library for more! 

The Document is in the Details

This week I have been busy scanning documents as I settle into my new position as a CLIR CCEPS Fellow. In particular, I have been scanning records from the 1920s and 1930s. When you are working with documents that are 80 or 90 years old, the historical importance transcends the contents of the page. Whether it is the paper quality, the ink, the typewriter impressions, or the handwritten notes in the margins, there are more than words held within these pages.

In particular, I have become transfixed by typography. Many of the documents I am dealing with have unique and oftentimes artistic typography. In some recently digitized pamphlets, the first letter of the first paragraph is large and ornate, oddly reminiscent of the kinds of letters seen in old bibles. The images below are just a few examples of the kinds of interesting typography I have found in the process of scanning various documents.

Another typographical element of the documents that fascinates me is the typewriter text. I have lived in an era of computers and printers. Consequently, I have lived free of white out, crossed-out words, and hand-corrected typos. These details, when I come across them while perusing documents, give a sense of life to the person who typed the words. There is a humanity and vulnerability seeing a corrected mistake in someone's work.

However, it is not just the typos within documents that remind me that an individual or a group of individuals once worked with these same documents many years ago. I often catch comments in the margins, aimless scribbles or doodles on the backs of pages, or handwritten notes among the more formal documents. Each handwritten addition adds personality to the creator of the document and as I wait for the scanner to finish whirring or the file to save, my mind wanders on the life this person lived 90 years ago.

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The Final Count Down

This week is my last week working on the Roland Jackson Collection. I have corrected all of my errors in ArchivesSpace, polished up the finding aid, and have labeled my boxes.

This is a picture of the collection back in June before I started  processing
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And this is the collection now. 
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The collection went from having 7 records boxes, 8 document boxes, and 1 oversized box, to having 6 records, 2 document boxes, and 1 oversized box. The books in the collection were catalogued and binders in the collection were removed. 

This fellowship has been an eye opening experience and I have gained vital archival knowledge which will come in handy in the future. In addition, my experience at the library has also taught me to ALWAYS bring a sweater (it feels like an igloo in here!).

Although this is my last post for my CCEPS fellowship, there are still plenty of CCEPS students working on different projects throughout the year. Shout out to the CLIR Water Project and the studnets working on the project. You can check out their progress by clicking here . Also for more posts about all current and future CCEPS projects, you can click here

Peace out!

California and Water: How Did We Get Here?

Hello everyone, my name is Kiera and I am new to the CLIR Water Project. Moving forward, I will be updating you about my experiences with this collection, but first I can tell you a little bit about me. I am a graduate student at Claremont Graduate University in the Cultural Studies program. Cultural Studies draws from a wide array of disciplines--from history to sociology to literary criticism. Outside of school, I work at two different museums in the area, the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. I have come to Special Collections and the CLIR Water Project by way of my interests in archival work, an interest I developed while working at the Bowers Museum.

I've been here only a few days and already I have discovered some incredibly interesting records in the collection. I am excited to share some of my revelations about this archive. First, however, I thought I'd write about the preconceptions I had as I approached this project.

If you live in California, particularly if you live in Southern California, there is no doubt that water has been an important issue in recent years. As a native Californian, I certainly have my own ideas on water use in our state. As one of the most important resources for human life; it is no coincidence that most major cities have historically been built around bodies of water. This would make the settling of Southern California, most of which is a desert, seem improbable. And yet here we are, thirsty and ready to grow food, so water better keep flowing.

How did we get here? Many historians, environmental scientists, engineers, politicians, and even members of the general public would like to know and are working towards an answer. As I am being introduced to the wide variety of records that we are working to digitize and preserve, I am realizing that the CLIR project has an opportunity to contribute to the answer.

This is an awesome revelation to have during my first few days working on the project, and I cannot wait to see what I dig up that might be useful to future researchers and interested parties. That is one wonderful thing I have learned doing archival work--the answers to life's mysteries could be a turn of a page away.

My Struggles and Triumphs with ArchivesSpace (Pt. 2)

Archives space has been by far the most challenging part of this whole experience. Upon my return to work on Monday morning, I sat down with Lisa to look over the work I had down on ArchivesSpace. Overall I did a pretty good job of inputting all of the collections information, but there was one issue that put me back. 

I myself am still unsure about what happened and I will do my best to explain what I did...

When inputting folders into ArchivesSpace, every folder needs a top container. A top container tells us where each folder can be found and in what series. For example if I had a folder labeled box: 2 belonging to series 3, the top container would say box: 2, series 3 (Simple right!). My issue came when was looking at the drop down options for the top container and there was no series 2. So what I did, unknowingly,  was I created new top containers for each folder. I ended up creating 138 top containers when I only needed 13. Lisa noticed what I did and tried to fix the top containers, but she ran into the same problem I did. She was also not able to locate any top containers after series 1. The next day after some troubleshooting, Lisa was able to fix the drop down options and delete all 138 top containers. I then went back into ArchivesSpace and put in the new top containers which were now in the drop down options. 

Although it took me a while to input the new top containers, I was grateful I did not have to redo the whole collection. Although I had to redo series 2-5, there were not a lot of folders within those series. I was grateful I did not have to redo series 1, which is triple to size of series 2-5 put together.