Sometimes I think that the hard work that goes into making a collection available (doing basic preservation, creating the finding aid, organizing the materials, etc.) is overlooked. Making a collection accessible to the public is a monumental task. Collections generally do not arrive ready to be put online, with digital surrogates and finding aids. Often collections are literally a palette of boxes pulled out of someone’s basement or an unorganized hard drive of materials. The person who is tasked with organizing a collection for access to the public has to preserve the thought processes of the collection's creator and at the same time ensure that the materials are organized in such a way that they can be combed through by eager researchers.
|Betsy hard at work in the Freer | Sackler Archives|
from Left to Right): James Cahill, Aschwin de Lippe, H. Bevil, and John Pope. Taken at National Gallery of Art, 1961.
Some of these notes had difficult to read hand writing. One particular slide note was hard to read and Betsy asked me if I could make it out. I starred at it for a while, afraid to verbalize my answer. She jumped in and said it looks like the second word looked like Butterball, but I can’t make out the first word. I felt better that I was not the only one who thought it said Butterball. After a little time we determined that the first word was Krishna. Since neither of us are subject matter experts, I did a search online and low and behold we discovered that Krishna’s Butterball is a real rock in India.
|Krishna’s Butterball in Mahabalipuram, India. Prince Aschwin de Lippe Papers 1940-1988,FSA A2012.01 Box 11, Folder 33|
Working on an archival collection is always a long game. Sometimes you only organize a few folders due to the complexity of the materials. Other days you have epiphanies about connections between various scattered materials and can go through several boxes. We are lucky to have someone as intelligent, tenacious, and dedicated as Betsy working in the Freer |Sackler Archives.
Collections Betsy has Organized:
Myron Bement Smith Collection
John Pope Papers
Prince Aschwin de Lippe Papers
Freer | Sackler Archives