Thursday, August 30, 2018

Introduction to a New World: Processing the Stubblebine Collection

The journey from student to intern in a new city isn’t always the easiest transition. I was fortunate, however, to find a welcome environment that values questions and learning. I just completed an internship at the National Museum of American History Archives Center, where my first assignment was to participate in the processing of the Donald J. Stubblebine Collection of Musical Theater and Motion Picture Sheet Music and Reference Material. It opened my eyes to a different side of archiving, one that involves meticulous attention to detail through technology.

Processing a collection involves the efforts of many dedicated people behind the scenes working tirelessly to organize a collection to make it accessible to researchers. Going through a collection can take a few weeks or a few months, depending on the size of the collection. The Stubblebine Collection is 152 cubic feet; the three archivists and four interns working on it only made a dent in its processing journey. This collection contains music scores, scripts, and miscellaneous ephemera. Each piece in the collection is organized within a series and sub-series. Stage Musicals, for example, is one series under which other sub-series fall, such as “Oh That Melody,” 1918. Each folder is labeled with the collection number, title of the musical, and year or years if that information is available. Stage Musicals are organized in alphabetical order and placed in an acid-free box. The boxes are then labeled with the collection number, collection title, series number, and box number. Once the collection was boxed, I helped it cross the finish line.

"There Seems to be Something About You," sheet music from the Broadway musical, "Oh That Melody," 1918.
 Archives Center, NMAH, AC 1211, Stubblebine Collection, Box 252, Folder 11. File Name: AC1211-0000012.tif.
My main job was to review every box, number each file within the box, and ensure alphabetical order. Once I had gone through each folder, I used a collections management system called ArchivesSpace (or ASpace). ArchivesSpace is an online database application that supports collection management, archival processing, and finding aid creation. In ASpace, I entered every file folder description. A finding aid is “a description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.” A finding aid allows researchers to use keyword or phrase searches in the catalog and be able to find what they need down to the folder number. Once this step is complete, we are able to add further description to the finding aids to better serve our patrons. Descriptive content is also added to the system. At the completion of data entry the collection is placed on the shelf. Recording the location is very important, as it allows a repository to track both the permanent and temporary locations of the materials.

Archival processing is a very interesting and lengthy process. I enjoyed getting to know the hurdles a collection goes through in order to get into the researcher’s hands. Processing is an integral part of the archival profession, and this experience is better preparing me for my future as an archivist. I very much appreciate the skills I cultivated at the Archives Center and look forward to many more learning opportunities.

By Sarah K. Rung, Summer 2018 Intern
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

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