Processing Plans: The Treasure Maps of Archives

Being an archivist is like being a pirate. Just hear me out on this one.

Popular images of pirates depict them as adventurers navigating the high seas on the search for hidden treasure. Although archivists don’t tend to engage in swashbuckling, or get scurvy (because eww), they do get to explore collections in order to discover the “riches” inherent to every collection. Plus, they have to find a way to share that treasure with the world. That’s where the similarities pretty much end.

PirateTo help find that treasure, pirates use treasure maps. For the archivist, the equivalent to the treasure map is…the processing plan!

Okay the name’s not exciting, but processing plans are beautiful, beautiful things! When an archives receives a donation, the records are not usually perfectly organized — already prepared to transplant into boxes and immediately perfect for public viewing. When an archivist creates a processing plan, they lay down a model for how the record should be organized so that the records can be accessed by researchers that come to the archives. Processing plans allow archivists to think critically about what is contained in a collection, but plans also make them consider how that information should be displayed so that researchers are able to easily find what they need. See? Treasure map. My inner Virgo that loves order and cleanliness rejoices.

9741846
Every archives is unique, so elements within the processing plan may differ depending on the collection itself or the organizational strategies that are put in place by an institution’s archivist. In my opinion, there are three major elements that should appear in all processing plans. There are multiple subheadings that I think go beneath each of these major themes– I will go into some suggestions for each below:

1. Current State: This is the place in the processing plan devoted to describing (you guessed it) how the collection currently exists, including any information regarding the accession information, how the collection was donated, how it appears to be ordered, and the biographical sketch/organization information that will be used to create a summary of the collection for the finding aid. This is also where the processing plan should underscore the scope and content of a collection, or an inventory of sorts of what documents appear in the collection. Generally a more detailed summary appears when you are suggesting an arrangement, but the scope and content is great for a big picture of what is contained in the collection. Here is a great example from the Harvard University wiki:

EXAMPLE: The papers of My Best Friend include travel diaries, family scrapbooks, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, 23 audiotapes and 45 disks.

FileFolders2. Arrangement: As suggested above, this is where the real organization happens. In the arrangement section of a processing plan, the scope and content is broken down into specific individual series as well as notes for how items within the series should be arranged. Harvard University continues the My Best Friend example below:

EXAMPLE: Series I. Biographical and Personal (4 cartons)
Series II. Diaries (7 cartons)
Series III. Correspondence (12 cartons)
Series IV. Writings (3 cartons, 2 file boxes)
Series V. Photographs (6 cartons, 8 folio boxes)

Each series as shown above would include information about the specific documents, photos, correspondence, etc. as well as the rough dates. Specificity is key in this component. The more in depth this section is, the easier the ensuing organization will be. It’s worth mentioning that you should always get to know the collection inside and out before beginning the processing plan. If you only glance through each section, you are not ready to organize all of the elements. It is worth taking a few hours or days depending on the collection’s size to see what is in the collection as well as how that collection is already organized. In the world of archives, the process of learning the collection before arranging it is referred to as intellectual control.

Archives

3. Work Summary: This section is pretty self-explanatory. This section is a good place to establish a checklist of what exact work needs to be done in order to complete the processing of the collection. Some questions this section should answer are, “What kind of supplies will I need to preserve the collection? Is there anything that needs separate storage? When should the finding aid be completed? What tasks can I delegate to students/interns?” This section would also be a good place to discuss how long the collection will take to process as well as the supplies needed for when the collection is available to be moved into folders and archival boxes.
The three elements listed above are a very rough outline of what might be contained in a very general processing plan. The link above shows a fantastic template Harvard University supplied on their wiki page. It absolutely bears repeating. You can find it here.

In summary, the processing plan is your friend. Detailed organization at the onset of the processing procedure makes all the difference in the world between organizational bliss and utter frustration. Want to know more? The Society of American Archivists has a fantastic book available on their website called How to Manage Processing in Archives and Special Collections. I know what I’m putting on my x-mas list!


EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


‘Tis the Season

My favorite season, next to Christmas (of course) is awards season. As an avid movie-goer, I look forward to analyzing nominations and predicting winners. The Screen Actors Guild Awards released nominations on Wednesday, December 9 and the Golden Globe nominations were announced on Thursday, December 10, 2015. The culminating event of the awards season and my personal favorite is the Academy Awards. Those nominations will be televised on January 14, 2015.

For the rest of the year I pay minimal attention to Hollywood gossip, but come awards season I avidly seek out predictions and the latest news on all things film related. After Oscar nominations are announced, I spend the weeks before the ceremony watching as many of the nominated films as possible. The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards are necessary viewing to predict winners for the Academy Awards. I have hosted several Oscar viewing parties that included games such as predicting the Oscar winners and Oscar bingo. As a public historian I admire the history surrounding the Academy Awards and film in general. Every year the Oscars broadcasts a segment, In Memoriam, to remember people associated with filmmaking that have passed away during the previous year. One of the musical acts during the awards ceremony often highlights a classic film or honors an acting legend. The entire ceremony allows me to reminisce about movies and to compare my predictions to the actual award winners.

The Women and Leadership Archives houses several fascinating collections related to film and television. The Mercedes McCambridge collection is often a favorite of visitors to the archives. Her early career involved voicing parts for radio dramas. After graduating from Mundelein College, she moved to New York and began an acting career in plays and films. Her film debut performance in All the King’s Men (1949) earned her a supporting actress Oscar and a Golden Globe. Mercedes went on to have a long career in film and television.

Mercedes McCambridge

Mercedes McCambridge

The Madonna Kolbenschlag, H.M. (Sisters of the Humility of Mary) collection highlights Madonna’s time as an educator, writer, activist, and clinical psychologist. She taught at various institutions and organizations. She taught courses on American Film at a time when the field was still emerging. The collection contains articles on film Madonna wrote as well as lecture notes and slides from courses she taught in the 1970s.

Slides from a History of Film course taught by Kolbenschlag

Slides from a History of Film course taught by Kolbenschlag

Mary Patricia Haley earned a Ph.D. in Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University in 1973. She went on to introduce mass media and film into the Mundelein College* curriculum. Eventually this led to the creation of a separate Department of Communications. Mary’s collection contains little information about film but her dedication to communications studies represents the growing field of film studies and the role women played in the growth.
These collections add valuable knowledge to the study of film and the history of the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Kolbenschlag’s collection highlights not only the beginning of film study, but how film was studied. McCambridge’s collection educated me on the rules and regulations of winning an Oscar and how those rules have changed. The collections provide a deeper understanding of what happens behind the camera. On February 28, 2016 you can find me eagerly sitting in front of the TV, predictions in hand, as I watch the Academy Awards.

Articles on film history from the Kolbenschlag collection

Articles on film history from the Kolbenschlag collection

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.

 


 

Megan Bordewyk
Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Looking beyond the Obvious: Societal Changes through Photos and Event Programs

For many of us, at this time of year our brains are filled with dreams of upcoming vacations and holiday celebrations. As I pondered this month’s blog post, the sugar plums danced in my head, distracting me from finding an archives-related topic.

My brain then latched on to Christmas traditions and hit pay dirt. I immediately thought of the Candle Lighting ceremony at Mundelein College and quickly realized how records of that event provide insight into societal changes. This post is not about Christmas. Instead, it’s about looking at photos and programs of a long-running event and analyzing the records to see societal trends and changes over the years.

The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) largest collection is the records of Mundelein College. Founded in 1929 by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs), Mundelein provided education to women until 1991 when it affiliated with nearby Loyola University Chicago. The Candle Lighting ceremony occurred at Christmastime from 1930-1991, making it a long running Mundelein tradition.

I find traditions fascinating. While perhaps a tired literary technique, I looked up the definition of the word. Tradition is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as in religious practice or a social custom.)” Well said, Merriam-Webster.

A tradition may change or shift over time in conjunction with societal changes. The fundamental meaning and purpose of the tradition remains; how it is carried out often changes, depending on what is happening in the world at large. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Mundelein’s Candle Lighting ceremony spanned 60 years and began the first year of classes and ended when the College affiliated with Loyola.  Photos and programs from the Candle Lighting provide historical snapshots of moments in time and give insight into societal changes. First, information about the ceremony and tradition itself and then, with pictures and programs, a historical journey through the 60 years.

The ceremony involved lighting candles in the windows of Mundelein College to form a nine-story cross, symbolizing the Light of the World. Mundelein College’s main building is on Sheridan Road and lighted windows were sure to be noticed on a major thoroughfare.

Another part of the ceremony included Christmas caroling in a procession led by seniors. Students sang as they moved down through the building by floors. Once on the first floor, participants put wreaths at the main entrance, recited the nativity story, and lit a large school candle at the end of the ceremony.

Programs, photos, and newspaper articles from the Skyscraper (Mundelein’s student newspaper) show changes in the ceremony. The first year did not include the large cross in the windows and only the choir sang in the ceremony. Several years later the candle procession included all students.

Now to the historical journey, noticing dates and subsequent shifts in the ceremony that highlight societal changes and trends. The first Candle Lighting occurred in 1931. There are no photos in the records, only a torn program. Note the College clubs involved.

1931 Program

1931 Program

 

The earliest photo of the ceremony is from 1936. Look at those dresses!

1936 Candlelighting ceremony

Candlelighting ceremony, 1936

Due to WWII, the 1943 ceremony included recognition of the war.  Four angel sentinels held scrolls of the names of active and deceased servicemen who were relatives of friends of faculty and students.

1943 program

1943 program

1943 program2

1943 program

1943 program

1943 program

1957 is a year the WLA has both a photo and a program. Look again at the number and type of student organizations involved.

Candlelighting, 1957

Candlelighting, 1957

1957 program cover

1957 program cover

program 1957 2

1957 program, page 1

1957 program, page 6

1957 program, page 6

 

The 1960s were a time of huge change in the world and one of the milestones is Vatican II. The Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II), occurred from 1962 through 1965 and affected many aspects of the Catholic faith, in addition to reverberating through other faith traditions. See here for more info on Vatican II. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council

One major change from Vatican II involved the form and content of masses, the term for Catholic worship services. Masses now used English rather than Latin and could include different types of music and artwork.

As I previously said, nothing occurs in a vacuum. The 1966 program artwork is quite different from the one in 1957. In addition, the Candle Lighting ceremony of 1966 included an interpretive dance piece. Both the artwork change and inclusion of interpretive dance in the mass are a direct result of Vatican II changes.

1966 program cover

1966 program cover

 

1966 program, page 1

1966 program, page 1

1955 program, page 5

1955 program, page 5

By 1972, it appears the Candle Lighting Ceremony moved to McCormick Lounge in Coffey Hall, Mundelein’s main dormitory building. McCormick Lounge’s floor to ceiling window faces east to Lake Michigan and in the photo, the ceremony takes place in front of the window.

The ceremony is clearly more casual in contrast to the beautiful dresses and robed choir formality of earlier years. Notice the student in her pajamas, robe, and fuzzy slippers.

Candlelighting, 1972

Candlelighting, 1972

 

One of the last photos of the ceremony is from 1989. This photo shows the ceremony layout in McCormick Lounge. The program again lists student organizations and provides an interesting comparison to previous documents.

Candlelighting, 1989

Candlelighting, 1989

1989 program cover

1989 program cover

1989 program, pages 1 and 2

1989 program, pages 1 and 2

1989 program, pages 3 and 4

1989 program, pages 3 and 4

By 1991, Mundelein experienced financial problems and declining enrollment that led to affiliation with nearby Loyola. One final Candle Lighting Ceremony occurred in December of that year with the theme “A Common Past, A Common Future.”

 

1991 program cover

1991 program cover

1991 program, pages a and 2

1991 program, pages 1 and 2

0003 (2)

1991 program, pages 3 and 4

1991 program, pages 5 and 6

1991 program, pages 5 and 6

Documentation of a ceremony or tradition provides fascinating information on everything from fashion to world events. Photos and program from the long-running Mundelein College Candle Lighting ceremony are historical snapshots; windows in time that provide opportunities to view societal changes.

 

Written by Nancy Freeman

With research assistance from Ellen Bushong, Megan Bordewyk, and Caroline Lynd


IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.