Category Archives: HistoryMaking

Almost done!

Hello all!

My last post I talked about how I am almost finished with entering the entire collection into the museum’s collections management software. I can safely say that next week that will finally be finished. It is a bit relieving finally getting this task accomplished. When I first came to the American Royal almost two years ago, I had no idea the amount of work that was needed. After my first couple of weeks I quickly knew that I could not complete the task within the ten weeks I was initially hired for. I was working off a Microsoft Access database that was created in 2003 and was horribly outdated and was missing over 400 entries. I decided the only way to accomplish this task thoroughly was to go through each file individually and to ignore the Access database. Now I have entered just over 500 artifacts and when I am finished it should be closer to 525.

When I am finished with this I will start writing the action plan and organizing the collections storage areas available to me now. The end of the semester is quickly approaching, but everything is finally coming together.

Thanks for reading!

Philip Bland

Before getting into the weeds of preparing for the move there are a few loose ends for me to finish. First, I need to complete digitizing the collection records for the museum, which has been a year and a half process so far. This is important to the move for two reasons. One, I am updating the collection as I go through this process, something that has not been done for awhile. Because of a lack of sufficient staffing, a few items have been misplaced simply because it was not recorded when an item was moved. Also, the collections will be searchable and it will much easier to look up a specific object or to create lists. I am hoping to finish this project within the next month so I can start working on the action plan for the American Royal and start offering suggestions on collection storage based off of current needs.

During this entire process I am also organizing the collection storage areas and addressing collection storage issues that need to be addressed immediately. This includes new storage materials and finding space for collection storage at the current location. This will also help get a better idea of what will be needed at the new facility.

Thanks for reading!

 

Moving a Museum

Hello, my name is Philip Bland and I am the Collections Intern at the American Royal Association. Most people know the American Royal for its barbecue contest, livestock shows, or horse shows and few know that the American Royal has its own museum. For the past year and a half I have been working under the Director of Education, Kristie Larson, to help digitize the museum’s collection catalog and implement some best practices in collection storage. This semester though, we are pivoting from addressing current needs to looking towards the future.

Last October, the American Royal Association announced the relocation of its events and offices to a brand new facility located in Kansas City, Kansas. With it, the American Royal plans to incorporate an education center in addition to its current museum. With the prospect of a brand new museum at a new location, one of the first questions posed to me was how do we move the collection? This semester I will be working on developing an action plan for how to move/store the collection to the new museum. Also, I will provide a list of collection storage needs and options for the new museum. While working on this plan I will be reaching out to other museum professionals in the area that have also recently gone through moves or facility upgrades that required their collection to be moved and/or stored.

I am excited to take on a project that will expand my knowledge of collection management and also provides an opportunity to network with other museum professionals in the Kansas City area. I hope to pass on some of the knowledge to you as well throughout the process.

Philip Bland

LaBudde Special Collections Transcription: Learning to Hear

Today I began two transcriptions which, though similar in focus, couldn’t have resulted in more diverse work experiences.  One was an individual monologue about the gay scene in Kansas City since the 1960s.  The other was a round table discussions of the different experiences of a group of lesbians in Kansas City.  While the monologue flowed fairly smoothly and demanded more focus on grammatical form, due to the narrators use of pauses and vocal delivery, the round table require more nuanced attention.  With frequent interruptions, laughter, and joking among the narrators as they seamlessly flowed off of and into each others conversations, I found myself needing to stop and learn the narrator’s unique voices.  While the first project demanded I try to understand the rhythm and meaning of the narrator’s delivery (to know what should be a period or comma), the other demanded I listen for distinct voice markers.

In both cases I needed to hear the individual quality of the narrator’s voice, but in different ways.  I couldn’t simply type out what I heard.  In the monologue, without first hearing the narrators rhythm and broader topic, I could very easily structure the statements incorrectly.  In the round table interview, the general lack of names being given before speaking and the boisterous free-flow of conversation, left me confused without better context.  Though both required topical context, the round table drove me to become familiar with the voices themselves.  In both transcriptions I needed to start orienting myself a few minutes into the recording, not at the beginning.  This was a new experience compared to those stories I had heard since childhood which start at, you guessed it, the beginning.  I needed to not only hear the rural style to “Pat’s” Midwestern voice as opposed to the higher pitched, New Jersey fast pace of Giselle’s voice; but I also needed to hear the more nuanced differences between the rich tones of Sue’s Davenport voice  and Bev’s Kansas City voice.

The longer I listened, over and over, I started to hear the vocal tones of different laughs and the patterns of different speakers.  I began to become familiar with their voices, to know them.  I began to really hear them.  Sometimes foreign to the historical voices of monographs and journal essays, the recordings brought be into a more challenging and more personal type of history.  It was challenging, disorienting, and a little unsettling.  But it was also beautiful.  The struggle to discover the voices of the historical agents was present, just like in other forms of research, but in new ways.  It wasn’t enough to hear the narrator’s voice, to get their words, but I had to discern their voice for its distinct qualities.  It wasn’t enough to know the words and actions of the historical agent, but what makes them different from other historical agents.  Today was a wonderful example of literally learning to hear the voices of those in the past who I had never heard before, and I can’t wait to hear what they will say next.

LaBudde

GLAMA

Digitizing Harry Truman’s Belongings

My first digitization project was a collection of photographs from President Truman’s first inauguration. I scanned pictures of Truman’s family, Vice President Alben Barkley, the inaugural ball and parade, and the inauguration ceremony. Archivists must wear gloves when handling the photographs to prevent damaging them. After scanning, I began the process of entering the description of the photographs and putting them on the Harry S. Truman Library’s website. For each photograph, I wrote a brief title and recorded its size, color, and photographer. I also described each photograph’s content and identified any significant people, which sometimes required research. Once the descriptions were complete, the photographs were uploaded to the website.

I’ve also digitized hundreds of pages of documents in addition to these photographs, including State Department memos to President Truman regarding the Korean War and several of Harry Truman’s notebooks from his military training in World War I. Handling President Truman’s personal belongings has been one of the most exciting parts of my internship. I’ve also gained an appreciation for the art that goes into properly scanning frail and awkward documents.

Here are a few pages from one of Truman’s notebooks:

IMG_4813IMG_4814

The Value of Digitization

One aspect of my job as an archivist at the Truman Library and Museum has been record digitization. Although this can be a tedious and repetitive task, I find it as rewarding as processing collections and writing finding aids. As a researcher, I understand the value of having online access to photographs and documents. Researchers anywhere in the world can view records online, and many archives are digitizing their holdings. Digitized records can also be shared on social media to reach a broader audience.

For example, I scanned Margaret Truman’s diary from 1941 because the Truman Library wanted her December 7th and 8th entries to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Over the past two days, the Truman Library has shared the diary pages on their social media accounts and website. As of today, 275 people have liked or shared the diary pages on Facebook and 139 people have liked or retweeted them on Twitter. This is why I find digitization so valuable. Making history accessible is a large and rewarding part of what public historians do. I was able to connect over 400 people to an important part of our past simply by scanning two documents and putting them online. Digitization may not be the most exciting task, but it is certainly an important one filled with meaning.

Center for the Study of the Korean War Collection

One collection I’ve been fortunate to help process and write the finding aid for was donated by the Center for the Study of the Korean War in Independence, Missouri. Whenever I’m not working on a specific project, I work on this massive 250+ box collection. My task has been to examine the contents of each folder and create folder titles.

After the initial survey, the curator will review the collection again and discard anything he or she determines to be of little value to researchers. In this collection, for instance, there were many webpage documents on the Korean War that originated from unreliable websites. There were also materials unrelated to the Korean War, such as articles about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These types of materials will likely be disposed of during the next processing phase in order to make the collection more manageable and relevant to researchers. Most of what I’ve worked with has been very interesting, however. I’ve read many letters and diaries from Korean War veterans, Korean War propaganda, and other wartime materials. I’ve been working as diligently as possible to help get this collection processed and make it available to the public.

Writing the Michael Davis Papers Finding Aid

Prior to writing the finding aid for the Michael Davis Papers, I researched the collection’s contents and learned that Michael Davis was the chairman of the Committee for the Nation’s Health (CNH) during Harry Truman’s presidency. The CNH supported Truman’s national health insurance initiative and campaigned against organizations that opposed the program, such as the American Medical Association. Most of the collection contained publications, articles, press releases, and newsletters from the CNH and opposing organizations.

Once I had a thorough understanding of the collection, I began my description. First, I described the collection as a whole by summarizing the types of documents it contained and the collection’s primary subjects and themes. I also provided the historical context of the collection and explained how the collection related to Harry Truman. My series description was brief because there was only one series, the Subject File. Again, I outlined the types of documents and the subject matter of the series, along with the series’ arrangement. Lastly, I described the collection at the file unit level by listing the folder titles for each box in the collection.

There was other essential information I included in the finding aid, such as copyright information and information about the collection’s size and date span. I also needed to compose a biographical sketch of Michael Davis’s life, which proved difficult because the collection had little information about him. However, after some research in the archive, I was able to create a timeline of Michael Davis’s education and employment history. My final step was to write the HTML webpage for the finding aid using a program called Dreamweaver. As a HTML document, the finding aid was added to the Truman Library’s website where it is now available to researchers.

Link to the Michael M. Davis Papers Finding Aid

Wornall/Major House Intern & Camp Director

Educational Outreach Intern & Camp Director Wornall/Majors House Museums

About Interning at the Wornall/Majors House Museums
Are you passionate about local history or interested in learning more about local history? Would you like to experience exciting, hands-on opportunities to bring history to life for community members?

The Wornall/Majors House Museums is a non-profit that preserves and protects two of Kansas City’s most significant antebellum landmarks – the John Wornall House Museum and the Alexander Majors House Museum. The Museums engage the Kansas City community by bringing history to life through innovative, hands-on programs and experiences. The houses, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, feature hands-on tours, field trips, summer camps, adult education programs, and more.

Our interns will experience many facets of museum management and non-profit administration. We value our interns and go the extra mile to make sure you receive a learning experience that fits your career goals.

Description

The Wornall/Majors House Museums is seeking one individual to work with our field trip and summer camp program as an unpaid intern, to transition into a paid position of Summer Camp Director. Our Educational Outreach Intern is responsible for developing new and strengthening existing relationships with local schools and community groups to bring classrooms to the Wornall and Majors Houses for spring field trips. Building on their work with educational field trips, the intern will also assist in developing our Summer Camp curriculum, registration, and marketing. A successful intern will then transition into Summer Camp Director for the summer season and is eligible for a stipend for their work with the camp program.

Responsibilities

* Foster new and existing relationships with private and public schools to bring spring field trips to the Wornall and Majors House.
* Research and reach out to community groups, such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
* Schedule field trips, handle logistical details and recommend activities to incoming schools.
* Attend and assist with field trips, as schedule permits.
* Develop Summer Camp curriculum, including but not limited to scheduling presenters, developing new activities, familiarizing themselves with existing activities, and researching new curriculum strategies.
* Assist in the management of Summer Camp registration materials, communication with parents, and seeking out marketing opportunities.
* Serve as Summer Camp Director through the summer of 2017, managing all day-to-day operations of the Museums’ Summer Camp program, which will include at least two sessions of week-long camp, and two-four sessions of day camp.
* Manage and delegate responsibilities to one-two Camp Assistants as well as multiple Junior Volunteers (aged 12+) for the duration of camp.
* Other administrative tasks as assigned.

Requirements

* Must be available through June-July for all camp-related activities: two sessions of week-long camp (M-F, 8AM-5PM) and two-four sessions of day camps (one day per session, 8AM-5PM).
* Good people skills, including comfort in speaking to a group and managing others.
* Good time management skills when creating and adhering to a schedule, with the ability to be flexible if needed.
* Must pass an NCSI background check.
* CPR/First Aid certified, or willing to obtain certification, paid for by Wornall/Majors.
* Past experience with children preferred.
* Background or interest in education, history, recreation management, or non-profit management preferred.

Details
The position of Educational Outreach Intern begins in January/February and ends in May (start date flexible). This portion of the internship is unpaid. 5-10 hours per week.

This position will transition into Summer Camp Director for June-July, eligible for a stipend of $1200. Half of the stipend will be paid at the start of the first Summer Camp session, with the last half payable upon successful completion of the final session. Approximately 100-125 hours expected in June-July, corresponding with camp sessions.

To apply, please submit your resume and cover letter to Leah Palmer at administrator@wornallmajors.org

Levels of Control

Today I would like to begin sharing the process for creating a finding aid. A finding aid is an index or description of a collection’s arrangement and contents created for researchers so they can determine whether or not a collection is worth their time. Before I describe the process of writing a finding aid, it is necessary to first explain the collection’s arrangement, which is usually described in a finding aid.

The contents of a collection have various levels of control, meaning there are various ways a collection can be grouped. The broadest grouping is the collection level, which for my collection was the Michael Davis Papers. The second broadest classification is the series level. At this level, records are organized based on their similarities in topics, functions, or document types. This is often used to divide larger collections with many boxes into manageable segments. Since the Michael Davis Papers fit into a single box, there was only one series level. A narrower grouping is the file unit or folder level which can be organized alphabetically, chronologically, topically, or by document type. For the Michael Davis Papers, the folders were separated primarily by organization. For instance, materials from the American Medical Association were in a different folder than materials from the Committee for the Nation’s Health. The narrowest level of description and arrangement is the item level, which can be arranged chronologically or alphabetically. This level consists of the individual materials in the folders. Many finding aids don’t describe on this level of detail because of a lack of time, resources, and practicality.

My finding aid described the Michael Davis Papers on each of these levels except for the item level. The descriptions varied in detail and content, depending on whether I was writing about the collection, series, or folder levels. Next time, I will go into the writing process and explain some of the content I was fortunate enough to work with.