At the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum archives, one of an archivist’s primary jobs is the processing of collections. There aren’t many new collections being donated to the Truman Library anymore, however, archivists are constantly reprocessing old collections in order to make them more accessible and to preserve their contents. I recently had the chance to reprocess a manuscript collection, the Michael M. Davis Papers.
I had nothing to do with arranging the collection, which had already been arranged, and therefore skipped steps that would normally occur during processing, such as researching and surveying the collection or enacting a processing plan. My first task was to stamp every document page with a stamp to signify the Truman Library’s ownership. I believe this is done to protect the collection from theft. I then began reprocessing the collection by focusing on preservation methods. This can be arduous, but also very crucial. I carefully examined every page for major tears, rusty staples, acidic paper, and folded pages. I replaced rusty staples with new ones or paperclips and unfolded pages that were folded. The next step was to photocopy original documents with tears and acidic pages and replace them with the photocopies. The damaged originals are stored in a parallel folder for preservation. I won’t go into every detail for determining which documents need to be photocopied and replaced, but they are numerous and can make your head spin. Every time I became confident that I had mastered the preservation methods, I would either discover a mistake or learn about a new rule I was unaware of. It took over ten hours to finish preserving a single box, which demonstrates how much work is devoted to preservation. My final task was to write the finding aid for the collection, which I look forward to sharing next time.