Digging in – Archives Acquisitions from Start to Finish – Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/Willie C. Velasquez Records
Did you ever wonder how archival collections go from someone’s garage, attic, or storage unit to being available in one of UTSA Libraries Special Collections’ reading rooms? In the months to come, we will reveal how the process of acquiring, appraising, processing, and describing a collection unfolds. Photographs of site visits and archives work spaces will offer a visual chronicle behind-the-scenes at UTSA Special Collections as we take custody of our largest collection ever–the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/Willie C. Velasquez records.
On our first visit to the storage facility, the task in front of us seemed a little daunting! How do you go from a mountainous pile of boxes to record cartons neatly places on shelves? There is only one way to handle this challenge–one box at a time. Before we began the process of digging in, we needed to take a few precautions–we set insect traps, purchased flashlights, goggles, masks, and gloves. We had to be prepared for the possibility of mold or insect activity–certain types of spiders love dark, undisturbed spaces. Having prepared sufficiently for such contingencies, we forged ahead with great enthusiasm!
Our plan of tackling one box of records at a time seemed pretty straight forward. However, there were certain things we needed to consider as we sifted through this mountain of materials. One of the prime directives of archives is maintaining the original order of records creators whenever possible. This imperative can be challenging when faced with the volume of records such as those encountered at the SVREP/WCVI site. Within this space, there were records of multiple creators-the delineation between individuals was not always clear. While some original boxes were labeled with the creator, others were not. While some boxes were organized, other were not. We just had to do our best to maintain any order we encountered.
As we transferred materials into record cartons for transport, we included small insect traps in each box to capture any unwanted critters that love to feast on paper. Loose materials such as maps needed to be bagged and traps included. Items that had sustained water damage were sealed in oversize Ziploc bags. They would need to be closely examined for active mold.
After several exhilarating hours, we loaded up our vehicles and headed out to secure the boxes in our quarantine space. Quarantining materials is a vital step in the process of long-term preservation. Until new collections are checked for pest activity and mold, they remain separated from existing collections.
Our first day of work at the site was a success. Each of us felt fortunate to be part of this exciting opportunity. We looked forward to our next visit wondering what we would encounter. Our next blog about our adventure will include descriptions of the types of materials we discovered and will explain how we determine the archival value of collections.