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Making Progress: Processing Update for the SVREP Collection

August 28, 2016

A little over two months have passed since our team has begun processing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) Collection. While it was a daunting task beginning to weed through over 400 boxes of material, we have already made tremendous progress and have also encountered some challenges along the way. Since we began processing the SVREP Collection in early July, we have completed a full inventory, created a processing plan, organized the material into series level, and began flattening over 500 maps.

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A glimpse of the boxes that were inventoried

The first step was to complete an inventory of every box in order to determine the exact contents of the collection. This step was vital in order to assist with the next step of creating a processing plan. With my great luck, by the time I began my position in June, Jennifer Longoria, the Archives Assistant had been working hard since May and had nearly completed the inventory by the time I arrived. With the added help from Karina, our student worker, they were able to complete the entire inventory very quickly.

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Archive Assistant, Jennifer Longoria working on the map inventory

The next step included creating a processing plan for the entire collection. This process involved a heavy amount of back and forth communication between Amy and myself while we identified the major parts of the collection based on the inventory list. While most collections contain common series titles, we wanted the series titles to closely reflect the original organization of SVREP. This included using common terminology used within the SVREP organization and assuring we stuck to their original order as closely as possible. One example of this was the many “Field Project Files” that were used for voter registration. The project files contained a variety of correspondence, financial, and personnel files within one folder. Rather than separating the documents into their corresponding series, we thought it was important to keep the files together.

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First round of series organization

Our biggest obstacle has been developing a map flattening workflow that has consistent successful results. Because of our limited resources and space, we have been creative in testing alternative methods and utilizing our existing resources. We decided to use “Hot Water Humidification” as our chosen method of map flattening. This method involves filling a container, (in our case a large trash can) with about 5 inches of water and placing another smaller container containing the rolled maps inside the larger container. The larger container is closed and not opened for 2-4 hours. The humidity that is created from the water is supposed to provide enough moisture for the maps to eventually be flattened under weights using bloating paper and reemay in order to absorb any excess moisture.

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Maps being prepared to receive the humidification treatment

After attempting this method, we discovered that the temperature in the room where we had the trashcan was colder than usual, making it difficult for enough moisture to accumulate. Instead of waiting 2-4 hours, we discovered that the maps needed to be left 6-8 hours in order to absorb enough moisture. In addition, we had to try different weight options. Our first round of flattening did not contain enough weight even though we gave the maps an extra week to see if there was a difference. After applying additional weight the next round, we saw a significant improvement. The map flattening process continues to be a trial and error process but also has been an incredible learning experience that will no doubt be useful in the future. The team and I are confident that we soon will find the correct timing and method to create a seamless process.

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Project Archivist, Leah Rios assessing the condition of a map

The SVREP team includes Jennifer Longoria, Karina Franco, along with myself and Amy Rushing who oversees the entire project. They have been instrumental in problem solving and ensuring that this collection is completed in a timely manner. The SVREP team will continue to write monthly blog posts so please stay tuned and follow our continued progress on the SVREP Collection.

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**This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**

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