July 3, 2019: A New Appreciation for Archivists

When I pulled the box I was supposed to work on off the shelf, I did not expect it to be the most challenging box I have cataloged during the course of the internship. As I began looking for items in PastPerfect, the history center’s cataloging software, it became apparent the entirety of the box’s contents were in fact not cataloged at all, meaning I had to essentially start from scratch and enter each item in individually. I did not think to count how many sheets of paper I cataloged from this particular box, but I would estimate it was around 250 sheets of paper at least.

While not an overly challenging process, it did get tedious quickly, meaning I had to stay focused. Entering items into Past Perfect is a multi-step process requiring me to do the following:

  • Enter the item into the existing accession record.
  • Give the item a catalog number.
  • Create appropriate metadata, including what the item is and dates.
  • Scan the item into the system to create a thumbnail, and give the thumbnail appropriate metadata.
  • Attach thumbnail with document record.
  • Enter the location of the box holding the document.

The entire process took two days, and left me exhausted mentally. That being said, I quickly gained newfound appreciation for what I have learned from my classes. Considering my specialization is in archives, I now have a better understanding of why it is vital to catalog items using established principles so users can find the information and archivists do not have to backtrack and catalog undiscovered items. Even though it was challenging, it is safe to say this particular box provided a valuable learning experience.

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