And just like that, it’s all over!

Tuesday, May 21 I began my internship with the Marine Corps History Division, Archives Branch, and what a summer it has been. Next week I finish my internship and head back to Indiana University for the last year of my grad program. I cannot believe how fast it has gone, but even though it was quick I have learned and experienced several things that have made a lasting impact.

This summer I have gotten to develop several skills that will help me further on as an archivist. Such as: processing two collections of passed Marines, scanning and describing photographs, and cataloging photographs within the collection.

I also got to work on other professional skills as well. I have a better understanding of working in an office setting. I learned to more about the Marine Corps and how to act in certain situations within the military. Also, I got an introduction to navigating the application process for government jobs, and what to look for if/when I apply for a government job. In addition to those opportunities, I also learned about other careers in history and how they relate to the work of an archives. There were so many opportunities this summer for me to take advantage. I can only hope that I am able to retain this information and use it for the future.

On average, each week of my internship I worked 27 hours. Most of my time I jumped around several different tasks, depending on what needed to be done. The most man hours I spent on a single project was working with the photos of the Holland Smith collection. Spending over 5 full 9-hour days of work on just on that project. Whenever they are fully available on the archive’s Flickr site, I will make sure to share them with everyone. There are several interesting photos that I am sure several people will enjoy.

The project I spent the most time on, after the Smith photos, was cataloging and rehousing the several of the irregular sized photographs. I also did this project with one of the full-time archivists. Getting to have that one-on-one experience with a professional archivist was invaluable, and several of those conversations I will recall for years to come as I progress within the profession.

Also, while working in an archive, I got to experience some of the weird parts of what the job entails. Whether that is interacting with odd researchers, discovering interesting materials, or handling odds and ends you would never expect to see. Those kinds of small misadventures help prove to me that this job will be enjoyable long term and is something that makes working through the tedium worth it.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone that has been following this journey the whole summer. I know I have said it multiple times, but it means a lot to me that I have several people that have taken the time and enjoy reading my adventures with my internship this summer. Also, as always, if there are any questions, I can answer please let me know.

One More Week!!

Well, here I am, in the final stretch. As I finish writing this, I have 3 shifts left with the Marine Corps History Division, Archives Branch. With so little time left, I have little to report on. It’s been pretty much business as usual. So, I will have more to say with my last entry in a few days, but I will just briefly talk about my work the last few days here.

As I mentioned previously, I have been given smaller tasks in order to not have anything that I will leave undone when I leave for the summer. These projects have included more scanning and creating an inventory list of a collection of Marine Corps publications. 

For scanning, there is a collection of two boxes of photographs that inside mylar sheets, which can take up a lot more space than bare photographs but do give more protection to them. I started going through the collection last Tuesday, and made about 100 scans when something happened, the scanner did not want to turn back on. I did nothing to it, but so suddenly, this expensive piece of equipment decided to stop working while I was using. I did not know what to do, so I talked with some of the actual archivists. The next day, the head archivist brought down another one from a different branch that did not need to. I plugged that one in, and again, nothing happened. So, two scanners that were supposed to work suddenly did not work while I was using them. I tried several other options, including changing outlets, tightening cords, etc. Thankfully, after I left for the day the head archivist learned that it was the power cord that was broken, not the actual scanner, and there was nothing that I did to cause it!!

The other project was creating an inventory list of the archive’s collection of Marine Corps publications. This collection is kept in alphabetical order, but it has not been inputted properly into the electronic record system. There was no complete record of what was in each of the boxes, so I was tasked with creating a folder level inventory of what is inside the collection. This was about 2 full days of work and covered 85 boxes that averaged 20 folders per box. This was a fairly tedious task, but I am glad I got to do it and that it will be useful for the archives in the future. 

Other than that, I have had a pretty relax last few days. It is exciting to be at the end of such a great summer looking forward to my last year of my grad program.

Finally Finished with Holland Smith

Hello, I hope everyone is doing well. Thank you again for deciding to read my blog about my internship with the Marine Corps.

This past week was kind of exciting. I finally finished everything connected with the Holland Smith collection (refer back to my earlier blog post if you are not familiar with this). By the end of it I had made 932 scans from photos. I had to deleted some of them, but by the time I was finished weeding through the pictures I did not need, I had 850 photos. Once that was finished, I went though and connected descriptions, titles, tags, and other identifying features to each of the photos. That way, whenever they are made public, they will be usable for people moving forward.

The summer is definitely winding down. From here on out I will be given small projects that I can hopefully finish in my last three weeks here. There has also been the last of the intern’s brief sessions on the other parts of the Marine Corps History Division. I don’t know if I had mentioned this aspect of my internship before but has been one of the interesting parts of my internship.

Within the Marine Corps History Division, there are multiple different branches that are ultimately under the Marine Corps University, of which the archives and the rest of the History Division is physically attached as well. To expose the interns to all the parts of the Division, each week we had the head of each branch come and talk to the interns from each of the other branches. These branches include the archives, the reference, historical research, publication, and oral histories (I am probably missing something). It was really interesting to learn about the other careers in history and see how these branches worked together with the archives. I am thankful for the experience and the opportunity to learn so much.

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful, and very quick. It is crazy how little time is left and that soon I will be back in Bloomington completing my last year of college for the foreseeable future. Thank you to everyone that has been with my on this journey, and please comment and share with others that might find this interesting.

Junk Drawers and Archives

Hello, and welcome back to another blog post about my internship with the United States Marine Corps History Division. This past week was pretty great. Nothing too difficult, and I and some good experience. 

One nonwork related thing I did at the Marine Base, probably became one of the most patriotic experiences I have had. Last Tuesday, there was a BBQ happening on base, and for a small fee everyone, including the civilian employees could participate. I decided to go along with a couple of other workers from the archive. Even though the food was kind of mediocre, getting to eat one of the most American themed meals while surrounded by service men and woman is one of the most American things I can think of getting to do this summer.  

In terms of actual work, I am continuing to work with the photographs and describing and cataloging photos of all different kinds and sizes. Working long and hard to try and ensure that these photos can be enjoyed by others moving forward. 

Part of working with the photos has led me to work in a new (to me) part of the archives. That being a drawer that I have dubbed the “junk drawer” of the archive. Now, the reason I have given it this nickname is because of the stuff that is inside of it. There are dozens of large photographs within this shelving unit. 

This project is really connected to what I have been doing with my supervisor throughout this summer. Cataloging photographs and adding better descriptions to them and making sure they are in places that are more in line with the organization of the rest of the collection. However, there are some differences with what is in this group of photos as opposed to what we have already done. The previous photos, mostly, had names attached to them, and information as to what collection they were attached to. These photos in the “junk drawer” rarely, if ever, have that kind of information.

In addition to that, there is no telling what kind of photographs will be found also. There have been several “head scratchers” as to why these photographs are being kept in a Marine Corps Archives. Just a couple of my favorites have been a generic photo that was torn to pieces and had a large piece of glass attached to it. An original newspaper from 1791 (nothing mentioning the Marine Corps to be found). Also, there was an entirely unidentified photograph, that appeared to be from World War I and it was in a used folder that had a name of a country that Marines were certainly not in in World War I.

Having random misadventures like this are some of my favorite parts of working in an archive. You never really know what you are going to see. Having experiences like this really helps prove to me that this is a field that I can go into long term.

Just another week with the Marine Corps.

As my internship keeps moving along, I continue to develop a routine with my work with the Marine Corps, which definitely in a type on mundaneness to it from my perspective. As I continue to think of blog posts, my fear is that I run out of interesting stories to tell. However, I will keep posting for the duration of my internship, if nothing else because I need it for credit, haha. I also know that there are several people that have been reading my posts consistently, and I am continually grateful for that support and the feedback I have gotten. Just please bare with me if my blogposts see a dib in content the next few entries.

In terms of work this past week. I have been continuing to work with the Holland Smith photographs, uploading and describing them on the archive’s Flickr page. I finished the scanning an initial upload process. I cannot tell you how many hours I put into that part of the project, but I have been working on it off and on for about a month or longer. I could not work on it consistently because of other small project I was working on, it is also so much work that the tedium of it is more than I can normally handle just straight through.

The next step is to finish describing the photos and rescanning some photos that I did not scan properly the first time. In total I was just shy of 900 hundred scanned photographs. There was one day last week where I got to spend my 9-hour shift just working on that part of the project. During the course of my shift, I worked through 12 “pages” (by how Flickr populates on their editing page). 12 of a total 46 pages, seeing as I cannot normally commit that much time to this project in one day, I expect to be working on this project for the remainder of the summer.

In addition to the Holland Smith photos, I have helped get boxes of collections for researchers coming into the archives. The more public facing end of an archives is something I have always found enjoyable, and I can definitely see myself working as an archivist that is servicing research requests and helping patrons as the chief duty of my job. I have not gotten to directly help a patron with a research question, but the small interactions I have had have been generally agreeable.

Also, I have been helping my supervisor catalog panoramic photos that are part of the oversized and flat-folder collection. This is always entertaining because you never know what kind of photos you will come across as you try to better describe photos that have been set aside within the archive’s material.

Other than those projects, I have not worked on anything noteworthy this past week. I hope you got something out of what I have shared, and please ask me any questions or leave feedback after reading this post. It is greatly appreciated.  

Digitization and the Archives

Hello everyone!! I appreciate you coming back and reading my blog. This past week was pretty much business as usual. It was also a short week because of my vacation to New England. Because of that I’ve decided to focus on a general archival topic instead. That being digitization of archival materials. Obviously, this is a throughly researched and academic topic, and I am not an expert, but I do see value in sharing some of my personal observations and opinions.

When I talk with people about becoming an archivist, or mentioning that I am in library school, it is immediate followed by some comment about how libraries and archives are becoming obsolete do to digitization. That everything is becoming available online.

I am here to tell you that that is not the case.

There are several reasons for this, and I will run through a few of them quickly. First, as more material becomes digital and accessible from greater distance, there will still be a need for information professionals in archives to help provide access and contextualize the materials in the digital collection.

Secondly, even if you can make something digital, it does not always make a proper replacement to the original materials. This is especially true when it comes to older materials. When researching older materials touching and feeling the physical document cannot be supplemented with a digital copy.

Lastly, I think it is important to talk about the large amount of resources it takes to digitize an institutions materials. When thinking about the large amount of hours to takes to scan something, the money for the scanners and software to run the scanners, and the people to do the work in the first place. And this is just considering paper materials, when digitizing film or video it takes even more work.

I know of archives that employ people to just scan their materials as full time job. Recently, I have been scanning photographs and have spent a few 9 hour days just scanning photographs, and that is not taking into account the time to describe and upload the photos so they are available for use.

There are definitely several other things to consider, and multiple schools of thought surrounding all of it. I hope that this encourages discussion, questions, and thinking about the issues surrounding digitizing archival collections.

Just Brief Update

For this week I am going to tone it back a bit and just share some of the projects I am working on. Tomorrow I leave for a vacation to New England, which has distracted me from pulling together some more detailed.

I have still been digitizing the photos of the Holland Smith collection. For those of you that do not remember, I had mentioned him before as the Lieutenant General at Iwo Jima (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holland_Smith) . A lot of these photos have been pretty mundane and and normal family photos, but it is great to be able to preserve a portion of this American hero’s life.

The other big project I have been working on is processing the collection for Marine John Maynard, who served in the Pacific of WWII and was injured at the Battle of Peleliu. I will copy and past the content of scope of the collection for you can get an idea of what I was looking for as I processed the collection.

Scope:

This collection consists of several different types of materials ranging from publications, photographs, and correspondence concerning the life and military career of marine John Maynard. The collections materials date from c. 1942-2010. However, the bulk of which is connected with Peleliu and radio intelligence/cryptography during World War II. This collection gives a wealth of information about the history and importance of radio intelligence, which is valuable outside of the immediate context of Maynard’s life. Also, the information concerning Peleliu reflects the life of a Marine serving there in World War II, as well as a soldier returning to visit 50 years later. Something that is also very valuable. The correspondence also reflects the life of a marine serving serving in the Pacific in World War II, having multiple letters to family and loved ones. The photos also contain several tourist photos from China that include images of the Japanese surrender in China. 

Biographical Notes:

Maynard was born September 15, 1921 in Clarkston, Washington. He graduated highschool in 1941 and enlisted in the Marines, going to code school at Camp Lejeune, and  serving in the Pacific Theater in World War II from 1942-46, serving as a radio intelligence operator. He served in the Battle of Peleliu where he was injured. After leaving the Marines he married Betty Lou Mitchell in 1946 and started attending Gonzaga University where he graduated in 1952 with a law degree. He worked in law for the remanded of his professional career eventually becoming a district judge, which he did for 20 years, retiring in 1987. John was also a member of the Marine Corps Cryptologic Association, which planned and coordinated a trip to Peleliu in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu. Maynard died in Lewiston, Idaho November 22, 2010. 

Chronology:

1921: Born in Clarkston, Washington

1942: Began serving with the Marine Corps in the Pacific

1944: Injured at the Battle of Peleliu

1946: Honorably discharged from the Marine Corps;

          Married Betty Lou Mitchell

1952: Graduated from Gonzaga with a law degree

1987: Retired as a district judge

1994: Went to Peleliu for the 50th anniversary of the battle

2010: Died in Lewiston, Idaho

Arrangement:

This collection is arranged alphabetically. Also, when appropriate the subject of the folder is put first. For example, photos and correspondence precede a further description of the content. The folders are than alphabetized after that.  

Those were the two big projects that took up the majority of my time this past week. So, I think this is where I will end this blog post. Like always, please reach out if you have any questions or comments. I really appreciate all of the support I have been getting through this summer.

Details are important

Following the same vain as the blog post focused on “gremlin work”, I thought I would write about another part of archival work that is important to consider and that is the importance of description in archival work.

Now, description and describing things is probably something that seems straightforward. However, to better show what I have in mind when thinking of description in an archive, I pulled this quote about archival description from archivists.org:

“Archival description is the process of capturing, collating, analyzing, and organizing any information that serves to identify, manage, locate, and interpret the holdings of archival institutions and explain the contexts and records systems from which those holdings were selected.”

With that definition in mind, it is clear to see that archival is focused on the archival collection and locating materials within it. This is imperative for the work of an archives. An archive is meant to have its holding usable for researchers and other interested people. If an archival collection is not properly described it is not usable for a researcher. Those materials than become worthless. This isn’t even the worst thing that can happen with poor description. What is even worse is if a collection is so poorly described that even the archivists don’t know what is in their collection, rending the materials lost and unusable.

Proper description is something that I have been thinking a lot of lately. A significant portion of my work has forced me to think about the quality of archival descriptions. I have been working with uploading photo slides to the archive’s Flickr, which requires to write titles, descriptions, and tags for specific photos. Making good use of all of those is integral to archival description and I need to make sure that all of those parts work together to give the photo meaning and usability.

This is also true for the collections I have been processing. Sometimes, the materials I am handling are the only record in the archives that that individual existed. I am working with original and unique materials that tell a story. The descriptions I attach with them will stay for the foreseeable future and if there is anything of value to a researcher, I need to make sure I highlight that during my processing.

Another example of proper description goes back to the fear of something being lost. This past week while helping inventory drawers my supervisor and I came across a folder that said: “Iwo Jima miscellaneous.” Within that folder was an original map, with annotation, from the original Iwo Jima assault and attack on Mount Suribachi (where the famous flag raising took place). The original map was rendered nearly useless because of poor description. Description is important in several aspects of archival work, but it is also important in every other form of communication and interactions that we experience as humans. Let’s us think more about how we can describe things in our own lives this week.

Gremlin Work (week 5)

Hello all, thank you again for taking the time to read my internship blog. I really appreciate all the support, and please continue to leave comments and share with others that will find my experiences interesting.

This entry I am going to focus on a less noteworthy portion of archival work, becuase it is something that is equaly important to the archives. Also, it is the kind of work that I did the most of this past week. This being, the tedious work involved with archives.

When thinking about archives, most focus on the preservation of great historical materials, or helping present those materials in fun and exciting ways. However, this is not always what the work of an archivist entials. A lot of the time it can be very tedious and require a lot of individual time spent behind a computer doing the same task at nauseum. This kind of work is what I have heard some of my colleagues refer to as “gremlin” work. The kind of tedious work that few people have the patience to do because it seems so mindless.

Now where doing this “gremlin” work seems daunting to most, it fits my personality quiet well and is one of the reasons I decided I could go into this field. I am a rather patient person, and I find repetitive tasks very rewarding to finish and soothing to do this kind of work.

There are a lot of different forms this “gremlin” work can take place. This past week, for me, it meant boxing film and scanning. Starting with the film, the Marine Corps archrives has several hundred films that are on legacy (out of date) media and are not easy for the archives to use. To counteract a collection that is growing into disuse there is a partnership that was created with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to digitize the film so they can be easily accessible in perpatuity. To prepare the next shipment to UNC to required us to pack boxes with film and then inventory the films as the go into the box. This work is very time consuming and took several hours from our day and we did not even complete the project. For some people this can be discouraging, but we were glad to make any headway on the project at all.

The next piece of “gremlin” work that took up a lot of me time was scanning photographs. The collection I was scanning was that of Holland M. Smith, who was one of the chief commanding officers over the attack on Iwo Jima and the capture of Mt. Suribachi (where the famous flag raising took place). Some of these pictures are interesting, but most of them are not, and since Smith was an important person he has a large collection of photos. This will be a project that will last in some form for most of the rest of summer. One day last week I spent nearly 8 hours scanning and barely made a dent. When people are afraid of everything becoming digital, this is one of the things in the way of that, the time, energy, and resources to digitize things. An archives normal daily tasks can take a lot of time and tasks like digitizing documents tend to be put on the back burner. As long as someone can access the materials it is still usable.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my post. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to sharing more with you as the semester goes on.

Why do I want to be an archivist (week 4 of my internship)

I am writing this on the heels of a rather hectic week. This past week, on top of my internship I started a second part time job for several reasons. This second job is at a moving company, which is understandably physically demanding. Needless to day, it took more time away from me than I thought it would, which is why this is coming late. However, I did have something about last week planned, which is connected with why I became an archivist.

As a child I always loved solving puzzles and have felt that I was fairly observant. When I was younger, one of my outlets for this was a book series called The 39 Clues. I won’t go into detail about that series, other than that it included several different puzzles that readers could solve and answer online for different accomplishments. I would spend hours solving those puzzles, and it helped foster a desire to really dig into a project and research something to find an answer.

As I grew personally and went to college I really loved the research side of my studies. Double majoring in history and biblical studies I had several opportunities to resaerch and dig into several different topic in my four years as an undergrad.

I knew I wanted to channel this passion for research into a career and going to library school to become an archivist is how I decided to do that. This led me to volunteering at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, which was an amazing experience and really motivated me to apply and go to Indiana University and pursue a degree in library science.

This past week in my internship I really got to channel part of that desire to research with my work. Last post I referenced that I was processing a collection of materials from Marine Augustus Lewis. I finished the first major part of that and am waiting for it to be reviewed, but I wanted to share what my finished to help show part of my work as an archivist.

In the document I sent my supervisor I included the scope of the collection, which is a brief description of all the physical materials in the collection. A brief biographical sketch of his life, and an even briefer chronology of his life. I will include all of that next.

Scope

This collection consists of various materials such as diaries, photographs, albums, and genealogical information concerning the lives of Augustus T. Lewis and his family, with a focus on his service on the USS Colorado. Materials in this collection date from 1905-1991, but the bulk is concentrated in 1905-1920. Most of diaries focus on the day to day activities of a marine on board the USS Colorado. This is the same for the photographs and albums, however there is more information about Lewis’s personal life. Several of these photographs are likely mass produced and souvenirs from his tour, but they still reflect an interesting view of the era. During his service the USS Colorado traveled through China, the Philippines, and other places in the pacific. There was also a short stent in france in the late 1910s. All of that is reflected in this collection.

Biographical notes

Augustus (Gus) T. Lewis was born on June 17, 1884 in Detroit, Michigan. He enlisted with the Marines in 1905. He served with the Marine detachment on the USS Colorado from 1907-1909. He spent nearly 5 years with serving with the United States Navy. During World War I he served with the 5th Marine Regiment in France, which is where he met his wife. He continued service with the Marines in various capacities including a period in the 1930s where Lewis served as a Commanding Officer for several Civilian Conservation Corps camps on the East Coast. In 1938 Lewis retired from the Marines, but that did not last long for he was again called to duty during World War II where he served on Parris Island, South Carolina where he stayed until after the end of the war in 1945. Lewis finally retired in July of 1945 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He died on September 23, 1977 and was buried in Arlington.

Chronology

1884: Born in Detroit, Michigan

1905: Enlisted in Marine Corps

1907-1909: Served on USS Colorado

1918: Met and married his wife Blanche while serving in France during World War I

1930s: Served as Commanding Officer for the Civilian Conservation Corps

1945: Final Retirement from the Marine Corps after serving at Parris Island during World War II

1977: Died in San Diego, California

So, I know this is a bit more information than normal, but I love thinking about what influenced me to be in the position I am not, and talking about this interesting work. I hope it is equally enjoyable to read about. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this my work or choice of career.