New in the Archives, August 2019

Notable news:

Veronica has moved on to a great new job in the Lower 48: Farewell, Veronica, safe travels, and we wish you all the best!

Change of hours: Due to several years of budget cuts at the Consortium Library and the probability of more, the library has a hiring freeze. With Veronica’s departure, this takes us from three archivists to two. Starting in September, our open hours will be reduced to Wednesday-Friday, 10 am – 4 pm or by appointment. Please note: any changes to our schedule will be displayed on our main website.

 

Collections newly available:

HMC-1180: Walter Parker papers; circa 1940-2014. 20 GB addition to the collection. Due to a house fire, some of Mr. Parker’s papers had condition issues (smoke smell, charred elements, water damage) when they came to us. It’s very rare that we digitize for preservation, but in this case the damage to the materials was so severe that the cost of preserving the hard copy was out of our scope. Many Consortium Library student workers as well as the archivists here spent time in digitizing the damaged materials and then evaluating the scans for quality control in order to ensure we were preserving the best copy possible.

HMC-1302: William B. Workman papers; 1963-2005. 2.5 cubic foot addition. Research and writing files from a retired UAA archeology professor.

HMC-1331: Thelma P. Langdon papers; circa 1983-2012. 0.2 cubic feet and 1.53 MB. Personal papers of a nurse.

HMC-1332: J. Ray Langdon papers; circa 1944-2015. 1.0 cubic feet and 2.3 GB. Professional papers of an Alaskan psychiatrist.

HMC-1338: James L. Simpson diary; 1917-1928, bulk 1917-1921. Diary of a man who homesteaded at Chickaloon.

HMC-1339: Alaska Light Opera Theatre records; 1986-1989. 0.46 cubic feet. Programs and set designs of a theater company in Anchorage.

HMC-1340: Epsilon Sigma Alpha. Alpha Iota Chapter records; 1960-2019. 5.0 cubic feet. Records of an Anchorage philanthropic sorority.

Does the above processing list look a little light for our productivity compared to other months? Especially compared to July’s enormous list? There’s a reason for that! On top of all the other things we do, like providing assistance to researchers, working with donors, meetings, and the occasional vacation, we received a large digitization order from researchers needing materials from one of our collections. Our page/time count for that order (so far) is 15.394 pages and over 55 hours of scanning time. Most days we’re really grateful for our overhead scanner, but right now we’re especially thankful for it! (We also used it to digitize most of the damaged documents from the Walt Parker papers mentioned above).

Alaska’s Digital Archives:

44 photographs from Juneau resident slides; undated, 1942-1986. HMC-0740

5 photographs, an identification card, and a document from the Bill Lathan papers; 1973-1977. HMC-1055. Also metadata added to 20 images from the Lathan papers that had been uploaded previously.

17 images from McGlashan and Monsen.

22 videos and 1 film from Atwood family papers, also available on the Archives YouTube channel (Atwood Foundation grant).

Outreach and other:

“Learning is Permanent!” An exhibit on curriculum materials developed for elementary and high school students in the early 1990s is now available for viewing in the Consortium Library Great Room. The documents and memorabilia in the exhibit came from the Dave Rose papers. Mr. Rose was the first executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

Gwen recorded a podcast with Dr. Emily Moore, an Art History professor at Colorado State University. Dr. Moore did research in the Archives for her recent book, Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska’s New Deal Totem Parks.

Proud Raven, Panting Wolf

Arlene and Veronica both attended the Society of American Archivists annual meeting. Arlene attended the preconference workshop and meeting days, Veronica attended the conference education sessions.

And last (but perhaps most fun), with Veronica leaving we decided that instead of waiting to do our annual staff portrait for Halloween, we’d do it a little early this year. We took inspiration from the photo in our holdings that gets–by far–the most duplication requests for any single item we hold. We just updated it a little and made it more reflective of our own Alaskan interests.

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May Day: blinded by the light

We’re a teensy bit late on May Day this year. On May 1, we often celebrate May Day by doing something to help us out with preservation or disaster recovery planning. We’ve been getting some collections with old stills in recently so we decided it was time to figure out how to tell if something is cellulose based stock or not. Both acetate and nitrate cellulose film stock are best stored frozen.  (Here’s an earlier blog entry about nitrate moving image stock gone wrong.)

I’ll skip the history of film stock and nitrate in particular since you can find that easily enough elsewhere (here’s one source) and I’ll skip the long version of why we’re keeping the stuff when we can. But it’s not always simple to tell what the film stock is. Some have little notches in the edges of the negative where different patterns can tell you what type it is, but not all do. And unfortunately most of the definitive tests that determine whether something is nitrate specifically are either illegal for us to do (burning) or impractical (chemical testing with some seriously nasty chemicals). They’re all basically destructive, which means you’d have to clip a section off the negative to test it. The problem with that is that not all negatives have clear space on the edges allowing for clipping without cutting into the image, even if we could do chemical or burn testing.

Since Veronica and Arlene both were working with collections of the appropriate age to have nitrate or acetate cellulose stock and both of which had a lot of still negatives in them, unfortunately without the notch coding, it was time to see if we could figure something out. According to one of our colleagues in AMIPA, who is our resident expert in all things film-related, there’s a polarization effect that happens with polyester based films that doesn’t happen with cellulose based films. So we found some instructions from the National Park Service on how to build a quick and easy film viewer with a polarizing filter that would allow us to do some quick checks. So that’s what we did today to celebrate Archives May Day.

We gathered our supplies and started cutting the mat board to size, the filtering film to size, and taping the pieces together. They’re not the prettiest things on earth, mat stock does not yield easily to a cutting blade, plus the craftiest of our bunch is Arlene and she failed scissors in kindergarten, but the end result mostly looked like what was in the NPS instructions.

And that’s when things went a bit awry. First of all it took us all a while to get the polarizing film oriented correctly. And then we were having problems seeing the interference patterns on our sample of polyester based film. But with a little help with from our AMIPA expert and carefully holding it up against one of our new, very bright task lamps, we finally saw the difference between the two. And we also decided that we need to keep a piece of polyester film on the side so we remember what it looks like since what we’re looking for is the absence of that look in the cellulose stock. We also learned that we should not look directly into our new, very bright task lamps since they’re, well, very bright.

That’s what we did for May Day. And we have an offer for you: we built three of these but we don’t need three. So we’re offering one of the ones we built (the prettiest one of the bunch) to the first archives, library, or museum in Alaska who contacts us and asks for it. Please use the contact link above and include your mailing address and institution name and we’ll get it mailed out to you.

Happy May Day!

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