Saturday, 19 May 2012

Good Old-Fashioned Letters

I have now completed two weeks of the internship and it is going pretty well.  I have spent most of the time getting my head round the two collections and how the two institutions, Genesee Wesleyan Seminary and Genesee College, relate to each other and to Syracuse University.  I sat down with some University history books on my first day and got some background, which has proved invaluable when leafing through the collections and so I will be sure to write good historical notes for the EAD finding aids to ensure that researchers have a good background before delving into the collections proper!

I started with the correpsondence, which is in the most interesting order I have ever encountered.  Besides the expected correspondence we have a series of financial records in alphabetical order with folders such as Dormitory Lists, Life Annuities etc. (all very nice) but interleaved with these are folders entitled "A", "B" etc. with correspondence with individuals or insitutions regarding financial matters.  Since I am trying to organise the collections with researchers and a logical approach in mind, this made NO sense.  So, I have been elbow-deep in letters, postcards (several with charming children on them smoking toy pipes), photographs (apparently if you applied for a teaching position in the 1920s you had to send a photograph of yourself since a detailed physical description of yourself (and, on occasion, spouse) just didn't cut it) and class lists.

Letters I catalogued in a previous life

It has been such fun to read the letters between the Seminary principal and parents of students, who have been caught smoking or visiting the girls' dorms after lights out or driving off to Rochester before breakfast on, heaven forbid, a motorcycle.  There is a whole set of letters between the principal and a rather ticked off parent, who is distressed by the lack of milk available to pupils - I do believe individual cows were actually discussed - priceless.

One of the things that has really stood out to me is the art of letter-writing.  Sean, a new addition to the Archives staff, pointed this out yesterday and it really hit home last night when I started my new book at the suggestion of my book club: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  This book completely comprises letters written to and from the Society and I am already hooked.  I write more letters now that I am over here and there is nothing like the thrill of opening a letter - so much more thought and care is tied up in a hand written epistle than an e-mail or text.  I sincerely hope that this mode of communication does not die out.

My archival supplies all arrived this week and, after some tense miscommunication, it turns out that I ordered the right things and all is well with the budget.  All I need to wait for now are my custom-made boxes and I pray that they arrive labelled since I have 200 bound volumes with different dimensions and cannot imagine the process of matching them to their boxes if they aren't labelled!  Let's not think about it, I stay saner that way.

Plastiklips...possibly the most exciting piece of stationery EVER.
Indeed the box does boasts '13 exciting colours' and I was not disappointed, let me tell you

Plastiklips are my new friends but a word of warning: bear in mind that staples take up much less space than plastiklips and so, when you calculate how many boxes you need, take into account that folders can be up to three times as large when you exchange staples for plastiklips.  That is something that never occurred to me and is a handy tip to know!

In other news, I bought myself a biciclette and although really, if I am 100% honest with myself, it is a tad too wee, the freedom is has afforded me is exhilarating!

Spike, in honour of Spike the bike man

And since no library blog would be complete without at least one picture of a cat, here is Rita, my summer roommate and distraction.

Don't worry, the plant is not poisonous apparently -
this had never occurred to me and I am, therefore, a neglectful foster Mummy

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