Our Interns have weekly reading assignment to learn about different aspects of the archival field. This week we covered the Monument’s Men of recent movie fame. The archival component to the Museum, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program in World War II is not as flashy as the work done to save famous works of art but still had an important impact in saving cultural history in the World War II era. Today’s quote comes from one of the most famous Monuments Men, conservator and museum director George Stout. The quote comes from an oral interview with Stout in March of 1978 that was part of the Archives Oral History Program. He mentions museums and art specifically, but we feel much the same about the document collection we hold within our Archives.
I hope it will be pursued without neglect what I consider to be the basic function of a museum in a community, and that is to present to the people of that community, works of art in as good condition that is possible to bring them, to report all that’s known historically that relates to those works of art… as a means of engaging people to further study… and it should serve the public with just as much zeal and sincerity whether it calls itself educational or not. ~George Stout
Oral history interview with George Leslie Stout, 1978 March 10-21, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
During the course of our inventory project, the interns and I recently discovered a box labeled “Posey County Journals” in our collection. Naturally curious, we opened it up to find 8 books titled Posey County Clerk and Posey County Assessor. These books had completely different covers that looked nothing like the rest of our similar books. Some of the books were dated as recently as the 1940s. After checking around, it appears the books were borrowed for a Vanderburgh County project at some point and somehow never returned.
Seeking to rectify that situation, we reached out the Posey County Clerk Betty Postletheweight to see about returning the Posey County books to their rightful home. Yesterday afternoon, Clerk Postletheweight dropped by and we were able to transfer all 8 books back to Posey County. They were happy to have them back and we were glad to be able to send these lost books home. Thanks for coming to see us on a rainy Monday, Clerk Postletheweight!
Posey County Clerk Betty Postletheweight acknowledges receipt of 8 Posey County Records Books.
Clerk’s Staff and Intern Brad transfer 8 books back to the Posey County Clerk.
Quotable Friday continues as we highlight another individual who responded as part of our participation in the Society of American Archivists Call to Action #5: Why do Archives Matter?
“Archives are important because they are the records that are kept for any number of subjects. It gives a clear written history that can be recalled when information is needed. I am interested in archives because I think it is so important for people to be able to have documents from the past to call on. It gives people a chance to find out things about their own personal family history or even the history of the town they live in. Without the keeping and organizing of these records there would not be anything for people to rely on for historical purposes.” ~Local Government Employee
Today’s quote comes from one of our regular genealogy researchers that responded as part of our participation in the Society of American Archivists Call to Action #5: Why do Archives Matter?
As a genealogist, archives are critical to my research. Archives aren’t just storage facilities. They allow us to take a walk back in time to learn what life was like in centuries past. Archives are a treasure trove of stories about our ancestors, their friends and families, and the communities in which they lived. Without archives, our ancestors would just be names, dates, and places; our history would have no dimension, no texture. It is within these stories of our ancestors that we find our own.
All the recent snow has kept us away from working on our inventory project out at the warehouse and stuck in the office. Since our intrepid interns completed our microfilm project, they have started to inventory our boxes of Estate files from the late 1800s and early 1900s. We are focusing on some of the oldest files first and creating finding aids to help researchers explore this collection.
Estate files are a part of Probate and later Superior Courts, and oversee the process through which the assets of a deceased person are properly distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. They are invaluable to those researching family history, looking for heirs, and searching to see how property was divided. Often they can include information such as decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. Because debts were often paid, they are also a record of Evansville’s businesses, businessmen, and community leaders.
By cataloging the decedent, executive/administrator/petitioner, and dates issued and disposed in our database, we hope to make the information easier to find and use.
Spring Intern Jessica working on cataloging estate files.
Last week we participated in the Society of American Archivists Call to Action #5: Why do Archives Matter?
We asked some of our users to comment on why our archives collection matters to them. Our “Quotable Friday” quote today comes from one of our favorite responses:
“I work in local government, often creating the computer-aided version of some of the almost 200 year old documents we pull from our archives. When I have the privilege of handling marriage licenses or naturalization records from the 1800’s in our archives, there is so much more information available than simply the words of the hand-written text. I see the doodles in court reporters’ margins, I revel the painstakingly beautiful effort required of the calligraphy in the indexes, the pages and pages of iron gall ink, the elaborate stationary representing our court office , all which reflect a different world. I see the pride of our ancestors, I see the work-ethic that built this country, I revel in the human-element required of those documents. Call me old-fashioned, but the words we generate now on these computers and the print with a font so uniform doesn’t compare to the uniform artistry seen in the ability of those human hands of years ago. This history preserved on that original parchment and onion skin paper breathes its context in a way that no other format could. The preservation of our history is twofold in the archives; the raw data presented alongside the context in which it originated…..”
Congratulations to our interns who completed their first full project last week. Spearheaded by Kaitlyn with help from Paul, Jessica, and Bradley, our interns cataloged 1,107 boxes of microfilm and 4 containers of microfiche. They collected informational data about what is on the film itself and evaluated the condition of each roll. Some of our existing microfilm exhibits signs of Vinegar Syndrome. By discovering this and bringing it to our attention, we are now able to make plans to address it. The interns were then able to box, rehouse, and label our film so it is more easily accessible.
Way to conquer Microfilm Mountain!
Just a section of Microfilm Mountain.