Well, for a few posts this summer I’m taking a new approach to things. Why? I thought’ I’d walk everyone through what it takes to process an archival collection. This won’t be a weekly series, but rather posts after various stages of the process.
So how did I come across this collection? It’s my great-grandmother’s photos and documents. She hadn’t done anything with them in years and I recently relocated them when we were forced to move her from assisted living to skilled care. Did I forget to mention she’s 105? She’s seen a lot of things in her lifetime and this collection reflects that. Of course it’s no longer complete; at one point she gave the albums she kept on each of her grandsons to the respective grandson. Also, in the past, one of my uncles convinced her to give him the old tintypes. Previously, I had been given two circa 1910 large prints, one torn in half. What is left is directly related to her life. There are photos of things she and my great-grandfather did, often with her sisters and their husbands. There are documents from high school reunions, church events, and from government organizations celebrating her centenarian status.
How did I manage to be allowed to keep these? Well, my grandfather decided since I rescued them and was the “family archivist” that I should be entrusted with the material. I’m glad he thought that my training would be useful. And it helps that he knows how much genealogy research I have done on the family too, frequently in partnership with his cousin.
Thus with all this in mind, plus the need to still make the material available for the rest of the family, I began. Step one was to locate needed supplies. That will be what this post is about.
The first critical step to preserving this collection is to remove photos from two sticky albums. If you recall from my earlier post on caring for photographs, I said photos need to be removed from these types of albums because pages are too acidic. From past experience, it is not always easy to remove these photographs. I’ll write more about this process in a future post.
Other items in the collection were larger and held in envelopes. I knew these would need protection as well. To this end, I wanted to see if I could track down actual archival enclosures, Mylar sleeves, to house them in. While I was unable to find the Mylar sleeves outside of archival supply catalogs, I wasn’t entirely without luck. At Office Max I found archival grade 8.5″ X 11″ InPlace brand page protectors made for use with three-ring binders that offered a fold over top to secure the documents. I bought a package of these (a pack of 25 sells for $6.99) to house the documents and 8″ X 10″ photographs. They might not be as thick as the Mylar sleeves, but they are thicker than standard page protectors (4.1 mm as opposed to 3.1 mm) and acid-free. What can I say? I’m making due with the best I can find widely available which means, if needed, you can too!
My search for supplies didn’t end with archival-grade page protectors. I also purchased a new acid-free photo album for the freed photographs. I will use this for all photos sized 4″ X 6″ or smaller. For larger photos, I’ll use photo corners to adhere the images to acid-free paper and place them in the page protectors. This way, those stay with the other items in the collection and are easily viewable to family wanting to take a look. I thought about using my make-your-own-photo-sleeve method, but that does work best for little viewed photos and I know that won’t be the case with these. I also knew I’d need acid-free, buffered paper but luckily I already had that! If you ever need that, it can be located at most office supply stores; if you don’t see it, ask. It may not be the best, which is the Permalife brand that has been tested to hold up for 500 years, but it should still last a long time and is safer to use than regular paper. I will also be using this to interleave in a couple booklets to absorb acid. Lastly, I knew I had the big, torn, approximately 14″ by 20″ circa 1910 photograph that needed conservation treatment. Plus should something else become damaged, I wanted conservation supplies on hand. Paintbrushes are easily acquired at the craft store, but Methyl Cellulose or wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue paper aren’t. I couldn’t buy these at the craft store and Amazon only had a small, but extremely expensive tube of Methyl Cellulose. Thus, the repair to the big photo will have to wait because until I’m permanently employed as I can’t afford t pay an archival supply store approximately $60 for the two items. Someday though, someday! I learned the technique.
I was able to acquire one last essential archive tool: a micro spatula. This handy little tool can be used many ways from removing staples to spreading the aforementioned adhesives. I could have ordered one from an archival supply store or Amazon.con for around $17 but I wanted to see if I could find one elsewhere cheaper. I checked the nearby Hobby Lobby (art, crafting, and scrapbooking departments) to no avail. I thought I might be able to locate something similar, especially in art department, but I couldn’t. But I still acquired one through a roundabout way. Amazon.com was selling them in both bookbinding and scientific supplies, so I showed my dad a picture of what I needed. He had some in his school’s science lab that were never used! Thus I’m able to borrow one.
Soon I hope to begin the process of removing and rehousing the photos. After that, I’ll embark on a scanning project on selected material.
Does anyone have any questions about my search for supplies? Or my plans?
Yes, I’m borrowing the title of a History Channel show. It fits with my plans for this post. There are several historical mysteries that have baffled me. None are worth a full post, but I thought several posted together might make for interesting food for thought. Let us begin.
Why a Prime Minister, but not a President?
Women in the United States gained the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Women in Great Britain gained the right eight years later. Women in both nations had a long history of suffrage movements prior to gaining the rights. However, why is it that Great Britain has had a female Prime Minister (the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher) but the United States has yet to have a female president? What makes this more interesting is the fact that Britain’s Liberal Party is still known as more conservative than the United States’ Republican Party. Maybe it is due to a past history with a handful of ruling queens? Or might it be because British women have equal rights (since 1975) while we still don’t? Keep in mind Thatcher was in office by 1979, served as PM for nearly fourteen years, and led the Conservative Party.
History has led us to believe that Amadeus Mozart what the musical genius of his family. However, his older sister Maria Anna (known as Nannerl) was equally talented, if not more so, with music. She was older and trained first, learning the harpsichord and pianoforte. On their family’s early tours of Europe, she was the one who received top billing, not Amadeus. As she grew older, it was considered less socially acceptable for her to preform publicly and this stunted her musical career while her brother’s continued to grow. Nannerl’s career completely halted in 1769 when she became old enough to marry; their father prevented her to continue her career.
We know that Nannerl composed music. Her brother praised her works in the letters he wrote her, but none of the works survived. Or did they? One common theory presented in the movie Mozart’s Sister, a French film, is that she burned everything after the forced end to her career. But if her brother wrote about her works in his letters, he would have seen the scores and played them. What if some works attributed to the famous Amadeus Mozart were really Nannerl’s? What if he preformed and published them as some of his when she couldn’t?
By the way, Mozart’s Sister is a movie worth watching. Viewers can see the early progress of both Mozarts’ careers and how Nannerl’s ended. While the movie is only based on a true story, based on minor research, it is very close to the truth.
Western Depiction vs. Reality?
One thing that frequently bothers me during the Christian holiday seasons is how Jesus Christ is depicted. It is always the same: white-skinned, long brown hair, and brown eyes. These are Western European attributes that have been applied to him since the rise of Western art. However, he was born and raised in the Middle East/Mediterranean sphere. More likely he was olive-skinned with darker brown or black hair. It wasn’t until the last hundred years other skin and hair colors would be easily found in that region, and even then it was from the Jewish People who moved from Europe to Israel. Since the Bible doesn’t give Jesus’ everyday appearance, we’ll never know for sure what he looked like. Thus which do we believe, Western art or historical precedent?
Who Really has the Right to Bear Arms?
Now for the real powder keg (pun intended). The shorthand of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is considered to be “the right to bear arms.” This is what we are taught in school. However, the full text reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There are two possible interpretations. One is the traditionally held one taught in the schools: everyone has the right to bear arms. However, because the original text mentioned the right is to maintain a “well regulated Militia” does it really mean everyone? Originally, all men over the age of twenty-one were considered to be part of the militia. This is no longer the case. During the Civil War, the militia was recruited and since the incorporation of the National Guard in 1903, only Guardsmen are considered to be militia (full history here). Thus if the founding fathers were alive today, which view would they uphold? The traditional or a literal interpretation? Then the waters only become murkier when we remember that when the amendment was written, only muskets and pistols existed; rifles came along just before the Civil War and nothing back then was automatic.
Feel free to comment and debate. I’m not taking sides; I’m providing observations. I’d be interested to hear what others think.
Missouri is lucky to have a great free genealogy resource in Missouri Digital Heritage. MDH is the state’s digital initiative database. Both the State of Missouri and its institutions, mainly universities and libraries, have contributed collections that tell the state’s history. Most of the collections feature scans of documents and photographs, but some are just finding aids or transcriptions. Either way, it features over a hundred wonderful collections all worthy of exploration. Several collections are ideal for genealogists. All the genealogy collections can be found at this link, but I have chosen to highlight the most useful and those that pertain to the majority of the state. Others listed on the linked site are relevant only to specific towns, cities, counties, or ethic groups.
- Missouri Birth and Death Certificates Pre-1910: This database provides “185,000 records from 87 counties” covering births, stillbirths, and deaths in Missouri. Searches can be conducted by name (full or partial), county, or a combination of both. Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
- Death Certificates (1910-1962): The death certificate database features over 2.2 million records. Each year, new records that are over fifty years old are added (ex. in 2014, 1963 will be added). The database can be search by one or more of the following fields: last name, first name, year of death, and county. Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
- Missouri County History Project: This database features county histories contributed from many institutions statewide. Many are scanned copies of the Goodspeed’s county histories. All counties are covered, but some are included in regional discussion as opposed to just that county. Within the histories, there are many mentions of the people who lived in the counties and the histories of the counties and towns are covered.
- Missouri County Plat Books: The plat book collection is a joint venture led by the Missouri State Library. The plat books map who owns the land at various points in history. While not always indexed, if you know where an ancestor lived (town or township) it is easy to locate the sections of the book to check and scan the image. Often, in addition to your ancestor, you will find their relatives nearby.
- Land Records: The land records cover the sale of first colonial, the federal land in Missouri. The records are divided into six collections: French & Spanish Land Grants, 1790-1803; United States Land Sales, 1818-1903; Township School Land , 1820 – 1900; Seminary and Saline Land, 1820 – 1825; Swamp Land , 1850 – 1945; and 500,000 Acre Grant, 1843 – 1951. The latter four are transcribed or in the process of being transcribed. The French and Spanish Land Grants are not in English. Follow the link for more information on each collection. Records can be searched by the name of the purchaser (first name, last name, and year) or land records by section (section, township, and range).
- Registre d”Arpentage: The Registre was created between 1798 and 1806 by surveyor Antoine Pierre Soulard to document claimants and their land for the Spanish government. There are 710 total surveys, all in French. Searching is easy, as a list of all included names are provided. To read the documents’ writing, a guide of common phrases and their translations is provided. However, even if you chose not to read the French, you can still study the maps. This collection is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
- Naturalization Records, 1816 – 1955: These naturalization records are the ones that existed before the federal government managed the process; previously it was managed at the county level. You can search for immigrant ancestors by name, native country, county, year, an a combination of these. Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
- Soldier’s Records: War of 1812 – WWI: I’m copying and pasting here; I couldn’t describe it better: “The Soldiers Database is a comprehensive database abstracted from the individual service cards and listing more than 576,000 Missourians who served in the military from territorial times through World War I. It includes entries for twelve wars and military engagements in which Missouri soldiers took part….The database is searchable by name or unit and searches can also be limited to a particular war. Images of the original service records are linked to most database records.” Access is provided by the Missouri State Archives.
- Missouri Union Provost Marshal Papers 1861-1866: “Completed in 2010, the database contains over 72,000 entries relating to Missouri, some 18,000 these relate to St. Louis” about Missouri’s white and colored citizens in the Civil War era, both soldier and civilian. Searching can be done by name, keyword, and/or county. Information included on the individuals depends on their category, so follow the link for more information. Again, the Missouri State Archives provides the records.
- Missouri Historical Review: The MHR is the journal edited and issued by The State Historical Society of Missouri. It’s basis is articles written about Missouri, Missourians, and Missouri history, including some genealogical articles. It never hurts to check these and see if you ancestors might be mentioned. You can search by keyword or browse issues.
Besides’ MDH, there are several other to check for more information. Missouri also features many well equipped archives and special collections of interest to genealogists.
- The State Historical Society of Missouri: SHS collects material on everything pertaining to Missouri history. The have book, newspaper, map, oral history, and manuscript collections. Before visiting, someone can search the collection online to narrow down the resources one needs to review. The main SHS research center is in Columbia, Missouri by the have satellite centers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Rolla, and Cape Girardeau. They also provide document delivery to Springfield.
- Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center: This center is located in St. Louis at a separate location than the more famous museum. Most of their documents will relate to the history of St. Louis, the Greater St. Louis Region, and its citizens. The also offer online indexes and some online photographs.
- Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Room: Located in the main branch of the library system in the heart of downtown Kansas City, the Missouri Valley Room features many books, documents, and maps telling the history of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Region (including part of Kansas), and its citizens. Their website features some indexes and photos.
- Mid-Continent Public Library’s Midwest Genealogy Center: Located outside of Kansas City in Independence, Missouri, this center is operated by the Mid-Continent Public Library system. It bills itself as “is one of the nation’s preeminent resources for family history, providing access to almost three-quarter of a million on-site materials….The collection has grown to over 17,000 circulating titles, more than 85,000 reference titles, and a vast number of periodicals and newspapers, as well as microforms, maps, and online databases.” While Missouri records can be found in abundance, the Midwest Genealogy Center has Midwestern and nationwide coverage and a worldwide reputation.
- Missouri State Archives: Located in Jefferson City as part of the James C. Kirkpatrick Information Center, the State Archives holds many Missouri records, including the original copies of all the documents listed in collections 1-2 and 5-9 (and parts of collections 3-4). Additional records include census data, photographs, and state legislative records. While using the online copies is an easier method, I still wanted to list the State Archives in case someone wanted to know where to locate hard copies.
And, again, don’t forget to check with individual county or town historical or genealogical societies, local libraries, and county record centers. Those institutions are also highly likely to have information to help with you search. The State Historical Society of Missouri maintains a list of historical or genealogical societies. If you are researching ancestors within Southeast Missouri, check out my earlier post on that.
Finally, I have mostly worked with Missouri resources. Do you have any resources similar to these for other states? If so, please comment. I can compile a list for a future post.
Last week, I addressed ways to store physical photos and in January I wrote a bit about preserving digital files. Three Preservation Week webinars provided additional information on these topics I thought I’d share. The webinars were sponsored by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association. Originally, I planned for this to be a bonus post for Friday instead of a weekly feature, but the content is feature worthy. Plus, I had to wait in order to include all the webinar links!
From “The Preservation of Family Photographs” Webinar (4/23/13):
This webinar concurred with much of what I wrote last week about preserving physical photos. However, she brought up one storage method I failed too mention: picture frames. Because the outer layer of photographs contain chemicals or gelatin (pending the type of the photograph), if they become too hot or humid, the photo could be come stuck to the frame’s glass. To avoid this, Norris recommends always using photo mattes when framing photos.
She also recommended some books meant for all readers, not just information professionals. These are (linked to WorldCat):
- Caring forFamily Treasures : A Basic How-to From Storage to Donation by Ann A. Slater
- The Winterthur Guide to Caring for Your Collection by Gregory J Landrey, et al
- A Guide to the Preventive Conservation of Photograph Collections by Bertrand Lavédrine, et al
Norris also covered a great deal about the history and types of photography, including details about the dyes and chemical properties. If you are interested in this, please watch the webinar recording or check out the recommended website Graphic Atlas (ran by the Image Permanence Institute). The recording provides a great overview and the website offers a more in-depth viewpoint. In short form, in common with all photo types, is that there are three layers to a photograph. The back-most layer is the support (paper in the modern era). The middle layer is the image. The top layer is a binder to ensure the image is stable and protected. In each type of photograph, the composition is different.
She also reminded viewers to keep photos in cool, dry, dark places when not in use; to wear gloves when handling negatives and slides; and that it is okay to expose even the oldest photos to the scanner one or twice.
From the “Personal Digital Archiving” Webinar (4/24/13):
Ashenfelder focused on preserving computer files and digital photos. He stressed the importance of backing up all digital files to multiple places and recommends using at least two different types of storage mediums (flash drive, external hard drive, CD-ROM, or server) plus cloud storage. Ashenfelder also reminded viewers to move the collection of files to a new storage medium every 5-7 years to prevent file corruption and media obsolescence.
Here’s a list of some of his other suggestions:
- File names should be unique and easily understood. For example for a photo from vacation, don’t leave it the camera default of IMG_1234.jpeg. Instead rename it something like 2013vacation1.jpeg.
- To lean how to do this in bulk, Google search “batch rename files <operating system type>.
- For estate planning purposes, let loved ones know where important digital files are stored and provide any needed passwords.
- While TIFFs are the preferred file type in archives, digital cameras almost excursively use JPEGs. Thus Ashenfelder recommends using JPEG as the default storage format for both new photos and scanned images.
- Remember, social media compresses (shrinks and reduces color) of images and strips their metadata. Because the previous quality can never be regained, these should never be used as back up files.
- When scanning, 4″ by 6″, 5″ by 7″, and 8″ by 10″ images, select 300 dpi. The exception is that if you plan to print a copy larger than the original, use a higher DPI.
- When scanning smaller photos, such as wallet sized, use 1800 dpi [or since many home printers can't scan this high, the highest setting] when scanning.
- Realize not everything can be saved and prioritize.
- Save important Word files as PDFs for long term storage because the format is more stable and is easier to archive.
- Most importantly, spot test some backed up files to ensure the data transferred successfully!
From the “Archives 101: Dealing with Suppliers of Archival Products” Webinar (4/25/13):
This webinar targeted information professionals. I would highly recommend watching the recording if you work in an archive, record center, or library preservation department as Verheyen provides many tips for purchasing supplies, including how to make some supplies multitask. Despite that, here are some tips that would be useful for both professionals and non-professionals:
- Verheyen reminded viewers that quality of the artifact directly effects longevity; store in cool, dry, dark environments in acid-free housing and limit handling.
- He described when to use buffered versus unbuffered acid-free material:
- Buffered (pH 8-9) is best to use for storing paper items.
- Unbuffered (pH neutral ) is best for storing photographs and textiles.
- Also, acid-free refers to at the time it was manufactured. The pH will change when it comes in contact with archived items. [As I learned in grad school, the material absorbs some of the item's acid, making it stabler in the long-term.]
- Like my in my post last week, he recommends using photo corners for displaying items instead of tape. Should tape be necessary, he says to use Filmoplast because it has a water-based, easily removable, buffered adhesive.
- NEVER LAMINATE ANYTHING! The heat and adhesive used cause irreversible harm to photos and documents. And it’s very hard, if not impossible, to remove.
I’ll be glad to answer any questions I can about these presentations, but I’d recommend watching the recordings to gain all the information. I just highlighted the most crucial points.