Thursday, August 2, 2012

I Need Some Finding Aids

By now, I'm sure, that my titles do not shock you. Most of you are scratching your heads wonder what "finding aids" are & why I need them. I will tell you.

According to the Society of American Archivist (SAA), a finding aid is a "tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records" that "includes a wide range of formats, including card indexes, calendars, guides, inventories, shelf and container lists, and registers" or a "description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials" "that places the materials in context by consolidating information about the collection, such as acquisition and processing; provenance, including administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders."*

1968 report by Stan Anderson
Now you know why I need some. No? I'll explain.My office is a cluttered concoction of various materials from 5 or 6 past historians. There is little rhyme or reason. The filing system was terrible, & only slightly better now. My predecessor, Cathy Sharp Barber, did create an inventory with accession numbers and everything. (Accessioning has to do with categorizing museum collections, &since there are objects, not just papers, I understand why she chose that route. I probably would have done that as well back in 2003, since my experience was in museums and historic sites.) But it is not enough.

I'll give you an example. I found this very interesting looking report prepared by Stan Anderson of the Soil Conservation Service, USDA in 1968. It is entitled An Appraisal of Outdoor Recreational Potential: Washington County, NY. The report is rather interesting. The opening pages discuss the history of the county & they read well. The rest of the report covers why Washington County would make an ideal place for various recreational enterprises.

places of interest in the southern part of the county
I had no idea that this report was looming on my shelves. & that means I would not be able to access it for my own research or to assist a visitor. Now, I am thinking like an archivist or librarian, not necessarily a historian. However, I feel it is important for me, as a public historian with a collection, to function as an archivist. Therefore... I need finding aids to help me find stuff.

Which means, I think I've found my next project! Wish me luck!


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