Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.
When I arrived at the Archives of American Art as a summer graduate intern in June, I was anxiously preparing for the large project in front of me. I was assigned to the collections processing department to work on the Holly Solomon Gallery records, a large collection measuring 225 linear feet that the Archives received in 2010.
In order to make a collection this large accessible to researchers, it was decided that I would minimally process the collection under the guidance of archivist, Erin Kinhart. Armed with a collection survey, Erin and I dug in and sorted through all of the boxes, which had arrived in no particular order. The records span the almost thirty years that the gallery was in business and include earlier papers belonging to Holly Solomon herself. Over the years the records were stored in a variety of places and in varying types of containers. Therefore, in addition to establishing an order, the material also needed to be re-housed in proper archival boxes. After weeks spent in the Archives’ collections storage facility (which is one way to beat DC’s summer heat) sorting and resorting, I learned a couple things: first, do not wear white clothing and second, hanging folders are evil and will try to eat your fingers!
Our original estimation was that it would take the full ten-week internship to sort the boxes into series, but, as it turns out, I had a few weeks to spare and with the muscles I developed schlepping and organizing, there was time for me to fine tune some of the series. The fine tuning involved re-housing some of the files into archival folders, merging certain sets of files to create less duplication, and transcribing folder titles.
While we were physically arranging the collection, I also started a container list. I entered this list into the Access database which generated the encoded tags for my XML file in order to create the beginning of an EAD finding aid for the collection. I spent the last few weeks editing the finding aid while also making small tweaks to the physical arrangement of the collection.
In working on the collection I discovered rich and substantial documentation on artists such as William Wegman, Nam June Paik, Nicholas Africano, and Judy Pfaff, as well as the 98 Greene Street Loft, Solomon’s alternative performance space for artists. The collection also includes an extensive collection of sound, video, and film recordings which were processed by my fellow graduate intern, Rachel Rosenfeld. It has been an amazing adventure this summer getting to work on this collection, and I thank everyone at the Archives of American Art for this great opportunity!
Caitlin Lampman is a second year graduate student at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston, Ma where she is pursuing a duel degree in Archives Management and American History.