Processing collections

The vast majority of the work of an archivist is what we call “processing.” It’s the step after we take materials from the donor, and the step before we present it to the user. So, it’s a pretty important step.It involves organizing and preserving the materials that have come in, and once processing is done, the collection should be ready to live out its life in the archives with very little intervention by the archivist.

Processing is one of my favorite things, because it’s non-stop discovery. I’m currently going through and processing, in a very rough way, the files given to the Archives by Dr. Tom Lyttle, of the Theatre department. These files are all the project documents for each theatre production since 1977. It includes programs, correspondence, receipts, reviews of the shows, cast lists, evaluation forms by cast/crew members, and photographs.

One of the hardest things for a college archivist to find are materials that actually show us student life. These files are a wonderful resource for such material, but it takes a lot of processing to find it sometimes. Just by delving into the files for the 1970s and 1980s, I’ve found so much that interests me, historically. A few of the highlights so far:

File folder for the one-man show “Sam Houston standing in his own blood”, which was performed as part of the Texas Sesquicentennial. It starred Charles Krohn, who is still a professor of English at the University of St. Thomas.
Excerpt from a student evaluation of “what…you learned by being part of this production”, mid 1980s
Students rehearsing for the only musical of the whole decade, Scenes from American Life, 1983. I can only assume they are driving a bus together.