Tasked with processing the Rosina Bowers Papers series of the Hamilton Family Papers, I opened two boxes of photographs and papers as one would expect to find them in someone’s home, rather than what you would expect in the stacks of an archive. I had two initial reactions to the yet unprocessed collection. I felt privileged to work with such intimate family items, but overwhelmed. Ordinarily, when processing a collection, an archivist considers the original organization of the collection upon its arrival. So how does one go about processing two boxes of undated, unidentified photographs and personal papers that lack any organization?
Currently, in Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center (Swem SCRC), I have been working on uploading a number of small collections to the From Fights to Rights Transcription Project. Some of the most interesting discussions I come across in these letters are about the various illnesses that permeated 19th century life. It is incredibly eye-opening to read these accounts of illness and disease since they give an otherwise-unknown window into peoples’ lives.
When I started my work in the Special Collections Research Center here at Swem Library in August, one of my first projects entailed uploading metadata to our online database for the Nathaniel V. Watkins Family Papers, 1846-1889. This collection is now digitized to help preserve it, but is also part of our ongoing Civil War Transcription Project. All of the Watkins Papers from the Civil War era are currently online, which means that they are now ready to be transcribed and shared with researches worldwide. Continue reading