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?
A few weeks ago, I started my first large-scale imaging project here at Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center (Swem SCRC). We recently acquired a large selection of photographs and scrapbooks from the Robb family, which I photographed with our digital camera so that we may upload them to our archival database in the future. Robert Gilchrist Robb was first a student and later a professor of chemistry here at William & Mary. While I knew next to nothing about Robb or his family when I started imaging the collection, I was struck by how well I felt I came to know them as I digitized their photo albums.