This week I have started my internship at the Independence Seaport Museum in the archives. Over the course of this summer I will be processing the Museum’s Becuna Collection. This is a fantastic opportunity for two reasons, first it will give me great work experience in organizing a archival collection, which is what I want to pursue a career in after I obtain my degree. Second, is that since I am doing my Master’s thesis on the Becuna, I will have basically first access to all this previously unused sources.
After Terry Potter, the archivist, showed me around the Museum and introduced me to most of the Museum’s staff, I have jumped right into the process of accesses the collection. This involves me going through all the documents just to determine what the museum has and to get a sense of how the collection should be organized. The one main difference between processing this collection and a more typical collection, is that since the Becuna records have been sitting on the submarine just placed into boxes, there is no way to determine original order. This is significant because ideally a collection should be preserved in a way that keeps the order of how it was organized when used. Since this is not possible with the Becuna collection, I will have to determine the way that makes the most sense to organize it. This will mean thinking about ways that make sense for a researcher using the collection because it if is not easy to use then no one will use it and then the collection will not be fulfilling its mission.
After three days I have gone through a number of boxes, finding that most of the material is instruction manuals for all of the equipment on the submarine, from the gyroscope compass to the coffer maker. This process is a bit slow since I have to remove the documents from their bindings and remove any staples because the metal in both will damage the paper in the long term. One of parts of this project that will take some getting used to, is the smell. This is because the documents have never been taken off the submarine from when it was decommissioned, which means they have been there for possibly forty years or more. Due to this they have absorbed the diesel fuel smell that permeates the entire submarine.