Internship: Week 6

This week was much like the end of last week. I have continued to work on the Becuna collection, working 19 hours on processing the blue prints, which covered about 5 shelves worth of space. It is a very slow work but very important because when it is done, a researcher will be able to find all the material that he or she needs very quickly. One interesting thing about this collection, is many of the folders were numbered, giving the appearance of some short of order; however, they do not maintain this order in the bundles in which they were saved. Furthermore, since there are about four different numbering systems that do not seem to interact with each other, it was decided to maintain the order of the bundles and note the folder’s original number so that a researcher could still have knowledge as to how they may have been organized at one point. One of the reasons to maintain the order of the bundles is because it does represent some kind of original order, which had been missing in the rest of the collection. Due to this, it was felt that it was best to preserve this order, will still acknowledging the possibility of another order with the numbering system.

While the processing took much most of my time this week, the archive recently come into the procession through an estate sale of personal letters from a sailor during World War II to his girlfriend (later his wife after the war). After obtaining them, Terry discussed with me the ethical concerns in using and posting these letters online for researchers. Her concern was making sure that if the couple or their children were still alive that they know of the museum’s intention of using them. This was because they letters were quite personal in nature and while there were no legal barriers to using them, Terry stressed that it would be the correct thing to do since the family may not appreciate finding the personal love letters online without prior knowledge. This discussion highlighted the important ethical questions that archivists face when dealing with other people’s personal papers and material, since while they have historical merit, they were also things that people wrote in confidence and likely were not expecting would be study and seen by people many years later.

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