Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Recipe for Appraisal of Random Items

This recipe for appraisal of random items is a tried and true formula, tested in many archival work places throughout the world over the past century. It never fails to produce a certain light-headed, clean feeling, and it is possible to modify this recipe to include different proportions and ingredients without negative side effects.

Step 1:

Accumulate random items from a variety of places. These places include, but are not limited to:
* Well-meaning donors
* Fellow archivists from around the world who pass things off to you
* Your own stacks (files found in random places such as the tops of mapcases)
* Fellow colleagues who don't want to deal with unusual items
* Processing

Step 2:

Place items in piles and perhaps several boxes. Make sure they are not well-labeled and put them on a shelf nearby, preferably in your office, so that you SEE them, but can mentally block them out when necessary.

Step 3:

This is the most important step. Wait. Ignore. Clear your mind. It is important to prepare your brain to forget about these items entirely. Pretend that you are David Copperfield and that you have just made the Statue of Liberty AND those 1950s political bumper stickers disappear.

Step 4:

After your mind is entirely clear, choose a quiet day, free from interruptions, and begin to exccavate your piles.

Step 5:

Make sure you have a big trash can or recycle bin nearby. You will find that after a certain waiting period, you gain perspective and knowledge. You will have learned that the newsletters are duplicates and that the library already has five copies of that autographed book and that no one *really* wants a moldy photograph of unidentified old guys.

Step 6:

Any items that don't go into the recycle section can be evaluated. Perhaps you can find another archival colleague to give them to. Archivists are always happy for any new random item to spice up their own recipes.

Enjoy! By the end of the exercise your shelves will be clear enough to start the recipe all over again. And who wouldn't want to try this delicious treat time and time again?

29 Comments:

Anonymous Linda Clark Benedict said...

Best description of my own methods I can imagine. I'm adding you to my blogroll right now!

Thursday, November 09, 2006 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Ruth UK said...

Fantastic!
As a recent recipient of a box of "archives" from colleagues which included a bottle of matey bubble bath, a painted stone and some Christmas decorations, to be stored carefully within the University Archive, I am a full supporter of the "denial and then careful chucking away" approach to this kind of material!
Fantastic blog!

Friday, November 10, 2006 5:32:00 AM  
Blogger irreverent archivist said...

Wow! Comments! Thank you! I'm glad I'm not alone.

Monday, November 20, 2006 7:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steps 1-3 describe the whole archives I was just put in charge of.

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You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

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