Get Rec’d: The Difference Between Archiving and Records Management

This post was written by Samara Carter, University Records Manager.

Box for Records Management. The labels indicate the types of materials included in the box (i.e. prospective student sign-in sheets, payment sheets, copies of graduation lists). This photo was taken by Nick Welsh, Records Management Specialist, in the warehouse which is separate space from the SCRC stacks containing rare books and archival materials.

“I have stuff for archiving.”

The word archiving gets used interchangeably day in and day out by university offices wanting to submit records to University Archives or URM (University Records Management), both housed in Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Sometimes departments have photographs or publications for University Archives, sometimes departments have financial documents that need to be stored for a few years before they can be destroyed. While both of our units work in tandem to oversee Masons’ records, archiving is best applied as a term when speaking about historical and/or permanent records. 

Why is that?

An archive is a repository for items that need to be maintained for an undefined period of time, generally forever. University Archives houses collections with the intention of tending to them in perpetuity for the purpose of making them available for research and posterity, including documenting the history of George Mason. URM houses public records with the intention of destroying them at a later date.

Records fall into three categories here at Mason:

  • Historical (permanent)
  • Public (permanent)
  • Public (temporary)

However, all records have a lifecycle that begin the exact same way – a document of some format or another is created and bam – a record is born! Along the lifecycle of a record, though, the path diverges towards two choices: permanent retention or destruction.

Word of the Week: Lifecycle” created by the National Archives, explaining the life cycle of records.

Once a record has reached the end of its active usefulness, a Mason department will contact University Archives or URM about “archiving” it. Historical items are gleefully claimed by our archivists whereas temporary, public items eventually make their way with approval to the URC (University Records Center). Public records are stored, rather than “archived,” at the URC and given a destruction date based on the context of use and date of the documents in question.

At University Archives and URM, we are doing our best to clear up the confusion between our respective tasks to protect against permanent items accidentally being stashed away in an area where they could meet an untimely end in a shredder.

As for those permanent public records? Currently they’re all maintained in-house with their respective departments for accessibility reasons.

For more information about Records and Information Management look here.

Samara can be reached at  scarte25@gmu.edu or  703.993.2201. Nick Welsh, Records Management Specialist, can be reached at nwelsh3@gmu.edu or 703.993.5273.

Reorganizing the GMU Oral History Program Collection

This post was written by Emily Curley, our Oral History Program Coordinator.

The George Mason University Oral History Program has conducted over 200 interviews since 1999. Because we’re always adding to the collection, it’s time to reorganize the physical collection and the finding aid.

Oral History Collection, #R0122, in our closed stacks.

What we’ve done so far:

We’ve reorganized the physical collection. This included moving CD’s of oral history interviews into new boxes and arranging the individual interviews by date, rather than alphabetically. The collection increased from nine to eleven boxes and range from the late 1970’s to 2017. These histories cover a wide variety of topics including the history of George Mason University and Northern Virginia.

Our Next Steps:

  • Comparing the finding aid to the physical collection
  • Revising long abstracts and creating missing abstracts
  • Creating a new finding aid
  • Creating workflow for periodic updates of the Oral History finding aid

We will compare the finding aid to the physical collection and fill in any missing interviews. The finding aid was last updated in 2013, so there are over 50 oral histories that need to be added. After we have confirmed that all of the interviews are updated, we will check the finding aid once again and revise some of the abstracts. Some abstracts have too much information while others have too little. Our aim is to be as consistent as possible.

A box with an oral history pulled out to show what information goes on the labels.

After confirming that the abstracts are correct, I will be working with the Archives and Manuscript Librarian, Liz Beckman, to create a new finding aid, which is expected to go on our website sometime this summer.

Finally, I will create a guide for the next oral historian (who will start in September) so that they can periodically add new interviews and keep the finding aid up to date.

Links

GMU Oral History Program

Youtube

Finding Aid

Other Oral History Holdings

OMEKA Site

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections. Additionally, requests can be made to listen to oral histories in our Reading Room. Copies can also be made for a fee, which are listed on our website. Some oral histories may need to be converted to disk before they are available to patrons. For questions about oral histories, contact Emily Curley. To schedule an appointment or to request copies of an oral history, contact our Research Services Coordinator, Rebecca Bramlett.

Robert Clark papers and the Process of Processing

Robert (Bob) Clark was born in May 1922 in Omaha, Nebraska. He received a B.S. and M.A. while studying journalism and politics. He went on to become a Washington and White House correspondent for ABC News throughout the 1950’s and 1970’s, but continued to work for ABC until the 1990’s. Most notably, he covered and witnessed the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Later in his life, around the 1990’s, he was a guest commentator on C-SPAN. Bob Clark passed away in December 2015.

I have been fortunate enough to process this collection in its entirety. This is something I have wanted to do for a little while now. I am currently the Research Services Assistant, which means my main tasks are to assist researchers and answer questions they have along with updating our social media sites. This role is a graduate student position here at GMU and I have worked here since August of 2015. I have been lucky enough to pick up other tasks within my position, and processing is just one of those things that I have wanted to learn more about. Since this was a small donation, it was a great collection to start with. The donors, Douglas and Sandy First, were neighbors of Robert Clark and had organized his papers into five boxes which were then given to us. My first step was to re-folder all of the papers. Some were already in folders but many papers were placed in the boxes. I took papers out of old folders and placed them into new, acid-free folders. Other papers had to be organized into smaller sections based on the subject. There ended up being so many added folders that I had to add another box.

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Empty boxes that the Robert Clark papers were in when they were donated.

Once all of the papers were in new folders, I arranged them into Hollinger boxes. Most of the documents were already organized by subject. We typically keep all papers and materials in the same order they were donated in, if we can, so that SCRC staff and researchers can better understand the context and intent of the donor or author.

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Folders from all six boxes were then reorganized into these nineteen Hollinger boxes.

All folders have the collection title, “Robert Clark”, on the top left side. The middle of the folder is left for a brief title which explains the content, date, and sometimes the sort of materials that are in each folder. The right side always lists the box number followed by the folder number. In the image below, the folder says 8.1, meaning box 8, folder 1. This makes it easy for researchers to view our finding aid and know where to look for information and which boxes to request. It also helps keep everything in order. At this point, I had a pretty good idea of the contents of these boxes. I knew that I wanted to organize them into six series: JFK assassination, Politics, Foreign relations, Domestic issues, Personal files, and ABC files. But first, an inventory had to be made.

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The boxes are then organized into series by subject. Folders are labeled with the collection name, a description of what the folder contains, and a number which lists the box and folder.

An inventory is the first step to creating a finding aid which will later be uploaded to the website for people to search. The only information required for this step is box and folder number, title, and date of materials in each folder.

xmlrclark

All of the information is placed into Excel to create an inventory of the materials to eventually be used for making the Finding Aid.

We currently use Archivists’ Toolkit for our collections. After the boxes are organized and the Excel inventory was created, I filled in the necessary information such as the description and container summary. I listed the six series that I thought best organized the collection and I added notes about copyright, restrictions, the donation and other details that go on our finding aids. Once that is completed, I hit the “Export EAD” button, which saves the file so it can be opened in Notetab and coded for our website. When all the coding is done, an html file is created and is made available to the public.

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Archivists’ Toolkit file for Robert Clark

The final step was to print out labels, place them on the boxes, and shelve them in our stacks with the other collections. Now the Robert Clark papers collection can be searched online, used for research, or used by SCRC staff for social media posts!

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.

 

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

Vietnam Moratorium “Scroll” Documents George Mason College Community’s Activism

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

On October 10, 1969 a neatly dressed George Mason College student presented Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a loosely-rolled scroll of paper containing the signatures of over 600 Mason students, faculty, and staff. The document petitioned Thompson to excuse students, faculty, staff and administration from classes and college business on October 15 so that they might have the opportunity to take part in local events pertaining to the Vietnam War Moratorium.  The Moratorium was a day-long series of events held in municipalities and on college campuses across the United States and the world to call attention to, and protest the United States’ involvement in, the Vietnam War. Thompson, photographed while receiving the petition, displayed a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the document both in his facial expressions and in his words. He insisted that the college’s obligations to the state and its citizens mandated that it remain open, and students, instructors, and staff must be present on that day. He left the matter of attending the Moratorium activities up to the individual, who would be responsible for any consequences for missing class or work.

Vietnam War Moratorium petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Vietnam War Moratorium Petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

George Mason College was not known for news-making protests or acts of civil disobedience during the Vietnam War era. Nearly all 1,890 George Mason students lived at home in their quiet suburban neighborhoods, most of them hailing from families with military or civil service backgrounds. Though students spoke their mind about the war regularly in the student newspaper, The Gunston Ledger, there had only been a handful of isolated incidences of antiwar activities at Mason. These were limited to symbolic draft card burnings and teach-ins, involving a few Mason students and faculty. The Vietnam War Moratorium movement of October 1969 marked a high point in activism at George Mason College. Just under one-third of the entire student body, faculty, and staff played a part in this movement-even if it was as small as putting a name to a piece of paper.

Box containing Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Box containing Vietnam War Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

While working in our collections storage area in SCRC, the author came across a map storage box with a label reading: “Petition (Anti-Vietnam War) 1969”.  It was opened, and the 12-foot-by-16-inch manuscript was carefully unrolled for a few photographs before gently re-boxing it. The document still bears the masking tape that was used to attach it to a wall of one of the six campus buildings that comprised George Mason College in 1969.  Attached to the bottom of the document is a memorandum of October 3, 1969 from Mike Baker, the president of the Student Government, acknowledging that the body had voted 8 to 3 to endorse the Vietnam Moratorium. Student, faculty, and staff signatures grace the manuscript, which, when unrolled, bears a slight resemblance to the scroll containing Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript to On the Road.

The Vietnam Moratorium Scroll opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

The Vietnam Moratorium Petition opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Top part of the Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

It appears that this document itself played a relatively minor role in the larger Moratorium movement, judging by the small amount of newspaper space (a few sentences in two small articles) dedicated to it. The Moratorium events and corresponding editorial commentary received major coverage in the student paper for weeks afterwards.  But the scroll has survived as an artifact to help tell the story of this brief moment in the institution’s history, and it enables us to take a little trip into the past and understand what was important those who were here nearly 50 years ago.  Discoveries like this one help illustrate the value of archives and the archives professionals who preserve them.

The document is part of George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.