Reprocessing Adventures – The Zelda Fichandler Papers

This post was written by Bill Keeler, Processing Student Assistant. Bill is studying History with a focus in American History at George Mason University.

Since processing the Randolph H. Lytton Historical Virginia collection, I have begun reprocessing the Zelda Fichandler papers. I had the chance to poke around the collection and many problems have presented themselves! The first hurdle was to ascertain the exact way in which the previous individual arranged the folders in the collection, as well as the organization within the folders themselves.  

Unfortunately, the collection was not arranged by subject nor did it have any series. Furthermore, there were unprocessed boxes (6-8 linear feet) that luckily all fell within one of the soon-to-be series. With intermittent alphabetization issues as well as spelling errors within the current finding aid, I had my work cut out for me! The decision to break up the collection into four series – arranged by subject and alphabetized within – provided a framework in which I could move forward and work within. 

I am halfway through the first series, and have properly alphabetized though the letter M. More importantly, each folder now has detailed information as to what materials are located within them as well as proper dates. Not knowing an overwhelming amount about stage productions, a large challenge was learning the vernacular and document types that exist within the genre itself. Knowing the difference between playbills and show cards was a subtlety I did not know existed before embarking on my new processing journey. The major issues while processing so far have been two-fold: The first being time and the second being arrangement. The former has been an issue when determining how long to spend on any given folder or production. Knowing how specific to be when dating or titling a folder is something that I have learned through osmosis and time. While added specificity can be extremely helpful, it can also sometimes make the collection and its finding aid too laborious for researchers to navigate. 

The latter is an issue that, as it turned out, ended up being quite an enjoyable one to tackle. The current state of the collection and its intermittent organization presented problems at the outset of the project in terms of how exactly to organize the collection during the process of reprocessing it. With portions of the first series scattered through the collection in its current state, keeping everything organized and well-documented was necessary. Fortunately, I am surrounded by experienced archivists who all provide wonderful insight as to the best way to go about reprocessing this robust collection. Below are some more cool finds with captions that I have come across during this process. 

Playbill for “The Cocoanuts”, April 21, 1988.


Stage design model for “After the Fall”. March 1980.


Photograph taken by Fichandler on her visit to Stonehenge.

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