UMSI students stage Archive Blitz at Kelsey Museum

Cecilia Caride catalogs negatives during the February 25 Archives Blitz at the U-M Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

Behind a sturdy fire door on the third floor of the U-M Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on the afternoon of February 25, seven School of Information student archivists armed with laptops were conducting an archeological expedition of their own. Over four hours of what they dubbed an Archive Blitz, they delved into files and dug through boxes of maps, photos and negatives from university expeditions going back several decades.

The seven were applying their skills in archives and records management and information preservation to create finding aids for some of the museum’s maps, drawings, schematics and photographs so that future researchers could locate these records more easily.

MSI students Perie Kline and Alix Norton tackle Kelsey's photo files.

"The Kelsey holds close to 30,000 photographs from excavations in the 1920s and 1930s, and trips through Europe, Asia, and Africa,” said Sebastian Encina, the museum’s collection manager. “Our records indicate if an image exists, but not necessarily in what format. For example, a 5x7 image may exist as a negative, or a print, or mounted print. As these are all various sizes, they are stored in different locations. An inventory is needed to identify where an image is stored, and in what format it can be found."

The Archives Blitz at the Kelsey Museum was conceived of and organized by Shae Rafferty, a second-year UMSI student and officer of the U-M student chapter of the Society of American Archivists. During her 2014 summer internship at the Yellowstone National Park Archives, she learned that organization was planning a series of week-long Archive Blitzes, bringing small groups of archivists to the park to help inventory papers and records.

“When I came back to Ann Arbor, I realized we could do something similar here but with students reaching out to community organizations for a few hours at a time,” Rafferty said. “I had been an intern at the Kelsey Museum a few years ago and worked with Sebastian and knew that he could use some help in his archive. So I reached out to him to see if this would interest him.”

Encina was indeed interested. The first Archives Blitz took place at the Kelsey during American Archives Month in October. In that session, students inventoried and created finding aids for maps, photos and negatives.

About half of the students who participated in the fall were back for the second blitz in February. Cecilia Caride, a second-year MSI student with a focus on preservation of information, was able to take up right where she had left off in October, partway through a drawer of negatives. The note she had posted on the file drawer showing her progress hadn’t been moved since her last visit. 

“It’s wonderful to have the help of students from the School of Information,” Encina said. “We don’t have a full-time archivist here, and having people who are trained for this work is really valuable. They know exactly what to do and they’ve been a great help to us.”

Participants in the February 2015 Archives Blitz were Alix Norton, Shae Rafferty, Perie Kline, Stephanie Balagot, Daina Andries, Cecilia Caride, and Arielle Sokol.

A third Archives Blitz is tentatively scheduled for April.

Posted on March 2, 2015