Wrestling with Collections

10 May

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on an exciting project. The Arizona Historical Society in Tucson (with the help and guidance of our counterparts in Tempe) has been preparing to put the finding aids of our Manuscript and Photo Collections online in PDF format on our main website: http://www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org. What does this mean for you as a researcher? This means you can go to the main website of the Arizona Historical Society and search for materials in our collections from the search engine box just below the banner on the right hand side of the webpage. It will pull up finding aids as well as any other references to the material on the main website. Our online catalog does not have finding aids for all of the collections we have so having ALL the finding aids up online via the main website is a real improvement for researching. This will be a great new way for our users to find information. If you just want to browse through the finding aids to our collections down in Tucson you can head to the Tucson library and archives page and look through the uploaded finding aids at your leisure, listed below “Printable Guides.” All of this means our researchers will be able to prepare for their Reading Room visits at home at their computers with their morning coffee. We’re really excited!

PC 268: Halderman Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 10

PC 268: Halderman Family Collection, Box 1, Folder 10

I discovered these wrestler cards while working on standardizing the names of the finding aids in our Photograph Collection. I’ve been taking this job as an opportunity to really get to know the collections we have here at the Historical Society in more detail than I might get simply from pulling collections for users. We have A LOT of collections with all sorts of information and materials. It would take a lifetime, maybe multiple ones, to fully know what is held here. So having the chance to look through finding aids is a real blessing. The possibilities for growth turn this task from something that could be tedious into a unique chance to learn a lot. The things I have learned through doing this work have already helped me answer reference questions in a lot more detail.

There’s a lesson to be learned from this for archivists new to their jobs. Taking a couple of minutes out of your day to read through a finding aid or two, specifically paying attention to key terms, dates, descriptions of the content of the collection as well as biographical or historical notes, etc. can really help put your collections into perspective as well as give you the tools and information you need to search smarter and faster for your users.  So my advice this week is to take some inspiration from the strapping young lads you see pictured above. Get in there and wrestle with a finding aid or two today! You’ll be the winner after it’s all said and done.

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