Reply To: physical arrangement of photographs in manuscript collections

Lea Edgar

Okay now I think I have a clearer picture. Then, yes, your arrangement makes sense to me – separate folder for the photographs – since there was no strong intellectual link to begin with. Likely they were put in the back of the binder for convenience sake. If there is a strong link, you could always put a “see also: folder ‘photographs & print images'” note in your finding aid. Or something along those lines.

So, other instances when photos are mixed in with a paper file, I would do as I originally suggested and separate out the photos with a removal note. Unless that would be cumbersome, say if there were tons of photos mixed in. In which case you could just use mylar or other neutral plastic photo sleeves and leave them in situ, just so they have protection from the potentially acidic papers sitting beside them.

Try to think of photographs as just another form of a record, like a paper document. They might draw context from the surrounding paperwork. Thinking that way may help you to decide how to arrange and house them.

Just my two cents! Likely other archivists will have other opinions! I also make a habit of documenting my decisions and rationale while arranging in a report that could sit in your accession files so that if someone down the line thinks, “why on earth did she do that?” the answer will be there for them.

Again, I hope that makes some sense. Your first instinct is usually the right one. 🙂