physical arrangement of photographs in manuscript collections

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    • #131853
      Charlene Martin

      Hi everyone, I’m looking for your collective wisdom again. I am processing a large manuscript collection with a subject-based original order. All papers and photographs were housed together in their subject-based binders, and as I rehouse them, I wonder about the best practices for physically arranging the photographs.

        Some archivists have recommended that I separate all photograph prints and photographs to a single photograph series to physically rest at the end of the entire collection, or the end of a series/sub-series. Unfortunately, my archival storage houses a mixed collection, so separating the photographs to the end so they can be stored in a colder environment isn’t happening. I agree that some photograph types should receive less wear and tear, so I am sleeving photographic prints in mylar and keeping them in the document case with the related series, while separating related large-format/fragile prints/cabinet cards to format-appropriate storage boxes. Is this acceptable?
        Also, I don’t have the photographs located at the end of the series, or even the sub-series. They’re just filed in alphabetical order, based on folder name, then format. Is that acceptable?
        series: Honors & Tributes
        sub-series: Honors & Tributes, International:
        folder: Lourdes Basilica, France Banner Display – clippings
        folder: Lourdes Basilica, France Banner Display – photographs & print images
        folder: Lourdes Basilica, France Pilgrimmage- promotional materials
        Thank you for your help with this!
    • #131857
      Lea Edgar

      Hi Charlene,

      Okay, I just want to make sure I understand the arrangement you decided on. Are you saying you left the photographs in situ, or basically as you found them in the files (binders), but housed them in a mylar sleeve to offer them some protection against the surrounding papers? Or did you separate them physically into another box/folder?

      The main thing I personally do is to separate out photographs from documents in general. However, I do try to maintain the original order, or at least reflect it, by putting a form or card in its original place saying that it has been removed and its new location. You can create a separate series (or sub-series, whichever is appropriate) for “photographs” if that makes sense with how the creator filed the records, or just store all the photographs in the sleeves/folders/boxes best suited to their specific preservation concerns and put in removal slips (a physical arrangement rather than an intellectual one). That way, when a researcher is going through the files and finds the spot where the photograph used to be, they will be aware of it and can go and find it in the separate location. Does that make sense?

      It is always appropriate to separate out fragile materials (in my mind anyway) when preservation is a concern. However, I am always sure to document whenever I change the original order so that, in theory, it can be reconstructed. I hope that makes sense. Follow your instincts and document all decisions. There really is no “right way” of doing it. I hope that helps!

      Lea Edgar
      Leonard G. McCann Archives
      Vancouver Maritime Museum

    • #131856
      Charlene Martin

      Hi Lea, may I ask further questions? I really appreciate the help!

      Although the photographs were in the same binder as the papers, they weren’t integrated in with them – they were in the back of the binder. That was why I was considering a physical arrangement of folder-documents, folder-photographs. In this same collection, there area lot of photo albums that loosely fit into subject areas that reflect the subject-series that the creator made for the whole collection.

      If I follow original order, do I implement the order I above for the one instance that the creator kept photos with manuscripts, and keep all other photos in one big series-sub series grouping at the end of the collection?

    • #131855
      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. 🙂


    • #131854
      Charlene Martin

      Lea, I hope I can ask another question 🙂

      The creator of this collection had photographs stored in photo albums by a loose sense of subject (series or sub-series. There wasn’t any marginalia, so my solution to re-housing them was to place them in mylar protectors, then acid-free folder folders, retaining the subject divisions. I’d like to place these photograph prints right behind the manuscript folder that is about the same subject. I know I am disturbing original order, but it is an order that I think was dictated by convenience. Should I just have 3-5 boxes of photographs organized by subject, and place indicators in the paper documents that refer the researcher to the very end of the entire collection for these boxes – or can I follow the folder-document, folder-photograph scheme? Can I place related photos at the end of the series or sub-series?

      Thank you again for your help!

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