From Chaos to Order: My Internship Experience

By Hilary Clifford

Queens College, Graduate School of Library of Information Studies

Certificate in Archival Studies and the Preservation of Cultural Materials

When Emily and I first walked into the small room on the 2nd tier, there was barely any room to move. Boxes upon boxes were crowding all around us, just waiting to be processed. We had no idea what we were getting into, as neither of us had any practical experience with archives. All of the Brooklyn YWCA unprocessed collection was housed in that room, stored in their original boxes and folders. Starting from scratch, Emily and I began moving the files into archival boxes under the direction of Steven Calco, who had been working on processing the 1920s and 30s records of this collection. So our journey began, with the art of pre-processing.

Once the original cardboard boxes were replaced with archival boxes, we were able to decide what sub-group and series we would work on for the rest of the internship. I was assigned Administrative Files, and began with the series Subject Files. The internship was only for a semester, and it turned out that there were many more Administrative Files than originally thought. It was then decided I would only work on one series for my semester project.

After further examination and analysis of the series Subject Files, it appeared to me that the files could be relocated into previously established series, either in the sub-group Administrative Files or a different sub-group. I began the process of separating the files, until I had a particular set of boxes that belonged to the Administrative Files sub-group. From there, I created an order for the sub-group, grouping it into the series: Board of Directors, Legal Documents, Membership, Personnel & Human Resources, Partnerships, and Resources.

After discussing the series with Marianne LaBatto, the Acting College Archivist, I decided to process the Personnel & Human Resources series. From there, I created the following sub-series: Executive Personnel, YWCA Staff, Memos (General), Human Resources, Job Descriptions, and Customer Service. There were many files that were put aside to be deaccessioned, as there was confidential information regarding staff members found in the records. There was also correspondence relating to sensitive issues, i.e. firing or disciplinary action regarding staff that was also put aside to be deaccessioned.

It was a great feeling to look back and realize that I had come from the small room with all of the cardboard boxes, to having a processed series that I organized. It was also incredibly rewarding to be able to write the series statement and section of the finding aid and to see the structure I had created laid out in a document.

However, the best part of my experience was undoubtedly the staff of the Brooklyn College Archives. Marianne, Steven, Pam, Theresa, Ted, Izabella, and Slava all contributed to making this internship an educational and comfortable experience. Everyone was always available and happy to answer any questions that I had, and Marianne guided Emily and I through our first experience with processing in all of its different complexities. Everyone made sure that Emily and I received a well-rounded education for the Brooklyn College Archives. I am grateful that the first taste of my archival career was with such a welcoming and helpful staff.

By Hilary Clifford

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