For my Practicum, I am working in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections at UNC-G, specifically for the Women Veterans Historical Project. The project initially started focusing on women with a connection to UNC-G. From 1919 to 1931, the school was known as the North Carolina College for Women, and then from 1932 to 1963, the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina. The project now encompasses women who have served or still serving in the military from all over the United States. Its place on the University website is here: http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/WVHP
The first day started off pretty much as the first day on any job: getting familiar with company policies, the handbook, and an introduction to the work area and tasks. As I am not getting paid, I was at least spared the paperwork of filling out various forms.
The readings started off with giving a general history of the University from its founding, to the days as a women's college (reflected by the bust of Minerva/Athena on their logos) to its current incarnation being co-ed and part of the University of North Carolina system. The reading started to bog down when it started covering the important but somewhat tedious legal issues of misconduct ie how it is reported, handled, reviewed, tried, the possible punishments as well as what it all means for those that are victims or perpetrators. Good to know that procedures are in place, but not the most interesting of reading.
Archiving: Concepts and Practices
The reading moved on to getting a grounding in the practices of working in special collections and archives. Some of this had been covered in my classes as well as concepts that I've picked up from working in publishing and more recently the book conservatory. However, there were some practical tips that were good to keep in mind, such as when possible, carefully removing metal staples and paper clips and replacing them with plastic ones. Also a few surprises such as making copies of newspaper clippings and discarding the originals (so far, I've let someone else do the discarding, starting out, I don't feel comfortable throwing anything away).
The concept that really struck me was that in determining the grouping for a set of records, keep the original provenance if at all possible. At times, this may mean to try to discover and re-establish the order already there. Now, much of the stuff that comes in may be jumbled together, or the order they are in is not the one of the person that did the original collecting, but of the people who inherited and donated the collection. But, what also struck me is that on the first day, I came across reading about the ideal and knowing first-hand that it is not always followed, not even by universities and organizations that should know better.
It just so happened that earlier that week at work, I was given the task of arranging in chronological order turn-of-the-20th-Century receipts, bills, and relating correspondence from Lombard College. Some of these had been stapled together and the order from our client was to remove the staples and arrange the individual elements into the "proper" order. However, all of the stapled or paper clipped or pinned pieces were put together for a reason, and one that was usually apparent. Once separated, some of the items no longer had dates on them, and their notations would become meaningless. Others would be a bill and the paid-receipt that had been placed together, but would now be far apart in the order as months between the two could have passed. In a couple of instances, it disrupted what proved to be interesting narratives as the packet would include bills, copies of bills, letters to and from the recipient who was challenging the bill and then letters involving lawyers! This ongoing story lasted over a year and is now scattered among the other various receipts. We had to go out of our way to separate some of the documents as some papers were actually glued together and we had to send those to the restoration department.
Still, the ideal struck me as particularly important and I wrote a half page of notes concerning respecting the provenance and original order as opposed to imposing what may seem to me a logical but is actually an arbitrary order.
Women in the Military
My last readings were a brief overview of the history of the U.S. military, and the historical and ongoing roles of women in the military forces. Also covered are how the branches are divided and the progression of women's roles in each. As I work through this project, I expect to become more fully versed in this area and to refer back to these readings to decipher some of the military's love of acronyms.