Brune collection cont.
Today I finished pulling the duplicate copies of newspapers and articles and copying the articles and photos that were on newsprint. As I have the collection now sorted and in folders where possible, I then went over the collection with my supervisor. We weeded some of the personal items and papers, placing them in the folder with other material already gathered to be sent back to her. The criteria here were items that seemed personal and especially where the provenance is unknown and not related to the purpose of the overall purpose of the collection. Some of it seems to be of the nature of materials that were sent to her by friends and family, but are no longer attached to the relevant letters or senders. Do we really need to keep a prose copy of the fourth issue of Origin, a comic book mini-series by Marvel Comics other than it suggesting that Rachel Brune is a comics fan? We also set aside the few textile and artifact items for separate storage which we will take care of the next day as the quitting time is getting close.
Weeding makes me think of various issues involved. With the personal items, such as the money from before, I have to consider that I am trying to make educated guesses as what would be seen as relevant to researchers in the future. To some, the stuff I see as irrelevant might be seen as giving a larger view of what this person was interested in and kept as opposed to earlier and later generations. My supervisor notes that this varies from archivist to archivist as well. Some want to keep everything, others only what is directly relevant. I am learning how she does it, and if I was working someone else I might be seeing slightly different ways. I am glad she makes note of that as it indicates that eventually in my career, I will be deciding my way. So, in some ways, looking through the various collections, how they are labelled and organized are windows on the archivist as well as the archives.
With the news articles, once I made the copies, recycled the duplicates, the remaining originals are set aside for future education purposes. However, separating the stories from their larger context makes me think of various conflicting issues. As I previously noted, newsprint is notoriously a poor quality paper and copying the relevant articles on acid free paper for long-term storage makes sense. There is also space to be considered. And, in this case, recent newspapers are probably already being digitally copied and stored by the publishers. Also to consider are copyrights which is a gray area when it comes to making wholesale copies, even for preservation purposes. Yet, most publishers charge for access to their digital archives which goes against the purpose of most library institutions. And, there's no guarantee that those publishers will still be in business decades hence. While the copies of the Brune articles are directly related to the specific collection and the larger collection overall, I have to think there is also value of the larger context of the papers they appeared in; the context of the events the stories take place in as well as the context of her writing style in comparison to other soldier writers and small-town paper writers. The challenge for the archivist is to travel these murky waters and make those judgment calls. In this area, we do have some whole papers that were not printed on newsprint, such as some magazines and a yearbook containing a year's worth of MP Times, a paper that Ms. Brune wrote and edited that was printed on better paper stock than newsprint. So, the context of some of the writings are being kept intact. Again, another archivist might make a different decision, or if there were fewer publications to be dealt with.