Nicolle Brossard Collection
Today when I came in Beth Anne had pulled a larger collection out for us to work on. A lot of the preliminary work had been done: the biography was written up, the inventory had been written up (by an ex-soldier volunteer so there was more detail regarding some items such as boots than I would have been able to come up with), and the items had been more or less separated. The collection does not include as much paperwork as others, but does include quite a bit of uniform items, making a physically big collection.
As Ms. Brossard had medical training, part of the donation included four iv bags of saline solution. One of the regular tasks of handling collections is the weeding of needless duplicate material. So, three bags were going to be gotten rid of. However, all of the bags had to be first emptied of the liquid contents while doing minimal damage. In the interest of providing accurate information, Beth Anne first weighed the items. We set one saline bag to dry while disposing of the others. Another item that needed some contents removed was a modern wrist watch. Over time, the battery could prove to be corrosive. This was problematic as this was not a watch that was particularly designed to have its battery removed; battery dies, you get a new watch.
I had not encountered this issue with other collections yet so this was a valuable lesson in thinking about items that are not good to be stored over long periods (liquids, perishables and in the case of the battery, corrosive and toxic). It also gave me pause to think to be careful about what we are disposing of, some liquids you will not want to simply pour down the sink! As we drained the saline bags, Beth Anne shared a story from when the archives had different digs. Shelf space was at a premium and her material was next to more general storage. And, as I have noticed with the collections I have worked on, years may pass before a collection gets processed. In any case, trying to get something off the shelf or to look for something invariably required moving things around and something usually fell. One time it was a glass bottle of coke that someone had donated to the archives, still full of coke. The bottle broke and a big mess was made. This memory still rankles her and so she was bugged knowing that she had this collection that still had liquid contents that had not been dealt with.
It makes me think that ideally, when a collection is originally assessed, that might be the time to make note of and handle any potentially dangerous or perishable items. I understand the reality of not being able to immediately process a collection but I think back to reading the manual and the first step is really assessing the collection for materials that will need special handling and preservation. That coke bottle not only should have been drained, but being a glass object needed special care before being placed into storage.
Typing up the notes into Archon for the finding aid proved to be especially troublesome this time around. For some reason, the system refused to recognize the hard returns from the documents and would not recognize when I tried to insert them manually into the text window by hitting the "enter" button. I had to view by "source" and use the html markup code to insert them in order to create breaks between the paragraphs. Even then, I had to do so more than once for it to take.