As the current processing project winds down, the archives department at the Burns Library thought it would be interesting to share some of the other projects we’ve completed in the last year. One of the most exciting projects turned out to be the Boston College photographs processing project that started in February of last year – my first days as a student working at the Burns. With the help of the entire archives department, finding aids were created for athletic photographs, special guests and events photographs, faculty and staff photographs, alumni photographs, and BC buildings and campus images – quite a feat for just over six months’ work! Normally, processing all these collections would have involved detailed research into the photographs themselves – who or what is the subject of the photograph, when and where was it taken? Each photograph would then receive a formal title and a box and folder number. Since these collections had already been partially processed, though, we chose a different route in the interest of time (and sanity!).
I started with the athletic photographs, which, at just over 60 boxes, was clearly the largest photograph collection in the queue. Most of the photographs already had some sort of folder title, so my task for each collection was to create a functional finding aid that would allow users to find specific images without combing through all the boxes. For the athletic photographs, this meant inputting folder titles for coaches and staff, teams and events, and BC athletes. Some collections, like the special guests and events photographs, were more complicated. For these collections, I checked existing folder titles against the Library of Congress name authority database (making sure that the names in our folder titles matched the authorized forms), rehoused and added oversize photographs and architectural drawings, and in some cases reorganized entire collections.
Some of the most challenging collections to process also turned out to be the most widely used, my favorite being the buildings photographs. Now, instead of searching through box after box of images of Devlin Hall, researchers and archives staff need only consult the finding aid for image descriptions and they are able to narrow down their options to specific folders – like one of Devlin Hall under construction by horse and buggy! But one of the most exciting things to come out of this processing project has been the reference image scanning project. Starting with the athletic photographs, selected images have been scanned and linked to their respective folder within the finding aid. So far, researchers can use the athletic photographs finding aid to see reference quality images of, for example, legendary BC hockey coach “Snooks” Kelley or the very first BC football team. Eventually all the photographic collections will include these images, making some of the most requested images available to researchers from the comfort of their own laptops.
- Jessica Meyer, Archives Assistant, Archives & Manuscripts, John J. Burns Library