New Archives

Posted on May 4, 2011 by

A few weeks ago the Baltimore section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Maryland chapter of the American Jewish Congress (AJC) contacted the JMM about donating some of their records.  Both organizations had shared office space for several years and they were preparing to move.  Anyone who has moved knows that one of the first things to do is figure out what you don’t need to take with you.  In the case of organizations the stuff being considered is usually documents.  A move is the time to go through drawers of files and decide which files are active and useful to the running of the organization and which have become useful to history.  Several of the collections that have entered the JMM (particularly recently) have come in as organizations or people move to new digs.

Time is always an issue with moves.  At some point you have to be out of the old building and everything that you want to save has to be out of it, too.  Not only did we have a deadline for getting the NCJW and AJC archives packed up and shipped out, but we had Passover in the middle, leaving us even less time to get everything together on site and ready at the museum.

The archives of the NCJW and the AJC were spread throughout several rooms in the offices.

In cabinets:

NCJW archives

In closets

Intern, Andrea DeBoef, packing up NCJW archives

On shelves:

Me packing up NCJW plaques

And offices within offices:

File drawers holding the bulk of the AJC archives

Packing up the archives took an entire day for me, Rachel Kassman, and intern Andrea DeBoef.  I'd been in the offices the week before to survey the files and suspected that we would have 50 or 60 boxes between the two collections, but by the time we were finished we had 70!  A large collection means a lot of work for the archivist of course, but it also have the potential to be an amazingly complete record of an organization.

Newly emptied file drawers

Rachel hard at work

This acquisition was unique because we were dealing with two separate collections at the same time and in the same space.  We had to make sure, as we packed everything, that we kept the files separate. Our on-site fix included not only labeling every box with either NCJW or AJC, but also tagging the boxes with brightly colored tags – coral for NCJW and lavender for AJC.  The colored tags also served the purpose of alerting movers to leave them for us.

Stacked NCJW boxes

Stacked AJC boxes

A week later we came back for the actual move, with the additional assistance of Jobi Zink.  We formed a sort of factory line for getting the archives from the office to the truck.

I moved the boxes from the inner office to the front office:

Me at work

Andrea carried them up the stairs where Rachel waited to cart them to the truck:

Rachel at work

And Jobi packed them in:

Jobi at work

Of course we had to reverse the process once the truck reached the JMM.  We unloaded the boxes, brought them to the archives, then organized them onto shelves.

Boxes at the JMM before Andrea and I organized them onto shelves

Organized but not yet processed

The next step will be processing.  The collections are both large so the processing will take a long time.  The museum already has a collection of NCJW papers which have been organized into MS 124.  The new acquisition will be added to it after it's been processed.  We'll post updates on the processing, which will start very soon.

A blog post by Archivist Jennifer Vess.

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