Posted on February 7th, 2011 by Jennifer
When I first thought about this blog post I considered writing about my experiences working from home (which has happened several times recently thanks to snow and ice). But then I started processing the D. Schwartz and Sons collection and everything changed. Why? Because nearly every single staff member that passed by my table stopped to look at what I was doing and ask questions. That interest inspired me to shift my original focus.
The D. Schwartz and Sons collection was received by the museum in 1997 and a JMM volunteer laboriously re-foldered and labeled over three hundred files, then partly organized the files. But a finding aid had never been written. A couple of weeks ago I pulled the collection with the intention of writing that finding aid. When I started looking through the boxes (hoping to learn more about the company) I also discovered that the collection needed a bit more processing before I could begin any writing.
The collection consists of ledgers and business files and a rather extensive group of order books. It was the order books that had the staff pausing on their way through the library. The books had been separated by year and placed into two boxes, but they hadn’t been completely organized. I knew which two dozen were from 1953, but when I started pulling them out of the box I found November 1953 next to April 1953 followed by October….you get the idea. My first step was to get them in chronological order with clearly labeled folders.
This was the half organized scene that seemed to attract the attention of everyone who entered the library.
One half of the newly organized and carefully labeled order books. After all of my work the books took up four boxes instead of two!
After I finished with the order books I moved onto a group of books labeled ‘price lists.’ These Price Lists are catalogs for sewing machine parts, and they're pretty amazing. The oldest one dates to 1900, and most are for Singer machines. I’m fascinated by both fashion history and the history of technology so these catalogs gave me a little thrill. When the collection was first organized (sometime after 1997) multiple catalogues were placed in the same folder. I thought that it was important to give each book its own folder so that I could include more details – not only the date and manufacturer, but also the models covered by each catalog.
And now I’m going through the largest part of the collection the 300 or so business files – mostly containing records of D. Schwartz and Sons dealings with other companies.
I’ve had to do a little reorganizing, but the biggest complication I encountered is the need to remove the dreaded metal fasteners. The paperclips and staples (hundreds upon hundreds of staples!) will be removed over the next few weeks as I read through the files to learn enough about the company (so that I can write a proper finding aid).
In archives we do not use those sabertooth-like staple removers. In order to do as little damage as possible we use little spatulas to pry the staple open before removing it.
I’ve encountered one surprise so far – a fabric swatch. I will be removing it from the folder so that we can store it in the best conditions for fabric, and leave a Permanent Separation Sheet in its place. The separation sheet has a description of the item and its location so that a researcher can request to see it. I’ll repeat the process if I come across any more swatches or any photographs.
I’m going to be working with the D. Schwartz and Sons collection for the next few weeks (with the help of one of my spring interns), but before too long I should have a new finding aid, ready to post right here!