Working with the Har Sinai Collection
Blog post by JMM intern Mallory Connaughton. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.
Within the past few weeks since my last blog post, I have started a new project. I’ve started working with the Har Sinai Collection. This collection houses many aspects of Har Sinai and it’s community. It includes artefacts and manuscripts from not just the Har Sinai congregation, but also the Har Sinai brotherhood and sisterhood, the board, clergy, and cemetery, as well as many others.
Processing a collection involves going through a series of related documents (which is the collection) and creating a list of everything involved by grouping together like topics and creating new folders/condensing folders. The goal is to make the collection more organized and easier to find and reference. As we work with collections regularly, having it be well organized is important as it not only helps those of us working directly within the archives, but it can also help us answer guest’s questions easier as we know where and what everything is.
I have done processing before this summer. At a previous internship, I fully processed a collection for the first time. And at JMM, I had processed a collection earlier in my internship. But with the Har Sinai collection, we are re-processing the collection. The Har Sinai congregation had already been processed once before, but the finding aid we use to navigate the collection was disjointed and didn’t properly list what was actually in the collection. The other collections intern, Elana, and I went through the various boxes of the collection and re-processed everything.
Processing takes a while, having to go through every piece of paper and image one by one. Then having to organize each and every item into separate folders, label the folders, then group them into the organized boxes that make sense. Re-processing is similar, going through each file. Elana and I took time, going through each file and writing down a list of what we found in there, panning on updating the finding aid.
From there we went through and separated out everything by original folder, creating a spreadsheet with the folder and everything actually found within it. Then we are reorganizing each folder into groupings that make sense, then re-labeling boxes. The final thing we will do is updating the finding aid but the new boxes, the folders within them and what is in each folder.
While this may not be for everyone. I found it to be very interesting. I didn’t know anything about Har Sinai before this, and I’ve learned so much about the community and members connected to Har Sinai.
The collection houses folders upon folders of correspondence, ranging from personal letters, letters between congregation members, posters for events, financial records, and business correspondence. As someone who knew nothing about Har Sinai before this, being able to sort through all of the documents, seeing how they talked about events and planning, provided me with a perspective I hadn’t previously had, and allowed me to understand Har Sinai at a deeper level.
Yet the collection isn’t all correspondence. There are programs for events, transcripts of sermons given by several different Rabbis, music for the congregation (including parody songs sung at events), yearbooks from the religious school tied to Har Sinai and even a scrapbook from the Har Sinai sisterhood.
While reading through the various correspondence and events bulletins provided me with knowledge towards Har Sinai that I hadn’t known, I found the yearbooks, scrapbook and handwritten/hand drawn pieces to be incredibly interesting. Being able to see something that was created for others, carefully written or drawn out, carefully planned out, was incredibly heart-warming and amazing. To shows such a personal perspective towards the topic that is normally impossible to reach.
And it is amazing to be able to interact with and see such a perspective.