State Council of Churches and Wrap-Up

I want to put in a quick plug for the collection that I just finished…on my LAST day of my internship here at the Burke Archives.  Then I'll do a little wrap up of my time here and what I learned.

WAB: State Council of Churches Records, 1943 – 1974
Abstract
: Regional ecumenical and interfaith organizations come together under the umbrella of their respective state council of churches.  Rooted in local communities they are able to respond to needs specific to that region.  These councils are agencies of cooperation focused on service and Christian unity. Collection contains bulletins, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, correspondence, annual meeting minutes and reports.

Collection Scope and Content Note: The majority of the collection is comprised of state council bulletins or newsletters and annual state council meetings.  New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey form the bulk of the collection.  Of note within the New York collection is a smaller collection pertaining to the New York City Protestant council, which was a large regional council serving the local needs of the city.  The Ohio collection is a large run of the Ohio Christian News dating from 1946 to 1971.  The Massachusetts collection also contains a large run of the state council’s newsletter Christian Outlook and copies of annual reports.  The New Jersey collection contains reports of its annual meetings from 1958 to 1974.  Michigan is contained in block parenthesis because the state was inferred from locale information contained in the annual meeting report. The collection is arranged alphabetically according to state.  Within the state divisions, state councils are organized first with county, regional and city councils following.  Each folder is arranged alphabetically and the materials within those folders are arranged chronologically.  Other state councils in the collection include Alabama, California – Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Wrap Up!

My final day at the Burke has arrived.  My time here has gone by amazingly fast and I am surprised with the fact that I was able to complete the processing  and DAM on four collections.  Granted one collection contained a single book, but it still feels good to have some experience under my belt.  So did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, was the experience all that I had hoped it would be?  Absolutely! This was definitely the place where I could test my theoretical knowledge of archival processing by putting it into practice.  The mundane tasks of sorting, discarding, re-housing and labeling are no longer intimidating mysteries.  Not surprisingly, considering my love of organization, those mundane tasks were some of my favorite activities.  Thankfully, I encountered no bugs and only a little bit of dirt and dust. I was able to shift my focus from item level description to box and folder description and adhere to the “More Product Less Process” standard.  I gradually figured out how to limit my tendency to be verbose in regards to my historical notes and scope and contents notes.  While I’m not perfect and still  have a difficult time using sentence fragments in the abstract, I am much better at it than when I started.  It’s nice to see less and less corrective red from Brigette on them.  I even enjoyed being able to put my long dormant historian training to use while I was researching historical and biographical information regarding the collections. 

Learning how to do archival processing, while important, was not my only goal.  I wanted to learn and experience a way to make internships not only benefit the institutions, but teach students life-long lessons.  My final paper for my Practicum focuses on the need for constructionist and constructivist based learning as a way to engage students more actively in the learning process.  Both methods encourage students to actively interact and create within and with the physical world rather than passively receiving knowledge; however constructionism additionally requires the production of a tangible object in the final outcome.  Learning becomes more than knowledge acquisition and becomes a process of identity formation and empowerment.   Mentors, supervisors, and teachers who use these approaches make it easier for students to see their work not only as personally enriching but also of value to the community they are serving.  As such, new knowledge is not only more effectively embedded in the students mind, but the students become embedded in the community they serve.

I’m only using this high flung academic-speak to illustrate that Brigette uses these approaches to teaching archival practice and processing.  I did not just create finding aids, but I made them available online increasing access, spoke about their relevance in various blog entries, posted information regarding the new collections on Twitter and Facebook, I was even informed one of the collections was given to me because a user had requested the material and the library wanted to accommodate the request in a timely manner.  I did not just learn archival theory or just the do’s and don’ts of archival processing, but I created a tangible object that tied me to a community of archivists and archives users.  Eventually I began to describe myself as an archivist when asked what I do.  I am no longer just a library graduate student, but because of what I was able to accomplish I now identify with being an archivist.  I no longer limit my job searches to special collections or museum libraries. It was great to see this teaching method in action and see the personal affect it had on me.  

If you are still on the fence regarding archives, if you don’t have a clue what to do in an archive, even if you love them I would recommend coming here for an internship and becoming part of the archivist community.  It was a great experience!

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