Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Day in the Archives

I love my job! I've worked part-time as an assistant archivist in the Friends Historical Collection since January. There have been a variety of tasks to do — from genealogical look-ups to transcribing old handwriting to inventorying old meeting minutes (church records) for an scanning project. Here's what I did Tuesday.

First I emptied the dehumidifiers in the "vault" or stacks. It makes me nervous to carry a container full of about two gallons of water (that's half a day of our humid North Carolina air) past old records and paintings, so I walk very, very carefully.

I continued checking a typescript of Isham Cox's journal. We're preparing documents like this to put online. Not only did I get to use my picky copyediting skills, I also got to read the whole journal, which started in 1865. Cox made many trips around North Carolina and Virginia to help Quaker men who had been conscripted (drafted), and then imprisoned for refusing to fight. I enjoyed the language almost as much as the stories. For example, Cox used nominative "thou" (not "thee") in his letters, as many Quakers still did, and called a train "the Cars."

Then I pulled on some gloves and unfolded a quilt that was made circa 1938. Each square was stitched with a pattern of names, several recognizably from the Greensboro area. I laid the quilt out on one of the research tables and stood on a step-stool to photograph each square. Then my coworker and a docent held the quilt up in the hallway so I could take a picture of the whole thing.

A package of minutes had arrived from one of the meetings in North Carolina. I opened up the database and entered the dates, then typed the name and address into a form letter to send back as a receipt. I placed the papers in an archival folder and labeled it, ready to file in the vault when I return in the morning.

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