Updates from Special Collections and University Archives


Last week, I said goodbye to Dr. Samuel Mendelsohn and his wonderful collection. Sometimes in life, things do not go to plan, and I can say with certainty that was the case with Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection. I mentioned in my last blog post that attention to detail is critical to the work of an archivist, and MS 058 surely required a careful eye.


Since my last update, I have scanned over 500 pages of Dr. Mendelsohn’s sermons, lectures, addresses, and more. Digitization is something I am quite familiar with, having worked previously under Digital Initiatives here at Randall Library. I find the process of scanning to be meditative in a way! I am performing a function that will create better access to a collection, but I can also listen to music or audiobooks as I do so. As a grad student, I’ll take any peaceful moment I can get! Unfortunately, Scanning MS 058 took me much longer than anticipated because of how the original scans were ordered. From what I was able to piece together, it appears that most of the original scans were organized entirely chronologically rather than in their series groups and then chronologically within their series. This was further complicated because the files were not named in a way that identified them. So, that meant I first had to spend a lot of time noting what digital file corresponded to each physical file in the collection. This became complicated when I realized they were not ordered the same way as their record in ArchivesSpace.


Imagine Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection is physically and digitally organized in ArchivesSpace in the example below:


Sermon A - Box 1, Folder 1

Sermon B - Box 1, Folder 2

Sermon C - Box 1, Folder 3

Sermon D - Box 1, Folder 4


Address A - Box 2, Folder 1

Address B - Box 2, Folder 2

Address C - Box 2, Folder 3



BUT, it turns out that the digital files were organized like this:


Sermon A - Box 1, Folder 1

Sermon B - Box 1, Folder 2

Sermon C - Box 1, Folder 3

Lecture G - Box 3, Folder 24

Lecture H - Box 3, Folder 25

Sermon D - Box 1, Folder 4




Then, imagine that they were not actually named as suggested above but actually look like the following:









Since they didn’t quite follow the order in ArchivesSpace, it required me to open each digital file and compare them with the contents of their physical file to ensure I was rescanning the correct document. If I had not, I would have rescanned the wrong files, and when they were reuploaded into ArchivesSpace, the incorrect scan would have been linked to the digital record.


Did that make sense?... Yeah, it took me a while to wrap my brain around too.


Some other minor organizational issues appeared during my work with Dr. Mendelsohn’s collection, but I believe it has all been resolved. Even if I made an error, I feel better knowing that the collection is now in better shape so that researchers can easily find what they need, even if they don’t physically visit Special Collections. After scanning, the digital files were uploaded and assigned to the correct archival record. I then completed the final details on the finding aid, and 058 was done!


I got right to work on my new collection, MS 254 Anchram and Elizabeth Evans Civil War Letters. I am reviewing this collection for correctness of order, interesting content (related to life in Wilmington, notable figures, and yellow fever), and duplicated transcriptions. After my review, I will work on transferring the transcriptions of the letters, done originally by Evans’s grandson(!), from .html format to .doc and eventually into .pdf. Then I will carefully rescan each delicate document and attach the transcript to the scanned document so all the digital files will be in one place.


I have just begun my initial review of MS 254, and during this process, I am checking that the physical files are in the correct chronological order. At the same time, I am replacing the old plastic protectors that the letters were in with archival-grade sleeves. I’ve already found a few letters that were folded to fit in the letter-size folder, which is definitely not ideal for maintaining their physical condition. Leaving documents folded creates points of weakness and stress on the document, which can adversely affect their life within the archive.


My next blog post will be the final one before the semester ends and I graduate! I look forward to updating you all on my practicum experience then.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
11:30am – 12:30pm
Randall Library 2042 (Special Collections Reading Room)

Thursday, April 13, 2023
10am – 11:15am 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
10am – 11am Workshop
11am – 12pm Q & A and Activities 
Education Building 162

Tuesday, April 25, 2023
1pm - 2pm Workshop
2pm - 3pm Q & A and Activities
MG 1105 (Center for Marine Science Auditorium)

What is Records and Information Management Month?

  • Records and Information Management Month (RIMM) is celebrated internationally to highlight the importance of organizing and maintaining records and information.
  • A record is any document, paper, e-mail, picture, recording, video, or other material that can prove the transaction of business. 
  • UNCW workshops will introduce you to the Records Retention Schedule and offer tips on how to make it work for you.

Guide to UNCW Records Management

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Updates from Special Collections and University Archives