AM ST 482: Public Heritage

AM ST 482: Public Heritage: Archives and Records Management
Fall 2015
Christie Briley, instructor
Processing a Collection: From Acquisition to Finding Aid
Meeting #2, MONTH DAY, 2015
Specific Topic
The importance of the processing procedure of textual documents with emphasis on how to
implement the practice and what the end result of the process is.
For students to be able to:
 recognize the method of assessing and processing a collection;
 process a collection;
 develop a finding aid;
 recognize the value of processing for American Studies research.
Students will be able to process a collection and develop a finding aid for a mock collection of
textual documents in preparation for completing a semester project. The semester project options
include aiding a local historical society or archive in processing a small collection in their
Knowing how to process a collection, from the initial survey of the materials to the completion
of a finding aid, is vital in an archival setting. Archival processing ensures that all documents in
a collection are surveyed for scope and content, condition, and rehoused in archival-grade
materials to prevent future degradation. Archivists, and researchers, rely upon accurate
processing of collections to be able to locate documents quickly and to return them to their right
locations when finished. American Studies students need to be able to understand archival
processes to know their importance to the field.
In Context to American Studies
Basic processing requires archivists to be able to look over a potential collection to determine the
organization of the documents and how they relate to each other. American studies, especially
ethnography and folk lore studies, looks at the relationships between objects or people within a
set grouping. Additionally, processing and developing finding aids shows the break down of the
vital information within a document. In finding aids, the key information is highlighted to help
direct researchers to documents that may be of interest to them. Knowing how to recognize what
would be considered vital information in a more timely manner will make researching via
primary documents easier as will knowing how to use a finding aid.
Content of lesson
what is archival processing, its importance, and why it is important to the Archival and
American Studies fields;
Explore the Archive of Folk Culture (
does it related to American Studies? What can be learned from looking at the website in
regards to how an archive fits into AM ST research? Have students discuss the following
two links that should have been read before class:
the stages of the processing method;
how a finding aid is developed (what is its purpose, use, and value?)…use the Archive of
Folk Culture to explore what a digital finding aid looks like and how to use it;
introduction to the mock collection;
announcement of project/review project requirements;
short break;
pairing off into groups to process the “collection”;
evaluation: what did the students learn, what needs to be covered in a later class, thoughts
and comments about processing.
Intro: Ask students about times they’ve researched using collections that were difficult to
dialogue: what is the processing method and why it is important;
PowerPoint: the processing method (include a cheat-sheet hand-out of the basic steps);
project overview;
Have students evaluate and begin processing a mock collection (15-20 documents). Students are
required to recognize the different steps required to complete the processing procedure. Group
understanding is OK (ask directed questions after lesson to gauge understanding).
Materials and Aids
 PowerPoint to accompany lecture (located in Pass and Google Drive)
 Handout: Collection Processing Checklist (direct towards online document as well)