Dispatch for the Archives: the Joys of Processing

Although we live in an age of technology, databases, and the digital representation of collections, one of the most interesting and rewarding jobs for an archivist (at least this one!) is still the processing of a collection.  What does this encompass? It is the way in which an archivist takes the paper records of an individual, group, or institution and sifts through them, weeding out duplicates, sorting, organizing, and  rehousing in acid-free folders and boxes, all to make it accessible for you, the user!.  To some this may seem a tedious task (and it certainly can be depending on the nature of the collection) but the rewards are usually worth it.  Finding that one gem that tells a new story, or that group of documents that sheds new light on an old story—this is the stuff archivists dream of!

I am currently processing the Swanson Associates Records that document the partnership between architect J. Robert F. Swanson and interior designer and textile artist Pipsan Saarinen Swanson.  Right now I am looking at the project files that relate to the firm’s architectural commissions from 1926 to 1977.  So, as a sneak preview (the collection is not yet open for research), here a couple of interesting discoveries:


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Dispatch from the Archives: All Things Modernism

Mid-century Modernism has taken over my life!  I eat, sleep, and even dream Modernism these days.  In my role as Head Archivist, I wear many hats – the most recent being to assist the Michigan Modern curatorial team by locating all the cool “stuff” in our Archives related to the upcoming exhibition, which will be opening at the Cranbrook Art Museum on June 14, 2013.  This includes photographs, of course, but the most fun for me is finding correspondence, articles, and ephemera that when put together create a mosaic of a time or place. Continue reading

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