Archives & Manuscripts

Parenting as Accessioning

accession
n. ~ Materials physically and legally transferred to a repository as a unit at a single time; an acquisition. – v. ~ 2. To take legal and physical custody of a group of records or other materials and to formally document their receipt.

In 2015, after a nine-month development process and 37-hour final negotiation, I and my husband agreed to acquire and maintain, into perpetuity, the works and ephemera of one Eloise S.

In 2017, after a similar but somewhat more difficult nine-month development process and 15-hour final negotiation, we agreed to acquire and maintain, into perpetuity, the works and ephemera of Eloise’s sibling, Ezekiel S.

This post details the accessioning, processing, and other collections-related policies and activities as they pertain to the aforementioned creators.

backlog/arrearage
n. ~ Materials received by a repository, but not yet processed. Connotes materials that have been in a pending status for some time.

Backlog as of 18 October 2019. It is held right inside the front door so that I am reminded of it every time I come into the house.

collection
n. ~ 1. A group of materials with some unifying characteristic. – 2. Materials assembled by a person, organization, or repository from a variety of sources; an artificial collection. – collections (pl.) 3. The holdings of a repository.

Our collections are held in temporary storage (empty diaper boxes) until I can come up with a system of arrangement – ideally before their 18th birthdays.


collection development
n. ~ The function within an archives or other repository that establishes policies and procedures used to select materials that the repository will acquire, typically identifying the scope of creators, subjects, formats, and other characteristics that influence the selection process.

Our collections policy: In general, when materials created by my children make their way into our repository, we select the following items to accession and maintain.
1. Anything with a hand print or foot print on it
2. Anything in which the child is narrating his or her life or experience
3. Anything the child has apparently spent a significant amount of time or effort on creating

Eloise, “Our house with the tree and the sun,” September 2019
Example of an item that would be accessioned and maintained. Eloise spent a significant amount of time on this piece, and it also records how our house and yard existed in her imagination at age 4.
Ezekiel, “Fall leaf hand prints,” October 2019
Example of an item that would be accessioned and maintained. While Zekie’s daycare lady spent a lot more time on this than he did, look at those little hand prints!
Eloise, “Dot-to-dot sail boat,” October 2019
Example of an item that would be culled upon receipt. Eloise quickly lost interest in this piece, it is generic, and it is quite similar to items already in our holdings, so is therefore redundant.

curator
n. ~ An individual responsible for oversight of a collection or an exhibition.

TITLE: co-curatorTITLE: co-curator
ROLE: parent (mother)ROLE: parent (father)
ATTRIBUTES: harriedATTRIBUTES: tired

deaccessioning
n. ~ The process by which an archives, museum, or library permanently removes accessioned materials from its holdings.

We have a very specific, very careful deaccessioning process:
1. Become overwhelmed by volume of materials.
2. Wait until the kids are in bed.
3. Quickly sort materials into appropriate categories: A) items that can be transferred to one of two other interested repositories (grandparents’ houses), B) items to maintain in current collections, and C) items to be deaccessioned into the trash (see also culling: n. ~ The process of pulling and disposing of unwanted materials).
4. Tie up the trash bag and place it directly into the outside garbage bin. Place items to be mailed to grandparents directly into mailers and place in the mailbox.
5. Leave no trace of deaccessioned items; if the kids notice something is missing it will constitute an ethical crisis.


digital photograph
n. ~ An image produced using a digital camera and stored as an electronic file.

The bulk of our collection of digital photographs is stored on my iPhone, is not backed up, has not been culled since April of 2018, and is only minimally processed. “Sort through photos” has been on this archives’ to-do list since approximately May of 2018.

A screenshot of my iPhone’s photo “Albums” view (taken 17 October 2019) – note the volume of “recent” photos (3,131) compared to the number of categorized/processed photos (41).

exhibit
n. ~ An organized display of materials

NOTE: “organized” is a subjective and contingent term.

In our archives, one of the creators has somehow accessed a supply of sticky tack and maintains her own exhibit on a prominent wall in our dining room. Our refrigerator also serves a temporary exhibit space, with newly-created items on display (for anywhere from four days to one year) before being processed into the collection or culled due to deterioration.

Dining room wall exhibit, 18 October 2019
Fridge exhibit, 18 October 2019

finding aid
n. ~ A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records.

Here I offer two examples of finding aid use, one in the kids’ creations’ collection and one in the general household collection:

“Mom, where is the robot picture I drew for Ally Mae?”
“In your backpack, behind the school picture order form.”

Eloise, “A robot for Ally Mae,” October 2019. It was, in fact, in her backpack behind the school pictures order form.
A screenshot of a text conversation in which my husband asks where the Aquaphor is for first aid purposes, and I help him locate it

In other words – it’s me. I’m the finding aid.


original order
n. ~ The organization and sequence of records established by the creator of the records. A fundamental principle of archives.

My approach to original order: whatever is on the bottom of the pile is probably the oldest.


provenance
n. (provenancial, adj.) ~ 1. The origin or source of something.

The provenance of approximately ninety percent of our household collections’ volume can be attributed to the following creators:

They are cute, but they are prolific generators of material, which is in a continuous state of accessioning, processing, and discreet deaccessioning. An archivist’s work is never done.

All definitions in this post are from the Society of American ArchivistsA Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. Credit for the concept of this post goes to Abby Whitaker. Thanks, Abby!

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