This blog documents the adventures of processing the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) records at the Library of Congress, and also offers musings about the archives field in general. For those of you who aren’t familiar with archival terms, processing involves arranging, describing, and preserving a collection so that it can be used by researchers for many years to come. Because this large collection is already so well-organized, I will be employing a minimal processing technique, which you can learn more about here. My name is Morgan Sawicki, and I’ve been hired by the ACLS to be the Project Archivist for this collection. I’m taking over from Caroline Muglia, who was working on the collection through June of 2013 and wrote all of the blog posts dating up to that month. As she said in the original About page, “This blog also follows Rudyard Kipling’s famous words, Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
More about the project…
ACLS has had an archival relationship with the Library of Congress since 1949 when they began donating their records to be arranged for research use. ACLS donated correspondence, financials, administrative notes and minutes from committees, projects and programs of the representative learned societies, grant applications, President’s and Vice President’s files, and materials related to the origins of the organization.
The records are divided into 3 parts: Part I spans from 1919 to the 1960s, and is already processed. Part II spans from the 1950s to the 1990s, and is the part that is currently being processed. After completing the processing for Part II, I will return to Part I to ensure that these two first parts fit together intellectually. I will produce a finding aid which outlines both parts for researcher use. Finally, after that is completed, I will start processing Part III, which consists mostly (but not exclusively) of materials from the 1990s onward. Large organizations like the ACLS produce a lot of documentation as a part of their everyday business. I’m really looking forward to digging in to the materials and facing any challenges that come up along the way!
More about Morgan…
I recently graduated with my second master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’ve got a BA in History, an MA in Public History with a Museum Studies certificate, and an MLIS with an archives concentration. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of studying abroad four times, working as an English teacher in South Korea, and interning at many different cultural institutions around America.
Here is what you really need to know about me: like most people in this profession, I love history! I also love young adult novels and bad action movies, but if you really want to get down to business, history has my heart. It seems crazy to me that history is often referred to as boring (what?!), so I decided many years ago that I wanted to show people how enriching it can be. Because so few people know what archivists do, I have a little elevator speech handy: archivists are like archaeologists for paper (as you will see in the section about Caroline below, I am not the only one to note this resemblance). We keep everything as-is while we hunt and dig to find the soul of a collection, and then we get that collection ready to share with the world. How exciting and mysterious!
More about Caroline…
I became an archivist because I really like to dig. We dig toward a beginning for meaning and context. We dig into boxes, attics, albums, and hard drives; into financial records, intimate correspondence, government documents, and home movies; into the lives of those esteemed, ordinary, scandalous, and sometimes unknown. Such simple acts of historical archaeology have far-reaching implications. Archivists are the vanguards of many materials that otherwise would be unknown to an eager public and understand that what society knows and catalogs cannot be everything that exists in this world. When done correctly, the archival profession is connected first to human experience and second to documenting that experience.
I am a recent graduate of a dual Master’s Program through University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University where I received an M.A. in History and an M.S.L.S. in Library Science with a concentration in Archival Management. (When my father asked why I needed so many degrees, I told him I wanted to collect ‘em all!)