Chelcie, my supervisor, shared several readings with me, through which I am slowly making my way. One of the first I read was More Product, Less Process, or as it’s efficiently called MPLP. The timing of this reading was amazingly spot on, since as I started reading it, I was also starting to “process” Secrest materials. (At least, my version of “processing”, or evaluating for inclusion in the exhibit.)
Reading MPLP made me much more consciously aware of my thoughts and actions as I was going through the materials. I realized earlier this week that I had actually physically touched every single item in the collection, with the exception of one box of scrapbook materials (that’s 11 boxes and one oversized box of materials!) If I were to estimate the amount of hours spent just looking at the collection and considering items for inclusion in the digital exhibit (keep in mind the collection was already processed for the archives), I’d conservatively say I’ve spent at least 20 hours selecting “items of interest” and the further organizing and paring down the list. Although this differs from the procession of a collection that, say, came in from a family member, or even a department on campus, as Secrest did, it helps put the issues raised by MPLP into context.
I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, it has been valuable “getting to know” the collection from spending so much time with it. I felt this possibly even more back in October and November when I helped process a collection of letters between a physician serving during World War II and his wife back home in Wake Forest. I felt I understood an aspect of the war that I had never considered before and their relationship even more so from their letters. I would love for such a wonderful and complete collection to exist within my own family. I am grateful I had the luxury of time to get so intimately acquainted with their letters. At the same time, I consider the amount of time I spent taking letters out of envelopes and organizing them painstakingly by date. (Is “painstaking” too dramatic in reference to a couple that wrote to each other at least once daily for the duration of the war?) To be fair, this process was took considerably longer because of my reading of their letters and inspecting all of the greeting cards and other keepsakes. But, as much of my work at ZSR has done, it gave me an appreciation for the time factors involved.
The question becomes a more practical one of balancing how much is too much with how much is not enough. I think this has become an issue in many fields as budgets get cut and fewer people are asked to do more work. It has been educational to see in what ways this plays out in an archival setting, as well as in the digitization lab. It has certainly given me insight on time management and on putting my own preferences aside and assessing collections from an objective standpoint.