So much to do, so little time

Sara and Margaret are now the primary interns on the Gorriaz Collection Project. They are each here one day a week, separately, which can sometimes feel productive, at other times, not as productive. Sara has been focusing on the organization of the physical collection and completing the finding aid container list. There are several pieces of the collection (negatives, prints, documents) that have no home and have not really been organized previously and she is working on integrating them into the collection. Margaret has been focusing on the digital photos that are already part of the museum’s digital collection but are not integrated into the museum’s main cataloging system. It sounds simple–just put the photos in the catalog, right? But the photos and metadata are stored in two separate places and under two different file types, neither of which is in the main cataloging system. The metadata is the part that is the trickiest because it has to be in a very specific format to be able to import into the cataloging system. And we’re talking about over 1,000 photos. So, it’s been very laborious–but fun!–to work through and get it just right so that it will be ready to upload. We’re moving along and are looking forward to the day when it all comes together in a nice clean package.

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We’re back!

After a brief hiatus, we are excited about resuming the Gorraiz Collection project! We still have a lot of rehousing and archival work to do including finishing the finding aid and container list, additional preservation steps with the photos, labeling of boxes, and general organization of the collection. We are also working hard at getting the digital portion of the project straightened out so that further digital preservation steps can be taken. We are looking forward to the next few months of our internship!

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Nearing the end…

Sorry that we’ve been a little MIA on our blog lately. We only have a couple of weeks until the summer part of the Gorraiz project is completed. Currently, Margaret, Sara, and Rachel are working on the Gorraiz project. It was bittersweet to see Shawna take a step back from the project. We are very happy for her new job but miss her input and expertise here at the museum.

We are still very busy with the collection, mainly focusing on rehousing, organizing, and putting the finding aid together. We have been rehousing prints into archival boxes. It already looks and feels much more organized than when we found it. We are also starting on part of the preservation process of resleeving negatives. There are many archival negative sleeves with multiple negatives in them. We need to separate the negatives out one by one into separate sleeves. This preservation step will continue into the future part of the project beyond this summer.

We are typing up the container list of the prints. The container list will be included in the finding aid. We hope to have the finding aid available to the public once this is complete.

Again, this has been an amazing learning experience for all of us. It has been a joy to us to be able to gain the knowledge and practical skills during this internship.

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Swimming out of the basement

Last week, Sara, Shawna and I battled floodwaters that were threatening the basement where the archives are currently stored. We hauled many buckets of water out of the stairwell and finally cleared the drain to help ease the flooding so that the water would not seep under the basement door. They certainly did not train us for this in Archives 101!

After we dried off as best as we could, we continued with working with the photographs, specifically rehousing negatives that are currently stored along with prints. This is part of the preservation process that will continue well into the fall and beyond.

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And the Beat Goes On…

The past few weeks have been very busy for us. We are in the process of writing our project report that describes what we have found and what we feel are the best plans for the Gorraiz Collection. This report will be part of the museum’s institutional archives so we are working through it very carefully and meticulously. We feel like we have a good handle on what is actually there in terms of the collection inventory. Our next steps include having an organizational plan and working towards having the collection be more accessible to the museum staff and to the public. The physical collection (negatives, prints, etc) needs to be intellectually organized in a way that is easy to follow. A little over 1,000 of the photos are already digitized but not contained within the museum’s cataloging program called PastPerfect. We hope to have those uploaded into PastPerfect by the end of the summer.

This has been such a fun and exciting project for us. Being that we are all fairly new into the field, it has given us such great learning opportunities and we are looking forward to seeing the end result of our work one day!

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Reference Library Photos

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First Look at the Reference Library/ Special Collection


It’s actually been a few weeks since I first began my work with the Reference Library Collection, but it has been very interesting and challenging. When I first walked into the Historical Society I was impressed at how well they had done with as few resources as they had available, and with limited professional input. There were a few times I cringed, however for the most part the archival collections are in good, usable condition and will be available for many years to come.

The Reference Library Collection is in a unique situation, particularly when compared to my past experiences. The Museum Director Berlin brought me in to help inventory and catalog the collection, and to help her understand the relationship the collection should have with Casa Grande Valley Historical Society in terms of availability, use, and storage. Berlin would like to take the collection and make it available to the public for research and reference.

From an initial standpoint the storage and organization are not ideal. The collection is divides between two locations: two bookshelves directly across from the Museum Director’s office and a closet is in a corner of the upper floor, tucked away from sight.

The Reference Library Collection is a mixture of periodicals and books of varying subject matter, and are either placed in specific order on bookshelves or stored in boxes on the same shelves. The books that have a call number on the bookshelves (both in the Director’s Office and the closet) are organized in what appears to be a combination of the Dewey Decimal system and a notation of the first three letters of the authors’/ editors’ last name. These books are cataloged in a card catalog, and a sample of the collection have been entered into Past Perfect.

My initial thoughts on the collection are:

– The current location of this collection does not facilitate use.

– The combination of Dewey/ bookstore call number system is confusing, as some of the books were published without a specified author, editor, compiler, or publisher.

– The card catalog is confusing- divided by collection, rather than subject, author, and title (which is all thrown in together). Also the amount of cards in the card catalog makes me wonder if every book is cataloged.

– The books entered into Past Perfect do not indicate the assigned call number and the location label is using a currently in speculation, so there is no way to verify which books in the collection have been entered into PP without looking for each individual item by title, which is difficult considering the call number system.

– There is little known about how the collection was acquired. The accession records may need to be gone through to find the dates and sources of items.

After discussing the hopes/plans for the collection and reviewing the situation Berlin and I have determined that rather than creating a library which will be open for public use, this collection would benefit from being treated like a special collection due to condition and subject. This collection will need to be inventoried, possibly weeded and reorganized in a more user-friendly way, and cataloged in Past Perfect. A collection plan for the reference library/ special collection will be developed and used as a part of a collection plan for the entire museum.

My current tasks:

– Inventory the collection in a spreadsheet to understand what is contained in the collection, as well as if each item has been cataloged and where (card, PP?)

– Record and photograph the initial state of the collection, continuing to record progress throughout the project

– Contact other libraries, museums, and historical societies in order to gain a better understanding of how to handle this collection

– Work with the Museum Director to develop and implement a collection plan

Onward and Upward!


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Benadryl and a Day with Berlin (June 24, 2013)

On the way to Casa Grande, I handed one of the other interns a Benadryl to help with her allergies. By the time we reached the Historical Society, she was sleepy and loopy. In my attempt to help, I knocked her out for the day. I can only offer my sincere apologies.

We started out in Berlin Loa’s office. Berlin is the new Director of CGVHS. She had sent us a file the day before about what we were going to discuss. She wrote:

“Thank you for all of your work so far. This is a daunting project, but it is definitely worth the time and effort we will put in.  On Monday I also want to talk about beginning to format your project portfolios.  Now that you’ve had time to browse and get to know Gorraiz, and now that he’s out of immediate danger from the stairwell, let’s talk about:

1) preservation – what are the immediate needs now that we’ve moved him to a safer place.  We’ll need to asses what supplies we have on hand and what supplies I will need to order.  We will not begin preservation until later in the summer for reasons we will discuss on Monday.

2) digitization – what has been digitized and how do we get that data from the current system to PastPerfect (PP)?  How many photos are digitized, how long should we expect manually transferring data to take, what process will we use to eliminate duplicating work, etc.  Getting the currently digitized photos into PP is high priority.

3) assessing the undigitized photos to select for more digitization: is it necessary?  if so, how do we select from this huge collection? what story are we telling by what we select? etc.”

Thus we spent the day taking notes. Berlin was surprised that we had already figured out what supplies we needed. We will have to check to see what is on hand and what needs to be ordered. She also created a space on the server for us to document our progress and to upload photos. We discussed what our project portfolios would contain but I am still unclear about this. Also we need to look at other resources to figure out what we need to do to preserve the collection. As Berlin put it, “Let’s not go rogue!” because there are so many different resources that will help us figure out how to do the work we need to do. So, research is necessary.

Then we moved down to the basement and took a look at where the files are in FileMaker Pro. We talked about moving information into PastPerfect and how much manual data entry this may take. I suggested that PastPerfect may allow for batch loading so I need to read the manual and figure out if this is an additional feature that can be added on the basic software. Also the accession number assigned to the negatives needs to be rethought and based on the accession record. PastPerfect can assign accession numbers automatically and the general consensus was that we should let the software do that.

Berlin also set up an email address for us to use as we begin to contact others about the best preservation practices. We will set up a log of who we contact and when as well as why we contacted them. Our new email address is:

The Project Report needs to be written. So we spent the rest of the day working on that. Now that the inventory is done, it isn’t as overwhelming as it first seemed. Margaret is going to write the biographical note because she knows Jim Gorraiz the best. Sarah and I will write what the boxes contain and a narrative about each set of boxes. Then we will all figure out what we need to do to preserve the collection. We have a lot of work ahead of us but it doesn’t seem as daunting as it did when we first saw the collection under the stairwell in the dusty, hot basement room.

We set out for home and I drove because I had not taken any Benadryl! It was a good day.

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Inventory! (June 21, 2013)

Today our challenge was to wrap our heads around the collection. We had our list of questions to ask Kay, the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society archivist of 20 years! So we headed down into the basement after saying a brief hello to everyone and attempted to take an inventory of the 24 boxes. Needless to say we were working hard but were lacking an understanding of how everything related to everything else.

Fortunately, Kay arrived to check on us. Under her guidance and knowledge we rearranged the collection in a different order. She helped us group together the boxes in a logical order based on how the collection had been handled. The only question she was not able to answer was whether the color negatives had been separated from the black and white negatives by the volunteers. We were so grateful to finally have an understanding of how each box related to the others.

Here is what we found out:

  • Four boxes contained the prints Wagoner and his students had made. Each print was in an archival folder with the corresponding negatives that had an accession number. These prints were digitized and then documented in FileMaker Pro.
  • There were ten archival photograph boxes filled with unprinted black and white negatives that corresponded to the Volunteer Logs. The negatives were in archival sleeves with the name assigned by Gorraiz and an accession number.
  • Two banker boxes of black and white negatives in archival sleeves with accession numbers and the Gorraiz assigned name were also on the shelves. These were also accounted for in the Volunteer Logs and were labeled as Unprinted.
  • Two banker boxes of color negatives in the original yellow Kodak sleeves were also part of the inventory. The yellow sleeves had the accession number printed on them.
  • One banker box of sepia negatives. These had not been sleeved or printed (perhaps) nor had they been digitized.
  • Four large boxes labeled as Gorraiz photographs filed by subject. These were actual prints made by Gorraiz and were included in the original collection. We also found a brief subject listing that almost corresponded to the subject listings in the boxes. Kay informed us that she had put the photographs in subject order to make it easier to retrieve photographs as needed. There were 8 x 10 and 4 x 5 prints including a whole section on wedding photographs that we took a moment to enjoy.
  • Finally, the last box was the Volunteer Logs. This contained all the information about each of the negatives that had an accession number.

The next thing we needed to do was figure out the supply list of archival boxes, archival sleeves, and archival folders necessary to finish the preservation process. We pulled out a measuring tape and began to guess-timate. By the time we were done we figured that the collection would cover 50 linear feet once it was properly preserved. So we figured about 50 archival boxes (0.5 linear feet per box) and 25 archival photograph boxes (1 linear foot apiece). Then we estimated about 10 archival folders for each archival box and about 1500 more archival sleeves for the negatives.

To help us figure out how to organize the collection we drew up a schematic diagram of how the collection was sort of organized. This drawing and the list of needed supplies were turned over to our Director. After a long day of work, we closed up shop and headed home, completely satisfied with our work.

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Welcome, Rachel!

Rachel is another intern joining us for the summer and she will be focusing on the museum’s reference library (yes, there is one!). We look forward to learning more about her project this summer!

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Research and more research

The past couple of weeks, I have focused on digging through the boxes of non-photo documents relating to the Gorraiz collection.  On June 13th and 17th, I went through the file box that contains records of the original collection project that was underway in the 1990s when the collection was first brought into the museum. It helped me to understand everything better because it gave a lot of detail about how the project was organized in the 90s. Jim Gorraiz’s brother, Victor, dropped the boxes off at CGVHS on July 20, 1990 and for the next decade there was a flourish of activity related to this monstrous collection. There are action plans on how to tackle the photos. Grants were given to the museum by the Arizona Humanities Council to help bring in outside experts to provide guidance on the collection. The entire community of Casa Grande was summoned for help in identifying people and places in the photos and for help in processing them. There are documents that explain how and why the negative photos were numbered the way they were, so this will help us when we start evaluating the numbering system.

On June 19, 20, and 24th I went through the Biographical File of Jim Gorraiz. This file helped me to understand James Gorraiz the person and the man behind the photographs that we will be working with this summer. There are many personal receipts, personal financial records, business receipts, photo orders, and other seemingly mundane items (mostly from the 1950s). But anyone can see from just these items and other personal items how dedicated he was to photography. He seemed to be the one that everyone went to for photography needs for any purpose in Casa Grande and beyond. He was meticulous in his recordkeeping and provided a wonderful service to the community for many years. He was a very adventurous person and enjoyed his work. I look forward to discovering more about Jim Gorraiz and his photographs.

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Creation and Confusion (Monday June 17th)

What a day we had! We took the box labeled, Volunteer Logs, and began to look through the file folders. There was so much we did not understand about how the collection was now organized. We were slow to realized that the original order of the collection by the creator (respect de fonds) had been followed. Because Jim Gorraiz ran the Casa Grande Photo Shop he had arranged everything by year and then alphabetically. As new archivists we were pleased because provenance and respect de fonds are so stressed in our education. This was a real learning experience because we had to accept that this collection was alphabetized according to whatever note Jim Gorraiz had placed on the folder holding the negatives. We were plenty confused as to how the volunteers had approached the collection. It took time for all of us to appreciate that although the volunteers were not trained archivists they had done an enormous amount of work and had documented and digitized quite a bit of stuff. But, oh how we wished we could have been there when the collection first arrived on the doorstep of the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society!

To understand the system the volunteers had used, we needed to look at the negatives to see how they had been numbered and placed in boxes. We decided that we needed a light box. Time for some Creativity! So we took a piece of glass, tissue paper, and a fluorescent light plus a couple of archival storage boxes, and magically, we had a light box. (Pictures to follow.) It was fun and dusty work! I laughed because the public perception of archives is of dusty, old basements full of neglected documents, which essentially describes CGVHS. I am so glad that I get to get my hands dirty and help in the preservation of such an important collection. The light box was a team effort that helped us prepare for looking at the collection as a group.

So the first thing we did was take a brief inventory of what the boxes on our new shelves were labeled. The labels were pretty inconsistent. We figured out that whoever received the collection had appropriately numbered the original boxes as 1 of 19, 2 of 19, etc. Now there were 24 boxes! Some boxes were labeled as “undigitized Gorraiz photographs” and others were labeled according to year, e.g. “Gorraiz 1961-1962 Negs.” Some negatives had been placed in archival sleeves and stored in archival quality boxes which were labeled in the following manner, “Photographs – Gorraiz, Gorraiz Photographs, 65-67 through 71-75.” Several other boxes labeled “Digitized Gorraiz Photographs with negatives, 53 through 57-58” or such were in the mix also. Finally, we had boxes labeled “Gorraiz Collection, unprinted negatives, 1959-60, 1U-161U. Needless to say we were Confused!

During our orientation a couple of weeks ago, Berlin provided us a plan of action with several goals. Our first goal was to: “Document the current status of collection including storage, process, and preservation” including “Document progress of processing and preserving project.” We took a lot of photos on the first day, but failed to do so on this day. We were much too busy being creative and confused, but we did create several documents (handwritten because we failed to realize we had access to a computer) that included a beginning list of questions to ask of whomever we could contact who had handled the collection. One of the questions is “Why is there no box 13?” We had gone through each folder in the Volunteer Logs box and there were “Identification and Information Logs” for boxes labeled such as “Box 1, 1948-1949.” There were folders for boxes 1 through 15 with the exception of a folder for box 13! We wondered if there was a superstitious person in the group of volunteers; then Margaret informed us that the basement of the church had been used as a morgue in the past. Suddenly we superstitious ourselves!

So, with the light box completed and a cursory inventory, we began to look at the Identification and Information Logs in an attempt to match them up to the variously labeled boxes. On the right top section of each page of the logs were letters and numbers, i.e.. P 4, U 60, T 64. We figured out that this meant the number of Printed, Unprinted, and Total number of negatives described on each page. The archival boxes of negatives appear to be in the same order as the Info Logs. Then there was a box of prints with negatives that have been digitized that almost corresponded to notations in the Info Logs that had a red “D” next to them. This brought us to the questions, “How are the boxes related to the Info Logs and are there duplicate negatives,” as well as, “Who created the prints – Gorraiz or Wagoner, the Central Arizona Community College photo instructor who handled some of the collection?” Then we started to wonder if the letter “D” stood for Digitized or Developed? By then we were tired and it was time to go home. So we looked at the mess we created and laughed because there was no need to clean up. We left everything on the tables in our workspace and headed up to Berlin’s office to report our “progress” before going home.

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First Day of Work Pics

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Day One for Shawna (Monday June 10th)

What a day! Our beloved director, Berlin Loa, showed us where the Gorraiz Collection was currently housed, the basement of the church. It was hot and dry in that room with the shelves falling apart under the weight of the boxes. Then we looked at the hallway in the air conditioned area of the basement where shelves needed to be assembled. The hallway was full of stuff!

Sara and I started working. We took photos and started moving stuff around to clear the hallway. Berlin directed. The wardrobes were moved into the textile room. Berlin and Sara moved all the stuff in the room around until we had a clear space. Then we brought in three tables to create our workspace. I scrubbed the tables off because they were pretty dirty. Chairs were located and that was done.

Then we looked at a pile of metal and boards that were supposed to be shelving and tried to figure out whether they would be sturdy enough. Then the assembly started! Berlin located some hammers for us because everything locked together. Sara really got into the hammering. It took awhile because we assembled and then reassembled as we tried to figure out the right spacing. Finally the shelves were up. It was magical how the shelves came together after all that work.

Margaret arrived and helped move the collection from the hot area to the cool hallway. She took a lot of photos and I explained that I don’t like my picture being taken. I will probably post a pic of myself later but not yet. The collection was kept in the same order that we found it in. The box with volunteer logs was located and we settled down to figure out what we had gotten ourselves into!

By the end of the day, I was hot, sweaty, and dirty. It was my job to kill the big cockroach that crawled out of the shelving. Yuck! I hate having to kill anything. But I had a really good day. Working with Sara, Margaret, and Berlin is going to be fun. Wish us luck as we try to accomplish all the goals that are on our list of things to do.

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Where do I start?

Okay, so I’m new to the blog thing, so we’ll see how this goes. I did a couple of blogs for school projects but those were kind of mechanical and for a grade, but this time I can use the blog to process the information that we are encountering as we go through this project and that is more exciting for me. I am fairly new to Arizona (6 years) and had never been to Casa Grande or really known much about Casa Grande before our orientation to the museum, so that could be a good or bad thing. On one hand, my fresh eyes may give me a more objective approach. On the other hand, having some historical knowledge of the area would help to identify items in the collection. I definitely think that by the end of the summer, I will know much more about Casa Grande but more importantly, I am looking forward to putting my schooling to practical use. It’s hard to know what I know. You study and do school projects but it’s usually not until you have hands on work that the light bulb goes off to be able to make the connections between learning and doing.

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Welcome to our Blog!

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Sara, Shawna, and Margaret are summer interns at Casa Grande Valley Historical Society in Casa Grande, Arizona. We are processing a collection of over 20,000 photographs and documents that are related to photographer James “Jim” Gorraiz (1926-1990). This blog will highlight our work and discoveries in our journey throughout the summer.

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