Week 8: African American Museum of Iowa

July 16th, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Monday-Tuesday: Staff meeting on Monday. It’s my last week, and since finishing the entirety of the documents of the Virgil Powell Collection, I now start working on linking them in Past Perfect. I spend the entire day doing this, since linking also means editing the photos and adding titles/descriptions/any other confirmable information.

Wednesday-Friday: Africa!, a Summer Camp took place July 8-12 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. I joined in Wednesday-Friday. We were there to celebrate the stories, art, music, and heritage of West Africa as we played games, made pottery, dyed traditional clothing, ate African goods, told folk tales, and created music. I missed out on the pottery and ivory carving (ivory bars of soap!) the rest was great. We started the day making the various environments of Africa, then teaching the kids about them and extending the lesson into the day.

Anthony teaching about the rainforest.

Anthony teaching about the rainforest.

After, depending on the day, we would learn in the exhibit, or handle some of the relevant artifacts.

The very artist of our rainforest mural telling stories and answering questions in the exhibit.

The very artist of our rainforest mural telling stories and answering questions in the exhibit.

Curator Lynn Koos sharing about masks.

Curator Lynn Koos sharing about masks in the exhibit.

Realistically, because the kids were about 3-5th grade, we’d take a break for games outside next. The kids were big fans of Killer Frog and Wax Museum. After winding down with a bathroom and snack break, we’d work on a project to take home (masks, musical instruments, t-shirts, etc.) while listening to African folktales. Sometimes the kids were a little bit of a handful, but they were all sweet and relatively very well behaved. It was a much different experience than the rest of my internship, but I’m glad I had to to shake up the routine.

Finished Desert.

Finished Desert.

 

Finished Steppe.

Finished Steppe.

 

Finished Savanna.

Finished Savanna.

 

annnd finally the finished Rainforest.

annnd finally the finished Rainforest.

Speaking of routine…it’s all over! I can’t believe my internship done.  I had a great time. I really look forward to volunteering with the museum in the upcoming academic year, time willing.  I’ve learned so much, and I’m seriously considering an archival position as a viable dream position sometime in the future. My time at the AAMI was a totally enlightening experience.  Thank you!

Week 7: African American Museum of Iowa

July 9th, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies
Monday: No staff meeting, Claire and I are in Chicago visiting/touring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra archive. Talking to another archivist, and someone who is pursuing archival studies, about how much we love…well, the stuff, organizing, playing detective, and helping people find the information they need. It was great. Maybe I like the technology implementation side a little bit more, because going through 2,000+ photos three times by hand can be a little tedious, but having archival based discussions was really lovely. It makes me seriously consider pursuing archival science in the future.

Tuesday-Wednesday: I continue working through Powell’s paper materials, this time I end up finishing it! I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but Powell was an inventor as well. Much of the paper materials I went though today was patent requests, letters between him and manufacturers, etc. Powell was working on a finger printing game, see?

Wrapped up tight.

Wrapped up tight.

Enough for two boxes, actually!

Enough for two boxes, actually!

But there were also plenty more photo albums and post card albums to go through too, so time was divided between more photocopying, placing paper, and keeping everything in it’s natural order (which is a heaven send, sorry if you’re tired of hearing that!).

Newspaper album no. 1

Newspaper album no. 1

Thursday: Off day! National holiday, and all. I was able to use one of the recipes I had pulled out from an old newspaper from the Powell Collection for a cookout though. Well, I fiddled around with the recipe, but it was well received. Check it out below.

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Friday: Stamps. When you think about it, stamps seem pretty counteractive to archiving. They are built to stick to things. Seeing as a Powell was a stamp collector, I would have to go through the collection and figure out a way to store it, and even if storage was viable. Here’s what I came up with:

PLASTICS
There are five different thermoplastic films used to fabricate mounts, sleeves and pages for displaying stamps and covers:
PET polyethylene terephthalate (marketed as ‘polyester’ or Mylar or Melinex)
PVC polyvinyl chloride

PE polyethylene

PP polypropylene
PS polystyrene
The commonly held notions are that PET is good, i.e., safe to come in contact with philatelic materials, and that PVC is bad. Recent articles by Dr. William E. Souder conclude that these widely accepted ideas are unproven. The following information is based on those findings.
PET - After contacting seven leading international repositories of stamps and other historical documents, Souder concluded that “No standardized scale for measuring the degree of ‘archivalness’ exists.” On the negative side, PET readily degrades in sunlight unless it contains ultraviolet inhibitors that may do damage to stamps. This shouldn’t be an issue for AAMI purposes though, nothing comes into prolonged contact with direct sunlight, thankfully.
PVC - The most controversial of the plastic films considered here. Even though it is one of the oldest and most successful plastics, in use for scores of household products, PVC has been the brunt of environmental and health criticisms and has been cited as destructive to collectible postage stamps. uPVC appears to be free of problems for stamp collectors, and has been used for many years without any serious issues. Dr. Souder’s article on three year oven testing shows that uPVC performed equally as well as the other commonly used films. Only pPVC and glassine performed unacceptably.

PE
 - Polyethylene films are highly flexible and are somewhat cloudy which preclude their use as mounts. However, they are easy to fabricate into cover protestors and are relatively inexpensive. They begin to soften at 150-2300F, well above the expected usage conditions of the films.

PP
 - Polypropylene films have high flexibility with acceptable clarity, and they soften and degrade at high temperatures, similar to PET films. In the three year oven test, PP films performed very well.

PS
 - Polystyrene films are relatively rigid and very clear. However, at elevated temperatures, they tend to shrink and buckle.
STAMP HINGES
All stamp hinges manufactured in the United States tested very acidic. If we use hinges, we have to test each new package on inexpensive stamps. When the applied hinge is thoroughly dry, you remove the stamp and note the peelability of the hinge and whether or not a residue is left on the stamp after the hinge has been removed. Some hinges will leave a residue on the stamp when peeled off, while others will actually thin the stamp when removed. The Arthur Salm Foundation of Chicago has tested philatelic paper products for their archival qualities, and stamp hinges found some interesting results, C.M.C., Western Stamp, and La Mor all had a 0% chance of leaving a residue, but their pH varried between 4.79 and 5.29, this is an acceptable range, but the ideal (neutral) is 7. The closest found was Novofold at 7.11 with a ‘poor’ percentage chance of leaving a residue.
STOCK SHEETS
The following test results by the Salm Foundation indicate that most stock sheets have a pH of less than 7. All are in the acceptable range.
Stockbook by Lighthouse     pH 5.78
Black Sheets by Hanger     pH 6.56
White 8419 by Davo     pH 6.69
White Sheets by Hagner     pH 6.72
Manilla sheets by Master     pH 7.88
White manilla strips by Harco     pH 8.23
Only three album page interleaves were tested. All proved satisfactory for conservation purposes:
#3311 by Stanley Gibbons     pH 5.26
#322 by Stanley Gibbons     pH 5.35
interleaves by Harco     pH 5.88
CORNER MOUNTS AND STAMP MOUNTS
With clear mounting corners used on a cover on an exhibition or album page, no part of the item is obscure. The use of corner mounts is very pleasing aesthetically, but mounting corners can easily place too much stress on a relatively small portion of the mounted item, stress which could cause the item to tear. Corner mounts for covers do provide a completely reversible mounting system.

Now that you know how most people would narrow down ways to archive/store stamps, you have to consider the time and funds you have to do this. I was able to separate…about 80% of free floating stamps from one another, but some of Powell’s collection was already stuck to paper, then mounted, or just flat out stuck so hard together, it would require a chemical solution to even think about prying them apart. This requires money and knowledge out of my range, so I did my best, separated what I could, and stored it as I would a photo, hoping that the less acidic paper and controlled humidity/temperature of the Collections room would keep the glue on the back of the stamps from activating and sticking to the paper of the storage sleeve. Alas, sometimes you have to wait on the technical details or higher-ups taking a look at a collection and its historical value.

It’s all in a day’s work!

Finished stamp collection.

Finished stamp collection.

Week 6: African American Museum of Iowa

July 2nd, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Monday – Wednesday: Staff meeting on Monday, as usual. After finishing the Virgil Powell Collection photos, I can start on his papers. Now, that’s a very vague term because those six colored tubs of materials I mentioned last post? They were full of his papers. This means everything from invention designs and newspaper clippings to a fingerprinting game prototypes and land surveying maps. There were also several photo albums and a considerable stamp collection, but those I’ll get to later. I begin sorting and disposing the considerable amount of newspaper clippings first. Disposing seems like the opposite of what an archivist should be doing, right? True! Except in the case of newspaper. Newspaper is highly acidic, and with individual newspapers making efforts to digitize their publications, microfilm archives, etc. it isn’t practical to keep them in a larger collection like this. It is then my job to separate all these from the collection, photocopy them, and return to sorting the larger collection. The photocopies will then go into the working collection so that people can come in and study them. I become good friends with the copier again! If the newspaper materials are small (8 1/2 x 11) those can be placed in an archival folder and in a box with any other paper material that is relevant, much like what you saw the photos were housed in. If the material is oversized, it gets to go in an oversized folder for storage at a later time.

You thought I was joking when I said oversized.

You thought I was joking when I said oversized.

11 x 17 newspaper photocopies.

11 x 17 newspaper photocopies.

Just a smidgen of the paper materials, sorted. You can see a bit of the oversize photocopies in there, along with everything else.

Just a smidgen of the paper materials, sorted. You can see a bit of the oversize photocopies in there, along with everything else.

Thursday: A break from newspaper work, because I return to the display case. Lynn was out for a couple days at a conference, so the writing portion of the display never made it up. Once she got back, I got back to work designing an attractive and interesting way to display the information. I wrote some exhibit labels too. I recommend Beverly Serrell’s Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach if you’re interested on what makes for a good label.

Label process.

Label process.

Poster process.

Poster process.

Final display.

Final display.

If you’re interested on the quick write up I did on the busts, there is an article on it in the Iowa Griot.
Friday: I work from the free newspaper clippings and much paper material to some of the scrap books Powell kept in the same containers. Scrapbooks are nice because they have a natural order, everything stays as is, nothing is dismantled, and my only job is to really look through, document anything that is missing from the photo collection, and house any loose items. Remember that tissue paper I was talking about a couple posts ago? That is where it comes into the process. Any free items in the book that are paper goods will be wrapped in that paper to help with the acidity issues of paper touching (often different kinds of paper too).  Loose photos are stored in a sleeve, just like all other photos, but inserted back into the book. After a book is complete, you wrap the book up and store that as well!

Photo album progress.

Photo album progress.

I make my way through a couple books and Claire Solak comes in, as summer camp is coming up and we may need extra hands on deck. While Claire works, and convinces Lynn to give me Monday off so we can go to Chicago, I work on journal of Powell’s. The journal was dated 1910 and stuffed full of folded up, delicate papers. This is kind of a treasure trove as far as archives go. Cool aged materials that sections may not have seen the light in 100 years? Perfect. Working through the book, which is small, you’ll see, takes hours. There aren’t any lost Cedar Rapids treasure maps, instead it seems to be a maths notebook from Virgil’s childhood. Still very cool.

Flattened and finished journal.

Flattened and finished journal.

By the time I finished the journal Claire and Lynn tell me that I get Monday off, because Claire and I are going to visit the Chicago Symphony Orchestra archive! Claire was making the trip to donate 95lbs of materials (handbills, mostly) from the  Cornell Archive to theirs, and they were kind enough to offer a tour in gratitude. Awesome, and definitely nerdy, weekend planned.

Week 5: African American Museum of Iowa

June 25th, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Monday starts off with a staff meeting, the rest of the week I keep chugging along sorting the Powell Collection photos. I end up finishing on Friday, and even get to go home a bit early, which was fantastic, because an archivist’s job is never done! It’s a double edged sword. Cornell alum (and previous Small Fellow) Claire Solak and I discuss this often. Because I have such giving staff to answer questions, etc. here at the museum, and Claire back in Mount Vernon the sorting process is very much an in-the-zone kind of job, but hardly mindless. Much consideration goes into it, as I won’t always be here to answer questions on why I sorted the collection photos the way I have, what went into my decision making process re: what may be a still life photo or what may be a vacation photo. Because this week was very heavy on moving through materials, and I did the same task all week, I don’t have too much to share, but here’s a little look at how the photo collection ended up being sorted.

Here are a couple of the tubs that the whole Virgil Powell Collection came in. There were 6 of these, plus a taller green rub (by about 1/4th the height of a regular tub) that housed the photo collection previous to storing.

Here are a couple of the tubs that the whole Virgil Powell Collection came in. There were 6 of these, plus a taller green rub (by about 1/4th the height of a regular tub) that housed the photo collection previous to storing.

The collection is stored in sleeves, then boxes, which are organized re: the finding guide.

The collection is stored in sleeves, then boxes, which are organized re: the finding guide.

At the end of the photo collection I came up with nine very full boxes.

At the end of the photo collection I came up with nine very full boxes.

I looked like this all week!

I looked like this all week!

On Friday when I was all done, I wrote a finding guide. Here is what that looked like:

Finding Aid: Virgil Powell Collection – Photographs

Box 1:
Folder 1: Professional work – Police Portraiture
Folder 2: Professional work – Police Documentation
Folder 3: Professional work – Professional Portraits of Virgil Powell
Folder 4: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Vacation

Box 2:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Vacation
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Still Life

Box 3:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Still Life
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Architecture / Landscape
Folder 3: Personal work – Amateur photography – Architecture / Landscape

Box 4:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Animals
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Activity – Leisure
Folder 3: Personal work – Amateur photography – Activity – Physical
Folder 4: Personal work – Amateur photography – Activity – Vehicular

Box 5:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Portraits (1)
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Portraits (1)

Box 6:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Portraits (1)

Box 7:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Portraits (1)
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Duos (2)
Folder 3: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Duos (2)

Box 8:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Trios (3)
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Quads (4)

Box 9:
Folder 1: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Groups (5+)
Folder 2: Personal work – Amateur photography – Family and Friends – Groups (5+)
Folder 3: Personal work – Amateur photography – Photos of Documentation

Week 4: African American Museum of Iowa

June 18th, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Monday: A staff meeting is implemented by our new director Michael. We use this time to catch up with everyone working, to see where they are in their projects, what kind of events the museum might be hosting this week, etc. Afterwards, I return to the back and get to work redoing all the work I’d done the Friday before. It’s a long day, but I power through uploading everything that was done before and converting every video to a pretty universally friendly format too. It’s a good day, productivity wise!

Tuesday: It’s the really cool project that I couldn’t wait to tell you all about! Realistically, everything is cool, but it had been a bit since I had any of the exhibition and label writing skills segment of my internship, so this kind of ‘break’ felt more exciting, I suppose. I worked on the display case in the front lobby of the museum, where we would be showcasing something new. The new piece to be put out was actually seven pieces, seven  busts that were a part of The Old Taylor Distillery Company bourbon whisky promotion campaign from the late 1960s-1970s. For $5 you could buy a sculptured  bust of an ingenious American. They belonged to Mrs. Gerolyn Banks, a  teacher who used them as instructional tools in her classroom. I spent a good part of the day playing detective and finding as much about the company, the promotion, and notable figures themselves as possible. I also continued working through the Powell Collection photos.

Wednesday: My research on the Old Taylor busts comes to fruition! My site mentor and curator Lynn help me move out all the old display case materials, as well as preparing the case for the new display. You have to clean everything, cut a new placemat, and secure it, then begin organization.

Pricey plastic on the left.

Pricey plastic on the left, cutting tools on the right.

The brush is for cleaning the plastic and display base, the fancy wax for securing the plastic, and the spatula, while a pretty multifaceted tool when working in archives, helps secure the plastic as well.

The brush is for cleaning the plastic and display base, the wax for securing the plastic, and the spatula, while a pretty multifaceted tool when working in archives, helps secure the plastic as well.

Busts are to be handled with great care, just as any other collections item. I was essentially cradling the busts like a child, supporting all weight equally, and close of the chest.

Busts are to be handled with great care, just as any other collections item. I was essentially cradling the busts like a child, supporting all weight equally, and close of the chest.

The actual organization of this case is one of the most stressful things I’ve done during my internship. Fun fact! As with much else in life, sometimes you just have to MacGyver it. The goal is to make your vision as simply, quickly, and effectively as possible. So I try many different arrangements to make sure each bust can be seen clearly from as many angles as possible in an aesthetically pleasing manner, while leaving room for my write up on the busts and their history, as well as exhibit labels.

Getting a feel for how I'd like to lay the case out.

Getting a feel for how I’d like to lay the case out.

A little bit more concrete of an idea, with the busts in place.

A little bit more concrete of an idea, with the busts in place.

I end up being unhappy with this layout, seek help from Lynn (Curator) and Michelle (Education), and they find me more materials to play with until I have a much better idea of what I’m looking for.

Thursday and Friday: I return to setting up the display case, and settle on a layout! All the busts are placed, though with no write up yet, and I return to the Virgil Powell Collection photos to continue sorting. When I thought that digitizing and putting the photos into sleeves was time consuming, this process is even more so. As I noted in the last blog entry, the lack of natural order and sheer volume and breadth of the collection makes the task a little daunting. The collection photos range from the late 1800s to about 1989. Over 100 years of history seems like a drop in the bucket when you’re looking from a historical perspective, as I was, before becoming much more acquainted with archival procedure, but it really is immense, even when a collection is just from one man. I feel like when still at the beginning of this process, the sorting of the collection, I didn’t understand why sorting couldn’t take place during digitization. It seemed more efficient. With Felicite’s guidance I quickly realized that if you don’t take ‘small’ steps first, when working with any collection, the work can quickly become overbearing, and you can burn out quickly.

Week 3: African American Museum of Iowa

June 11th, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Okay, remember when I said I digitized over 900 photos for the Virgil Powell Collection? According to my digital output (sometimes you scan the backs of images too, if there is important information written on them, but for this collection that was a rare thing), I actually digitized over 2,000. When you spend 8 hours standing around and scanning items, you get into a rhythm, and uh, maybe lose track of how much work you’re really getting done.

Virgil Powell, courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa

Virgil Powell, courtesy of the African American Museum of Iowa

That is one of the images I digitized, which isn’t online yet. Shh. When his materials go live online, I highly suggest checking them out. Or better yet, make your way to the museum. Powell is an incredibly interesting man. Outside of his professional work, he was an amateur photographer and author. That should give you a bit of insight as to why we have over 2,000 photos. A lot of the time Powell was playing around with filters, so we have Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow versions of the ‘same’ photos. Don’t worry, we only digitize one. Realistically, just his photo collection is probably closer to 2,500+ than anything else. Oh, and don’t get me started on the documents! Writers. They love drafts.

Everyone else blogging seems to be giving you a breakdown of the research they’re doing, so I thought I’d give a bit of a breakdown as to what my weeks are normally like.

Monday: A staff meeting is implemented by our new director Michael. Our old director (and one of the founders of the museum) Tom, retired after my second week. Tom was great, kind and patient, so while I still enjoy seeing him around the museum sometimes, I’m in the firm camp that he should be at home relaxing or golfing. Returning to Michael and our new staff meetings though. Essentially, the meetings are to give everyone a look at what everyone else is doing for the week. Even interns are required to go, and we’re kind of treated like staff, which was something I wasn’t really expecting. We have the option to lead the meeting, etc. It’s new, and while there have only been two, I’m wondering if they don’t waste more time than anything else. For an archivist, an hour to an hour and a half handling materials can really make a difference in a project. If I’m working with the Virgil Powell Collection, I can probably get 200-300 photos sorted in that time. But hey, when you’re on the management side of things, I can see needing to be on the same page as everyone else. Education people are doing very different things than I do, so are the people writing grants (and by people I mean person, and his name is Grant), etc. Ah, office politics.

After the meeting, I usually work on the oral histories. I’m working on two, Adult Voices and The Only One. Let me say something first. I’m obsessed with storytelling. I love it. I’m double majoring in History and Classical studies because I believe they’re the vehicles use use to tell our stories, how we shape the world. When I heard that the museum had collected oral histories I was kind of over the moon. I wanted to work with those, ASAP. Having them as one of my big projects was perfect, especially with my strong background in technology. Now, I’m specifically here at the museum to learn about curatorial and archival best practices within the context of a historical museum, and while I talk about my work with the Powell Collection a lot, and it is kind of the traditional archival work, proper digital storage, maintenance, organization methods are incredibly important in a museum. That is what I have been doing with the oral histories. There are 100+ of them, and they were done by different people, at different times, and taken in different formats. For a tech person, you just kind of have to sigh, especially when your museum software (Past Perfect) only likes certain kinds of file formats. So I start from the bottom up. I take the boxes that have transcripts and the disks (they’ve all been put on to DVDs, thank goodness!) and start to rip them onto the computer. None of the transcripts are digital, but luckily some of them are already online. I take those, make .pdfs, and wait for each disk to rip. I considered .doc files, but who is to say everyone will be running Office, or that someone may not delete a segment on accident? Another plus, .pdfs are relatively streamline.

These oral histories are videos of various lengths, and they come off the disk as .VOB files. Over the past two weeks (weeks 2 and 3), all the files are ripped…relatively successfully.

Tuesday: Felicite is in! Felicite is a consulting archivist. She works on the computer that I normally do with the Past Perfect software, adding search terms, updating the archives, etc. She makes sure everything digital reflects our actual holdings to the best of our ability, and that means everything from taking an object and measuring its dimensions to identifying people in various collection photos. While Felicite is working, I work on other things. Mainly the Virgil Powell Collection. After digitizing the collection, now it is time to start to sort, house, and organize. Traditionally, you keep the natural order of a collection, which is how you received the collection from the donor. The Powell Collection had no natural order, so it is up to me to figure something out. Which is what I started this week (week 4), but we’ll get to that later. Instead I spend all of Tuesday and Thursday putting 2,000+ photos into sleeves. Sleeves are what I call photo envelopes.

Wednesday: Return to the oral histories! Troubleshoot should probably be my middle name, because while I finish the transcripts, and scan in the ones that didn’t exist digitally, many of the files are corrupt. I decide to just finish ripping everything, create a physical log of all the things that need to be done (find master copy, rip file, convert to .wmv, rename, store, upload to Past Perfect, edit metadata).

Thursday: Felicite is back. Felicite works Tuesdays and Thursdays, if you didn’t get that before. So I return to the Powell collection and finish putting everything into photo envelopes.

Friday: Sabryna is in (another consulting archivist who is in most days but works more with objects) and is using the computer for half the day. While she does that I start to sort and organize the Powell Collection. Now, if I’m being honest, I should have probably started to write a finding guide before I started this. Real fast though, this is what a finding guide is. So while I still feel like I should have started a guide before actual sorting and eventual organization, I’ve seen all these photos at least twice, and there was no natural order to speak of, for a life with many interests over a long period of time. Realistically, writing a guide after the fact may be smarter, but time has yet to tell. I decide to break everything up by vague categories, then I’ll keep working my way in to become more and more specific. So I have professional, family, and personal lives. Breakdown becomes more specific per category, and all of this is evolving as I go along. For instance, there is a personal – amateur photography – activity – vehicular folder. This means that these photos were taken by Powell, display an activity, and it involves some kind of moving vehicle. We have personal – amateur photography – still life, personal – amateur photography – architecture and landscapes, personal – amateur photography – activity – leisure, and it goes on and on. While I know there are photos in the collection that just don’t have a set place, like the following, which is really cool but who knows what was happening here. It’s a start.

JAP SUB - 10-15-1943, courtesy of the African American Museum

JAP SUB – 10-15-1943, courtesy of the African American Museum

 

When Sabryna goes home, I go back to the oral histories. I sort and weed out all the corrupt video files! I even upload all the videos to Past Perfect, ignoring all the corrupt videos so I can search for the master copies and hope they aren’t damaged as well. At 3:54pm Past Perfect won’t respond (this isn’t a big deal, sometimes systems get a little stressed out when you’re running large programs, ripping large videos, and converting other large videos all at the same time). I leave it be usually, and it take a bit, but everything goes smoothly. I return at 4:00pm and Past Perfect has ‘unexpectedly closed.’ I start up Past Perfect and see that all my uploading work hasn’t been recorded. I take it as a sign to go home, because come on.

That was Week 3. You get the idea though, because I powered through researching and revising outdated museum traveling exhibits for re-print, the basic exhibition and label writing skills of the internship as been a little light lately. But no longer! Today (Tuesday of Week 4) I got a really cool project that I can’t wait to tell you all about next week.

Week 2: The African American Museum of Iowa

June 1st, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

Week two at the museum was cut a bit short. Monday was Memorial Day and Friday because of flood warnings, I was told to stay home. So in this short week, I took far more photos to give everyone an idea of what the museum is like. Those are found at the end of this post. Until then, here’s what I did:

  • Started another big project! Work on the Virgil Powell materials. Powell was the first African American police detective in Iowa, as well as an impetus in finger printing in Iowa. Tuesday I digitized over 900 photos and documents that have been donated to the museum from his life.
  • Wednesday I divided my time between continuing working on Powell’s materials by beginning to archive all of the newly digitized items and editing other museum materials.
  • Thursday I continued to start to store Powell’s items and returned to working on the oral histories. I finished uploading all the material, and started weeding out the corrupt files so that I can bring down the mater copies of the histories and attempt to get everything in working order. Unfortunately because of flood warnings, this means the museum also went into lock down mode and we moved everything that was up to 6 feet from the ground higher, into the loft and the upper level of the museum to save them if the flooding was going to be as damaging as the flood of 2008.

Holdings room, where I spend most of my time.
Holdings room, where I spend most of my time.

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A little bit of Cornell history. Claire Solak made this during her time at the museum.
A little bit of Cornell history. Claire Solak made this during her time at the museum.

Week 1: The African American Museum of Iowa

June 1st, 2013

Jessika Castillo-Rivera ’14, Small Fellow in Museum Studies

The African American Museum of Iowa exterior

The African American Museum of Iowa exterior

I can’t believe two weeks of my internship area already over. I’m going to split each week into a blog, for simplicity. The first week I spent the majority of my time between several projects. I worked on updating the museum’s traveling exhibits and website, fact checking, researching, and editing. I also worked a bit in their library, focusing on placing newly donated books, and confirming that everything was in order. Finally, I started one of my big projects while I’ll be at the museum: the oral histories project.

A little background on the museum’s traveling exhibitions. They work in conjunction to the Museum’s stated mission to preserve, exhibit, and teach the African American heritage of Iowa. The work I did was mainlining and editing the current projects for easier and more engaging access to patrons. The website work was a little different. I worked on editing the code of the Iowa Roots, Global Impact: The Life and Legacy of George Washington Carver virtual tour. This just means that I made sure everything was working correctly and was properly cited. While these projects gave me background information on Iowa history, it was just the first step to the in depth work that would come with the oral histories.

For the oral histories project I would go through the edited copies of the histories, rip them from the dvds, convert the videos to a viable format, then add them to the archiving software system. After this, I’d convert the transcripts of these histories to a digital format, then .pdf, and add them to the archiving software. Once everything would be added correctly, I’d help them go live online so that patrons would have easy access to the materials instead of having to come into the museum to watch each story. I was only able to work about half a day on this, and the start was rocky. Video files were corrupt and conversion being buggy, but I had faith it would all work out.

Wonky tech. Just a bump on the road.

Wonky tech. Just a bump on the road.

Here are a couple other things I took away from week one:

Half hour lunch breaks are strangely liberating.
My work at Cornell has really prepared me for the technical aspects of the work.
The block plan is a very short amount of time to do as much as we do, I’ve project hopped like crazy because I’m so used to working quickly.

The African American Museum of Iowa sign

The African American Museum of Iowa sign

Fancy parking

A group of 150-ish kids came in, here they are going through the Western Africa exhibit.

A group of 150-ish kids came in, here they are going through the Western Africa exhibit.

 

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