Project Completion

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The project processed the records and papers of forty-seven unique collections amassed from a 120 accessions to the archives over several decades. The collections consist of both departmental and college records and the personal papers and research of university administrators and faculty. A complete listing of the collections follows below.

The completed finding aids for the collections are available for searching online through the University of Minnesota Archives.


Departmental and College Records
4-H Records, (Collection #17)
Agricultural Extension Service Records, (Collection #935)
Cedar Creek Natural History Area Records, (Collection #238)
Cereal Rust Laboratory Records, (Collection #37)
Cloquet Forestry Center Records, (Collection #341)
College of Agriculture Records, (Collection #922)
College of Forestry Records, (Collection #942)
College of Home Economics Records, (Collection #182)
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics Records, (Collection #32)
Department of Agricultural Biochemistry Records, (Collection #583)
Department of Agricultural Education Records, (Collection #31)
Department of Agricultural Engineering Records, (Collection #339)
Department of Agricultural Short Courses Records, (Collection #1064)
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics Records, (Collection #36)
Department of Animal Husbandry Records, (Collection #471)
Department of Dairy Husbandry Records, (Collection #340)
Department of Ecology and Behavioral Biology Records, (Collection #460)
Department of Entomology and Economic Zoology Records, (Collection #938)
Department of Family Social Science Records, (Collection #1192)
Department of Food Science and Nutrition Records, (Collection #16)
Department of Forest Products Records, (Collection #944)
Department of Horticultural Science Records, (Collection #30)
Department of Information and Agricultural Journalism Publications, (Collection #141)
Department of Soils Records, (Collection #173)
Department of Zoology Records, (Collection #910)
Farm and Home Week Records, (Collection #499)
Itasca Biological Station and Laboratory Records, (Collection #585)
Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Records, (Collection #932)
North Central Experiment Station Records, (Collection #125)
Northeast Experiment Station Records, (Collection #1195)
Northwest Experiment Station and School Records, (Collection #1194)
Office of International Agricultural Programs Records, (Collection #929)
School of Agriculture Records, (Collection #343)
Southern Experiment Station Records, (Collection #133)
West Central School of Agriculture and Experiment Station Records, (Collection #580)


Faculty and Administrators Personal Papers
Clyde H. Bailey Papers, (Collection #361)
Sherwood O. Berg Papers, (Collection #42)
Andrew Boss Papers, (Collection #686)
Charles R. Burnham Papers, (Collection #1030)
Walter Castella Coffey Papers, (Collection #699)
Laddie Joe Elling Papers, (Collection #1191)
Theodore August Erickson Papers, (Collection #712)
Edward M. Freeman Papers, (Collection #372)
Alexander Granovsky Papers, (Collection #59)
Albert J. Linck Papers, (Collection #90)
Harold Macy Papers, (Collection #273)
G. Edward Schuh Papers, (Collection #1189)

Finding Aids Online

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Here is a list of updated finding aids that are now available on the University Archives website as of June 9, 2011:

The Timeline

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It has been quite some time since the last blog post, our apologies. There was Christmas break when we struggled to get surveys done and wrap up collections that had been finished before break in the month that all the students were out. Then we had an intense push to get to the mid-way point in our processing in alignment with the mid-way point of our project. Spring break resulted in more harried catch up being done by Susan and I.

However, we've been working very hard and getting a lot done. We're down to mostly the large Institution and College level materials now. The University of Minnesota has a notoriously confusing evolution in terms of names, Institution levels, and such. It is with a certain degree of mental exhaustion and pride that I am able to present one of our more recent mini-projects: a timeline showing the evolution of both the College of Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (referred to here as institution level) as well as the lower level colleges of the University of Minnesota throughout it's history.

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Do finding aids help researchers to know what's in a collection?

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The Legacy grants quite rightly place an emphasis on project outcomes. But articulating outcomes can be one of the most difficult parts of writing a grant proposal if you are too near to the topic. Our thinking went something like this: if the collections are processed, they will have finding aids. If they have finding aids, then potential researchers will be able to locate them. If researchers can locate the collections, then they will be used. Use, after all, is our chief objective. And we track use of collections carefully.

But how do we know that the finding aids are actually working? For this project, we decided it would be interesting to include a brief survey embedded as a link in each finding aid. If the survey was brief enough, potential researchers might respond to our questions and give us valuable feedback that would either confirm or upend our assumptions about the value of finding aids. And while we were at it, we wanted to find out how potential researchers discovered the finding aids in the first place. We settled on these survey questions and will embed a link to the survey into the finding aids themselves as they are completed and posted:

1. I discovered this finding aid by
doing keyword searches on the web
searching the finding aids database at http://special.lib.umn.edu/
searching from the University Archives home page http://special.lib.umn.edu/uarchives
searching the University of Minnesota Library catalog http://lib.umn.edu
following a direct link to the finding aid that an archives staff member referred me to
Other (please specify) ________

2. After reviewing this finding aid, I have a better sense than I did before about what is available at University Archives (options - strongly agree through strongly disagree)

3. The information in this finding aid helped me decide whether or not this collection will be useful for my research (options - strongly Agree through strongly disagree).

4. What information did you wish was included in the finding aid? ____

5. Please share any comments about the usefulness of the information in the finding aid or the format or presentation of the finding aid. ____

We're curious to see if anyone responds!

The Taming of the Schuh...

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The G.E. Schuh papers started out as five separate accessions University Archives accumulated between 2000 and 2009. The five accessions combined totaled 171 cubic feet, a large amount of material by project standards. Three of the accessions had box lists at various levels of comprehensiveness, from folder level details to broad - two or three word-- subject descriptions. One of the larger accessions--47 record cartons--had no box list at all. Each of the accessions contained one or more processing "opportunities": duplicate copies of talks and presentations, out of scope materials, unfoldered and undated materials, mildewed papers. In addition, several accessions contained duplicates of the same talks and presentations. Dr. Schuh was a popular speaker who regularly repurposed talks over time for new audiences. All of the accretions were going to be merged into a single collection, and we are processing all of our collections minimally. This meant reducing surveying time as well as processing time. Chances for having big pockets of duplicate materials lodged in the final merged collection loomed large.

At the same time that we were sizing up the accession contents, we had other situations to address. Processing began on the heels of hiring our student workers. None had processing experience before working on Harvesting Minnesota. We had limited time to train them on processing procedures before assigning them to work on the different Schuh accessions. We had to put them directly to work. The project supervisors, while not new to processing, were new to minimal processing, so trying to determine what to retain for the final merged collection and what to recycle required surveying time that we didn't have.

To buy a bit of time, we put students into different accessions and had them weed out- of-scope materials. Dr. Schuh was an exceptional saver of reports and print materials from the large numbers of organizations and associations he participated in. We had students weed these from each collection first. This gave us the chance to focus on helping students identify out of scope material, until they could distinguish what was Schuh's and what was of interest to him but that he did not create. What that meant was that we actually ended up going through each accession twice: once to remove what was out of scope, and a second time to remove duplicates within and among accessions and to folder, date and enhance folder titles. An added challenge was that we had different students working on different sections of five collections every shift. Keeping track of what had been done by each student entailed using post-it notes on record cartons with check boxes for stages of physical processing and box-listing, and space for student's initials and dates.

The two project supervisors stayed ahead--mostly--of the students by surveying for duplicates across the five accessions. For box- listed accessions, we looked at the lists to get an idea of where runs of the shape-shifting talks and presentations were located and pulled duplicate runs to the best of our ability.

After physically processing the accessions for five weeks (50.5 student hours per week and 13.5 staff hours surveying and processing for a total 342.5 hours ) we had each accession processed and box listed. We merged all of the box lists and assigned series essentially based on date. Specific date ranges represented Schuh's long-term affiliations with Purdue University, the University of Minnesota's Applied Economics Department and Humphrey Institute, and the World Bank. Once the box list folder titles could be compared, we had a fighting chance of identifying duplicates and removing them. Onel notable downside to this work arrangement is that we had to change box lists after removing duplicates, essentially undoing some of what we had spent time doing. We can't account for how much time we ate up this way, but without more intensive surveying time at the front end of processing, there was no other way to tackle identifying and weeding duplicates.

Efficiencies learned on the Schuh papers we have put to good use. We now have detailed checklists for all current accessions. We can consult these to ask follow-up questions about who processed what and get information about the range of time it took to get through a collection. Best of all, we were able, through intensive weeding to reduce the overall collection size from 171 cubic feet to 52 cubic feet.
It was a challenging way to cut our processing teeth. We had to invent record-keeping methods as we needed them and coach ourselves on how to be true to bedrock minimal processing standards while shaping an unwieldy group of accessions into a collection. The end--in this case a considerable reduction in collection size -- justified the means.
And we got some good one-liners out of the experience. Consider "On with the Schuh", "If the Schuh fits, put it on the shelf" and references to "Schuh boxes", "Schuh sizes" and "Schuh-ins."

We have larger and possibly more complicated collections lying ahead for processing. We'll attempt to improve on our experiences with the Schuh papers: for now we are pleased to put collection 1189 on the shelf.

Collection Size and Managing Student Work

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It's proven to be tricky corralling everyone and getting projects to keep everyone busy while trying to maintain our forward momentum. When Susan and I began in the late summer, the students slowly trickled in. This gave us time to try to feel out our surroundings and get a system going. Each student was given a small collection to start processing. This repeated for a round or two while the G. Edward Schuh Papers were surveyed. This collection spanned 5 accessions and 176 cubic feet of material.
We fazed all of our manpower into weeding, processing, and box listing this single collection. The weeks of Schuh blur together now, however, eventually we found that tiny light at the end of the tunnel.

It was about at this point that we realized since we had everyone working on this one collection, we did not have quite as many collections surveyed and ready for the students as would have made us comfortable. So again we dished out a few smaller collections, essentially buying us time to get our sealegs back. Susan and I trained one of our particularly detail oriented students in the art of surveying collections, which has proven to tremendously help even out the work flow. After the Christmas break we
will be training one or two additional students on surveying in order to continue to open up our options when it comes time to begin a new collection.desks.JPGshelving.JPG

Another piece of the puzzle was the installation of our new shelving units. We have more than doubled the storage in our workspace, which will allow us to bring up the larger collections with less hassle. Here are a few pictures of what our space looks like with the new shelving and the rearranged desks.

We look toward December with the expectation of surveying and processing a few of the larger, more higher priority collections.

The Office

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This post is a series of pictures showing a bit of the environment that surrounds us every day. This is the room all of the collections get processed in. Though this project doesn't get use of the whole room, Susan, myself, and our students do occupy a majority of the space as well as three out of the four rows of shelving. We have available to us in this room: 2 laptops, 2 desktop computers, and about 9 1/2 tables (the half table accounting for the table we share with another project's desktop computer), and 3 rows of shelving.

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Checklists

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The realization that having a checklist for keeping track of where we are with each of the collections we are processing has come a bit late to our workshop. Nine weeks into the project, with nine collections- about 500 record cartons-- physically processed, I'm thinking that we can't keep all of the pieces of the process on just our on-line tracking forms and written processing plans. It makes sense that we would have one piece of paper in one place--literally--for each collection that broadly outlines what has been completed in each collection and what remains to be done.

When our project group first started meeting, I was looking for ways to make sense of the work that lay ahead. Not having worked on a project this large and multi-faceted before, my head was buzzing trying to visualize managing different tasks at different times in different collections. A common denominator, though, was that each collection we worked on had the same basic steps: get lots of record cartons into our work space, keep them separate and accessible, keep track of where one student left off physically processing and another started up, verify that all processing steps were complete, and confirm that the processed collection went to the right storage shelf. Karen Spilman created a check-list after our first group meeting, with a list of processing components, a place for names and dates, and check boxes for when each processing task was complete. But in the updraft of the first weeks, we didn't use it, relying instead on a color coded activities spread sheet and our white board with student work assignments to keep track of the work going on around us. Val MacDonald created the spread sheet the first week of the project, and it works well rendering a snapshot of where each collection is at the end of the week. But neither of these tools allowed us to see at a glance what steps were complete, who completed them, and what remained to be done.

After completing physical processing of a particularly large and complicated collection, our project group--Beth Kaplan, Karen, Val and myself --got together for our weekly meeting. I said that it seemed time to try checklists to keep track of all of the distributed work at the end of each day. I had missed integrating several print publications into one of the collections, and I thought that having a checklist would help me remember to do some of the more peripheral things we need to do, like checking map cases and print collections for print materials for possible inclusion in the archival collections. Beth remarked about a book she had read by a surgeon--Atul Gawande--emphasizing the importance of checklists in preventing surgical errors. (Go to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122226184 for more on Gawande and The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.)

Apparently, there is something about having an unwaivering routine that helps drive a process forward and insure that nothing is forgotten in the push to complete the task. So Val and I are reclaiming the checklist and redrawing it so that we can address some of the steps that didn't appear in the original mock-up. Click here to see what we came up with. I'll try to comment again in a few weeks on how it is working.

Here is a brief excerpt from the NPR article. While no one's life depends on our checklist being followed, our work is complex, and missing a step because of the complexity creates confusion. If having a simple project-tailored checklist makes our processing more efficient, we'll do it.

"Our great struggle in medicine these days is not just with ignorance and uncertainty," Gawande says. "It's also with complexity: how much you have to make sure you have in your head and think about. There are a thousand ways things can go wrong." At the heart of Gawande's idea is the notion that doctors are human, and that their profession is like any other.

"We miss stuff. We are inconsistent and unreliable because of the complexity of care," he says. So Gawande imported his basic idea [creating a pre-surgical check list] from other fields that deal in complex systems."

posted on Susan's behalf

Processing the School of Agriculture Collection

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One of the first collections we brought up to be processed was the School of Agriculture collection. When we brought it up it consisted of 16 collection numbers: 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 610, 618, 624, 626, 629, 666, 799, 983, 988, 992, and 2010-0041, in addition to all the materials from the print collection. There was about 35.6 cubic feet of material, in total, prior to processing.

The School of Agriculture collection deals with the high school that was created by the University. It deals primarily with the school that existed in St. Paul, although later on different schools were erected in different cities throughout the state. The collection spans over 100 years, extending from the 1850's to the 1970's. The materials span a wide range of topics including: a list of colors of the graduating classes, handwritten ledgers of records from the school's various clubs, commencement programs, and yearbooks, to name a few.

I started off by surveying the collection, looking at all of the various collections and trying to understand what made up each individual collection. During this process I filled out the survey forms we'd created to explain the physical condition and types of materials found in each section. The next step was synthesizing all that information into a processing plan for bringing all of the collections together into one. It ended up that most of the individual collections contained one fairly specific type of material-and that was how we ended up defining series. I identified what would be 7 series the materials would be sorted into: History, Correspondence, Club Files, Miscellaneous, Student Projects, Publications, and Scrapbooks. From this point, one of our students took over and physically processed the materials, ordered the boxes, and listed the materials, by folder, in Excel. I took over from there and finished up the EAD formatting. As it stands now, this collection is currently waiting for the finishing touches before it becomes available online.

With all the physical processing done, the collection now consists of 29 cubic feet of material synthesized into one collection. The student and I together have spent about 35 and three-quarters hours from the initial surveying to the EAD formatting. Approximately 30 and a half of those hours were spent doing the physical processing, rearranging, and box listing.

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From the Green Revolution to Harvesting Minnesota

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I'm Susan Hoffman, the Project Archivist for the Harvesting Minnesota's Agricultural collections. Prior to beginning this project, I was the project archivist for University Archive's Green Revolution project. That project began in the fall of 2007, and was my introduction to issues, practices and politics at the intersection of agriculture, research, international development, business and education. It was also the first time I had been responsible for processing a subject-oriented collection comprised of multiple smaller personal and organizational collections. Each collection was fully--as opposed to minimally--processed. I spent many hours describing and organizing a vast swath of materials--field notebooks, photographs, correspondence, reports-- generated by three generations of men and women involved in crop breeding research leading up to the Green Revolution. I had excellent supervision from Karen Spilman, but I worked solo on the collections, making decisions about arrangement and description based on having my hand and eye on most every document in each of over one hundred and twenty odd record cartons that came to me incrementally as part of the Green Revolution collection.

With this new project, the processing requirements and conditions have swung 180 degrees. Instead of working by myself, I now work with a cadre of six student processors and Val MacDonald, the project assistant, an experienced processor and savvy computer user. We have a massive amount of material to process, over 1760 cubic feet in storage. The fraction we work on each week take up most of the third floor processing room in Andersen Library. The collections run the gamut from very small--single folders in the case of now-extinct School of Agricultural --to over 300 record cartons (Beekeeping in the department of Entomology and Economic Zoology.) We process several collections simultaneously, meaning that we have collections in all phases of processing--surveying, physical processing, box listing-- going on at any given moment. Perhaps most importantly, our task is to work minimally with the materials. That involves learning what types of materials are in departmental and personal collections, what needs to stay in the collection, what can be discarded, and how to describe and organize what remains. None of us gets to touch every document, define a folder's exact content, or re-arrange materials to create both intellectual and physical connections.
I had some experience with minimal processing several years ago during an Archives and Special Collections processing project, as did Val. In our future posts, we'll talk about how that experience informed our current work, as well as other issues related to managing a large minimal processing project. We'll talk about student training, weekly planning, resources, dealing with mistakes, and what we are learning as we go.

Recent Assets

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