Report from the Archives Committee

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As this is the first “Annual Report” of the Archive Committee, a little background is in order. I joined the society about a decade ago and for the first few years made some noise about how the society was being run. Well, the squeaky wheel gets the work. First Rich Stoving asked if I would be willing to become a director. I accepted and started as a director at the spring 2010 director’s meeting. At the next director’s meeting in the fall of 2010 I was asked and accepted the position of Archive Chair.

Little did I know what I was getting into, as I had never even seen the archives. At that time the bulk of the collection was housed at a facility in Mentor, Ohio. The archives filled six storage units and had very little organization. Due to the deteriorating condition of the facility in general, the collection was at risk of irrecoverable damage. Some of the collection had been relocated to a new facility in Wickliffe, Ohio. As per previous practice, the directors worked that Saturday on the archives, moving more material to the new facility and clearing out two of the units at Mentor.

I spent the next month forming a committee by obtaining a NYCSHS roster and mailing out a request for volunteers to about 80 members who lived in the greater Cleveland area. The committee now consists of about a dozen members of which about six are active.

It was obvious that the top priority was to get the collection relocated to the new facility. However, we wanted to do a cursory sorting and indexing as part of this process. The committee’s first work session was October 23, 2010. We relocated all the past issues of the Central Headlight to the new facility, and cleaned and moved 8 of 11 shelving units.

Our second work session was December 2-3, 2010 were we relocated all remaining metal cabinets and shelving to Wickliffe, thinned and relocated Central Headlights and calendars to Wickliffe, thus vacating Mentor unit #12 by year end. The materials at Wickliffe were partially sorted and straightened up. With this December work session we commenced regular two day bi-monthly work sessions.

At our work session held February 4-5, 2011, we purchased and installed eight new shelving units at the Wickliffe facility to support models, artifacts and maps. On March 12, 2011, we hauled a switch stand and crossing lights to the National New York Central Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, thus vacating Mentor unit #10 by end of first quarter 2011.

At the April 8-9, 2011 work session, we sorted and briefly indexed 269 boxes of the Charlie Smith materials. This included 145 boxes of drawings, 68 boxes of paper items. Relocated to Wickliffe were 40 boxes of pictures, films, books and models.

At the June 3 -4, 2011 work session we sorted and briefly indexed the remainder of the materials at Mentor. This included 62 boxes of drawings and 33 boxes of other paper items. Another 19 boxes of books, photos, models, CD’s and DVD’s were relocated to the Wickliffe facility. All remaining materials at Mentor were relocated into one unit and thus another unit at Mentor vacated.

At the August 5-6, 2011 work session we sorted the boxes relocated from Mentor during previous work sessions into like materials. This included 39 boxes of photographs, 8 boxes of bound books, 1 box of films. An index listing was made of the box of films. We unpacked 35 boxes of photographs, loose folders of photographs were organized into file cabinets, photographs in binders were organized onto the shelves. Preliminary index listings were created as the items were processed. We unpacked 2 boxes of books; again a preliminary index listing was created. An accession form was created and utilized for 22 of the boxes unpacked and another eight boxes that are still packed.

At the fall NYCSHS director’s meeting on September 23, 2011, we completely relocated the remaining 325 boxes from Mentor to Wickliffe. The facility at Mentor was finally vacated. Directors sorted materials, models and labeled items with historic information.

At the October 7-8, 2011 work session we inventoried and photographed all the models and railroadiana to the item level.

With the December 2011 work session we commenced monthly rather than bi-monthly work sessions. At the December 2-3, 2011 work session we completed the inventory of all boxes in units 529, 535 and 538. We also inventoried the master copies of the Central Headlight.

We began the new year continuing the work to sort and catalog the archives. At the January 6-7, 2012 work session we completed the inventory of all but a dozen boxes in unit 567. We also sorted and re-inventoried the master copies of the Central Headlight (just to be sure).

At the February 3-4, 2012 work session we completed the inventory at the box level. We also developed a procedure for scanning the master copies of the Central Headlight.

At this point the committee has completed the relocation of the collection to the new facility. We have rough sorted the materials by media type, and serialized all boxes. All the materials have been indexed at the box level, but not yet at the item level. We have also indexed all models and railroadia at the item level.

In addition the chairman has tracked and recorded the attendance and activity of all work sessions. The chairman has also researched archive management by reading five publications of the SAA Society of American Archivists, and started the beginnings of an EAD finding aid. We have started an Archive procedures document that includes security procedures, as well as developed an accession form for the recording of materials upon receipt.

Now that we have secured the collection and have a rough idea of its contents, we can move forward with some projects to make the materials available to the society. Some potential projects are:

  • Digitize all past issues of the Central Headlights, make DVD’s available for sale
  • Digitize the valuation maps, make and publish index, sell copies on CD similar to drawings
  • Digitize Photos, make and publish index, sell copies on CD similar to drawings
  • Include specials: Vail’s collection, Glass, Slides, Dispatch Shops
  • Digitize 16mm Films, make DVD’s available for sale
  • Sort and generate finding aid for NYCSHS archives
  • Create EAD finding aids, post on internet
  • Work thru Drawings, verify status of scan

Any NYCSHS member is welcome to become a member of the Archive Committee. For now, our work sessions are the first concurrent Friday and Saturday of the month. If you are interested, please contact the Archive Chair Charles Beargie.

Besides additional committee members, we will also be looking for a future chair. I do not plan on being “chair for life.” I still work for a living, up to 60 hours a week, and travel for work up to 50% of the time. My time available to contribute to the Society is not what the position demands. I was the right person with the right skill set to form a committee, get the collection relocated, and get it sorted and indexed to the current level. Someone with more time and better archive management skills is now needed to take it to the next level. My current term as a director ends in the spring of 2013. By that time I plan on stepping down as Archive Chair and handing the reins over to a successor.

Thank you for your interest and support of the society.

—Charles Beargie
Archive Chair, NYCSYS

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