Last week for my post on archives in the news I talked about, what I considered, the unethical treatment afforded to researchers by local and state repositories. Next week’s readings include Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Code of Ethics and Core Values Statement, the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Code of Ethics, and Philip P. Mason’s “The Ethics of Collecting,” which continues this theme of ethical archival work.
Mason’s 1977 article in Georgia Archive addressed prominent ethical issues in the archival field, among which were thefts from one’s own repository, defaming other archives to gain preference from a donor, and bribing donors with money or academic accolades. Mason’s primary reason for publishing this article was to draw attention within the field to what he considered serious ethical dilemmas in the hopes that archival leaders, like the Society of American Archivists, might establish a set of rules to curtail them. The concerns Mason raised in this article were interesting to read about, and although it has been forty years since this article’s publication, I wonder how many of these issues persist in the present? Do archivists still slander and libel other repositories to encourage donations? Paying donors for certain collections seems like a customary practice if the donor requests such payment, but do archives still encourage donations via monetary or academic rewards, like honorary degrees?
Among Mason’s final comments was that he hoped organizations like the SAA would codify an ethics standard for the archival profession. The SAA actualized this in 2005 when they approved their Code of Ethics, which they revised again in 2012. They further realized this goal in 2011 when they implemented their Core Values Statement. Other institutions have done this as well, like the Association of College and Research Libraries, which approved their own Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians, first in 1987, and a second time in 1993, and most recently in 2003. Some questions these dates raise for me, however, (with the exception of the ACRL’s Code of Ethics) is why it took nearly thirty years for the Society of American Archivists to codify an ethics statement. Mason cited them specifically in his article in 1977, yet his call for order went seemingly unheard for nearly thirty years. Was there extensive debate within the field prior to this Code of Ethics approval? Who was leading the charge for establishing this set of rules? I’ll certainly be interested in hearing more about this in class come next Wednesday.
 Philip P. Mason, “The Ethics of Collecting,” Georgia Archive, 1977: p. 50.
 Society of American Archivists, “SAA Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics,” Society of American Archivists, http://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics. (Accessed 9/28/17).
 Association of College and Research Libraries, “Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians,” Association of College and Research Libraries, http://rbms.info/standards/code_of_ethics/. (Accessed 9/28/17).
The two readings that I found most interesting for Material Culture this week were those by Kenneth Ames and Henry Glassie. Each of these provided additional scholarly context within which I can situate my own descriptions of both Lesley and the eel fyke net I will be studying this semester.
Ames’ piece, “Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America,” was interesting to me because it provided an engaging analysis of hall stands, hall chairs, and card stands, and the cultural implications these objects hold when we look back on their time in the Victorian era. I was particularly fascinated by the in-depth analysis Ames provided on the hall stand, which he described as being an object that served four purposes, each of which held their own cultural significance. The four components that most often repeated in hall stands were receptacles for umbrellas, pegs for hanging hats and coats, a mirror, and a small marble top table. Ames’ analysis seemed, to me, to harken back to last week’s reading from Latour where he discussed black boxes, which upon being opened are no longer one object, but an amalgam of multiple objects. What would appear to be one object, in this case a hall stand, is suddenly, through Ames’ analysis, four objects. Ames goes on to argue how the umbrella receptacles reflect the Victorian value of Bourgeois respectability, how the pegs for hats and coats reflect the presentation to guests of one’s attention to appearance and of their own wealth, how the mirror culturally reflects wealth, dedication to appearance, and a desire to increase illumination, and how the marble topped table also reflected what he calls “marble mania,” a kind of conspicuous consumption. Perhaps indirectly, Ames’ analysis reminds me of the work we as a class are conducting on the Lesley Project, wherein we each are analyzing specific items that would relate to sneakboxes like Lesley prior to their popularization as recreational vessels. Each of us is examining a different object, and whether that be a sail, fishing clothing, an eel net, or duck models, each of these tells a piece of a greater narrative within which boats like Lesley fall.
This brings me to the other piece that resonated with me this week. In his book Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States, Henry Glassie discusses the qualities an object must have to qualify as material folk culture. The briefest summary of his definition is that to be a “folk object,” the thing must be “traditional,” in the sense that the culture which created it may not be mainstream or academic, and as such, unpopular. He further asserted that, ideally, a folk object would be locally created and locally used, as folklorists are opposed to commercialism. At the same time, according to Glassie, a folk object does not lose its folk value when used in a nonfolk manner. This raised questions for me about the cultural “gentrification” that sneakboxes underwent in the early 20th Century, at which point they went from serving as utilitarian vessels, whether for hunting or fishing, to being recreational vehicles. I suppose the questions I will walk into class with this week are, do sneakboxes qualify as folk objects? And if so, did they lose anything culturally in becoming popular recreational vehicles rather than boats of utility? To this last question, and with Glassie’s text in mind, I am inclined to say no. Although they perhaps lost some value to those who once used them for fishing and hunting, historically speaking, sneakboxes retain their significance, and examining how that changed over time with an eye to their origins through our objects will be fascinating, I am sure.
 Kenneth Ames, “Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 9 no. 1 (Summer, 1978): p. 31.
 Ibid, pp. 31-35.
 Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968): p. 4.
 Ibid, pp. 11-12.
This week, in archival news, I found an article in the Associated Press about a recent trend wherein local and state governments sue individuals seeking public information. Examples provided in the first paragraph included an Oregon parent who “wanted details about school employees being paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about investigations of employees accused of sexual assault.” In these cases, rather than having their requests for these materials approved or denied, the agencies they petitioned responded through legal action.
These cases rarely seek damages from the defendants (those who requested the information), and according to the Associated Press, the lawsuits ask judges to “rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged.” The government officials engaging with this trend state that they believe it best to have judges determine whether records should be released in cases where the legal obligations for said records are ambiguous. Although this seems a valid concern on the surface, I see no reason why such officials could not instead confer with legal counsel privately instead of dragging their petitioners through a court room.
One of the points we discussed in class this week was how archivists are public servants who seek to make the information in their repositories as accessible as possible within legal restrictions. It is the archivists goal to help researchers or users find the materials they need and encourage them towards records they think might serve them better. In fact, the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) website states within its purpose that, “Archivists provide important benefits and services, such as: identifying and preserving essential parts of the cultural heritage of society; organizing and maintaining the documentary record of institutions, groups, and individuals; assisting in the process of remembering the past through authentic and reliable primary sources; and serving a broad range of people who seek to locate and use valuable evidence and information.” The actions described in this article strike me as this tenet of SAA values and ethics’ antithesis. Although the SAA’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics are not enforced, to complicate a researcher’s quest for information through something as serious as legal recourse not only refuses that researcher their information, it also discourages them, and others who might wish to conduct research in such governmental repositories, from doing so. This defies the SAA’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics, and strikes me as the behavior I would expect from an authoritarian regime, not a representative democracy.
 Ryan J. Foley, “Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters,” Associated Press, September 17, 2017, https://apnews.com/7f6ed0b1bda047339f22789a10f64ac4.
 Society of American Archivists, “SAA Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics,” Society of American Archivists, https://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics.
This week in Material Culture our class was introduced to the objects we will be studying and using to contextualize Lesley’s history as a sneakbox. Sneakboxes originally served as utilitarian vessels, intended for duck hunting, fishing, and the like. Although Lesley was actually built as a recreational vessel in the 1930s (by which point sneakboxes had become popularized beyond their original utilitarian purposes), this history remains pivotal in understanding the broader history of sneakboxes.
The item I was assigned is an eel fyke net, likely used to catch eels in the Delaware River. In my object observation exercise, I noticed several interesting features. For one, the rod which one holds to use the fyke is made of wood. More specifically, a stick. The net section of the fyke is comprised of eight wooden rings all connected by the twine netting. Twine was also used to tie the wooden rods together into their ringed shape. I was impressed by how the rings were made of singular rods, not several shorter pieces of wood. I found myself wondering what kind of wood was used that could be so flexible. I also wondered what fishermen would treat the twine netting so that it would not rot or deteriorate. As it is, the netting is rigid and I wonder if it was always this way. In sketching the fyke, I focused on the nets weaving. The twine forms diamonds across the hoops, the appearance of which I attempted to sketch as well.
Functionally speaking, the outermost rings of the fyke are connected to the rod by either twine or an iron twist-tie of sorts. These two rings are able to expand across the rod to open the fyke prior to placing it in the water to catch the eels. Considering this fyke originated in the Delaware River area, I wonder what kinds of eels one would catch with this. The object itself is thirty-eight inches long, which should help narrow down the possibilities when I research this later on. Regarding weight, the object itself has some heft to it, but it is not cumbersome. Simultaneously, if one were to catch several eels within this fyke I wonder how much upper body strength one would need to possess to lift it out of the water. Other questions I considered while examining the eel fyke were whether it was bought or handmade by the original owner, how many eels would the fyke hold at once, and how many eels would one need to feed their family on a given night.
When I walked into the archives on Wednesday to meet my object for this semester I could never have anticipated something like an eel fyke, and I look forward to researching their usage historically, and how it all ties back to Lesley and sneakboxes.
In class this week we talked in depth about the structures archivists use to create and maintain order in their archives. We discussed description and the creation of finding aids, both of which I gained experience in during my work with the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance back in the fall of 2015. The PMPA brought me on as a student intern to help sort through several containers of materials obtained from the former Pennhurst State School and Hospital in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and other sources. I visited their office in Haverford once or twice a week to document the materials I found in the containers, and later to organize them into folders, and then the finding aid.
The finding aid for the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance Papers is divided into three series: the Pennhurst Papers, Conroy Journals, and the Baldini Papers. In class this past week, we discussed the structures of finding aids, which descends, in order, from the repository, to the collection, then the series, then the folders, and finally the individual documents. In this case, the repository and collection were the same entity, the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance; an organization devoted to promoting, “an understanding of the struggle for dignity and full civil rights for persons with disabilities, using the little-known history at Pennhurst. By sharing this tragic story as well as its landmark victories, we seek to educate citizens in local, national and international communities, to assure that we never go back.” I outlined the series above, but the Pennhurst Papers series is akin to what we described as an “artificial collection” in class. Granted, it is a series, not the entire collection. The collection itself is arranged around the PMPA’s mission, as defined above, but this particular series is a compilation of materials donated by “urban explorers” who found documents from the 1940s during their “exploration” of the Pennhurst property, as well as documents, photographs, journals, and artifacts donated by leading members of the PMPA like Dana Olsen, the PMPA Projects Manager, and Dr. James Conroy, the organization’s Co-President. In brief, this particular series is made up of various materials supplied by various donors, which reminds me strongly of the “artificial collections” we discussed this week.
Although I did not create the PMPA’s finding aid for their archives single-handedly, I contributed to the document’s organization, as well as its series descriptions, background note, and scope and content note. After discussing all that goes into processing materials in an archives, I understand better the work I did two years ago, and although I was new to that work at the time, I look back on that work with what I consider pardonable pride, both for the quality of my work and its importance to the folks for whom the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance advocates.
 Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance, “Welcome to the Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance,” Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance. http://www.preservepennhurst.org/ (accessed 9/15/2017).
This week, I found an interesting article about Chew Tee Pao, an archivist for the Asian Film Archive (AFA) in Singapore. The AFA serves to acquire, protect, and showcase regional and local films dating as far back as the 1930s. Chew is part of a team that examines and cleans these films, and determines whether they require restoration overseas.
In class this week, we discussed one role of the archive being to maintain and restore materials within collections as much as possible. If Pao or his colleagues determine that a film reel is particularly degraded, and thus beyond their ability to clean it, they send it to film restoration professionals elsewhere. During my time interning with the Elwyn School Archives in the Spring of 2016, I was tasked with looking over some of the old film reels in their collections, some of which date back comparably to those Pao mentions in this article. Many in the Elwyn Archives were significantly degraded, and part of my job was to seek out estimates from film restoration professionals nearby. In this article, Pao mentions "vinegar syndrome decay," the same phenomenon that plagued many of the reels at Elwyn.
I was an undergrad during my time in the Elwyn Archives, and reading about Pao's work with the AFA in Singapore, I more clearly see the value of that experience. Not only did I work to further develop the Elwyn Archives’ finding aid, but I also aided in maintaining films that could hold untold value for those researching the history of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I would be interested, going forward, to read more about archives that deal with collections of old film reels, and those professionals who restore reels that are damaged or degraded.
Hariz Baharudin, “Confessions of a Film Archivist,” The New Paper Singapore, August 14, 2017: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/confessions-film-archivist
I am fascinated by the potential intersections between public history and social activism, and an article I found through the "Archives in the News" Google group provides an interesting example. On Tuesday, August 29, ABC News Australia posted a story about the "Documenting the Now" project, which seeks to document the vast amounts of information regarding human rights violations in the United States uploaded via social media, particularly Twitter and YouTube. This initiative is a joint effort between Washington University in St. Louis, University of California in Riverside, and the University of Maryland.
This article addresses a number of important archival issues that these institutions face in this project. One such issue is consent. Ed Summers, a researcher at the University of Maryland, asserts that consent is particularly important in documenting individuals' tweets if doing so could place them in danger. A more basic concern that Summers and his colleagues have regards the volume of information they document. This seems to be a question of accession. Summers asks how much they should keep, and how they should make those choices. Although this is always a difficult question to answer, Summers and his team have limited their intake by prioritizing higher profile tweets; those shared by celebrities, or that have otherwise been shared tens or hundreds of thousands of times, increasing their visibility.
Another platform, that this initiative focuses on is YouTube, because we often receive proof of social injustice through videos uploaded to the internet. Problems here are that the video materials could be edited to skew viewer responses. A positive point, however, is that the sheer volume of visual materials uploaded after an event allows viewers to reach more reasonable conclusions. One example is a Euromaiden Protest in Ukraine, for which video evidence enabled the apprehension of the responsible group of riot police.
The overarching question for this archive of human rights activist social media content, for me at least, is who has access to these materials, and who has control over the content and its organization? Access is always important at an archives, but with these ethical issues of anonymity and consent, how can people like Summers determine who they allow into their archives? Furthermore, in class this week we discussed evidentiary vs. informational value. My interest here lies with the evidentiary value, which stems from the archives original organization and creation. How have these archives been organized, and what might that tell us now, or researchers in the future about the history of human rights activism today, and how we document it?
1) Antony Funnell, "Meet the Digital Librarians Saving Social Media Posts to Protect Human Rights," ABC News Australia, August 28, 2017: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-29/archivist-as-activist-human-rights-in-a-digital-world/8852068.
On Wednesday, August 30th, those of us in the Material Culture course met for the first time at the Independence Seaport Museum. This semester we will be working to develop a history for one of the ISM's soon to be de-accessioned boats, Lesley. Lesley is a sneakbox, a model of boat most commonly used for hunting and fishing purposes since the early-1900s. This week, we were instructed to spend time alone with Lesley and sketch out our observations and write down questions or thoughts we had based on those observations.
My observations started somewhat broad. We know that Lesley was built as a leisure boat, but that most sneakbox boats were built to serve a utilitarian purpose. We also know (or are at least confident) that she was built in the 1930s, which would mean during the Great Depression. During discussion many said that would indicate considerable wealth from the owner, as most people during the Depression would not have had time for leisure. I, on the other hand, wondered if perhaps Lesley's design as a sneakbox was indicative of consideration for economical design. Without a doubt, her owner must have possessed sizable wealth to have the time for leisure cruises, but I do wonder if her design as a sneakbox means something that we can't yet see.
The biggest thing I focused on as I looked at Lesley, was the paint on her sides. I noticed that her underside was painted white, blue, and red (from top to bottom). I also noticed that the paint faded most at the seams between two slats of wood, and around the holes from screws and bolts. For some reason, the pattern of the fading paint stuck out to me. What kind of paint was this? What was its composition and was that particular manufacture of paint common? What kind of sealant was used to preserve it? Lesley's hull seemed to be unpainted and I wondered at first if the wood was once polished. On closer inspection, however, I realized that what I thought was a green discoloration (possibly from algae growth after she fell in her previous home), could very well have been a green coat of paint. The fading and chipping of the paint on the hull seemed the same as that from below.
One last thing I noticed in my examination of Lesley this week, was the numbers on the boat's underside. Looking at the boat from the front, on the left there were three raised, metal numbers (093) in a possibly Gothic font. On the right-hand side was 11P 390. Strangely, the 11 was raised metal as well, but the P 390 were painted on in black, sans serif font. We did not discuss these numbers or their meaning in class, but I wonder if the difference in font and materials used to place them on the boat holds some meaning? Regardless, I look forward to seeing what mysteries unfold as we continue researching Lesley's story.