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).