Monday, 7 June 2010

Cataloguing - timetables and deadlines

All my plans of getting straight back into posting in May came to naught as I've become increasingly aware of my looming project deadlines. However I now have a very helpful Excel spreadsheet with a full breakdown of everything I want to achieve, set out week by week! Although there's still a huge amount to do before the project finishes at the end of August I now feel that it is all achievable and it makes it so much easier to just get on with the work and not panic. Part of my timetable includes posting on my blog so I thought I would start with a topical (for me) post about my cataloguing.

The thing that's so hard about doing a timetable for cataloguing archival records is that until you open each individual file you don't know how many letters there are, and until you catalogue each letter you don't know how much content there is in it. Letters with lots of interesting content take far longer than say, a greetings card sent simply to say 'Happy New Year'. Quite often the letters with lots of detail about film projects, theatre projects, actors, directors etc also require research into the people and subjects referred to as these will have to be added to the name and subject indexes on the cataloguing system. So I have to remind myself that if some weeks I don't quite meet my targets that's ok as other weeks I can have met them by the Thursday - as long as I get there by the end of August!

This first photo shows the files I am currently cataloguing - the A-Z correspondence files. I've talked about the fun of cataloguing these before as you never know quite what you're going to find - Friday's cataloguing included letters from Lindsay Anderson to Ridley Scott and this mornings started with a series of letters between Anderson and Dame Maggie Smith re a film version of The Cherry Orchard which was in development for a long time, but which finally fell through. Anderson had long wanted to direct a film of this play by Chekhov, having directed it in the theatre twice. Maggie Smith had agreed to star in it and the plan was to get Dustin Hoffman for the lead male role - if only it had happened!

The cataloguing of each file begins by sorting the letters into order alphabetically, then chronologically from earliest to most recent, helpfully all the letters with each correspondent are usually already together. Then it's a case of numbering every letter with a unique identifying code which consists of the collection name, sub-collection, series, sub-series, file and item, for example at the moment I'm doing LA/5/1/1/57/45 with 'LA' identifying the collection, 5 identifying the sub-collection 'working papers', the first 1 is the series 'correspondence files', the second 1 is the sub-series 'correspondence files A-Z', the 57 is the file number and is 'correspondence, S' and 45 is the number of the individual letter from Maggie Smith. After the numbering is done then the folder will be catalogued onto the cataloguing software CALM for Archives - you can see a screenshot in the photo above - this is going to be ingrained on my brain by the end of the project as I've already started dreaming about cataloguing on days when I have a particularly heavy workload!

Once catalogued the folder will be divided up into two or three folders if the amount of letters is too heavy for one folder and these folders are put in new acid-free paper, archival standard boxes. It may not sound too exciting but I love it! The TV in the room is strictly for work-related use by the way! Quite a few of Anderson's films are not available on DVD so it's been really handy to have this TV with a VHS and DVD player built in. Glory! Glory! and The Whales of August are the two which come to mind immediately as being only on VHS (in the UK) so it was necessary to watch them before cataloguing the material relating to them.

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