This week at the archives, I finished Mss 131!
I was very excited (though it’s difficult to show excitement in a library – mostly just excessive smiling and reserved self-high-fiving) and I think I had a right to be. It was really weird to realize that my work is going to be in that library until they get rid of the collection – my name is on the finding aid in the hard copy binder, it’s on the website (I tweeted about that one already), and my handwriting is on each individual folder in each of those nine boxes.
I’ve already written a detailed blog post about working with Mss 131. However, there are a few things I didn’t include there: here
- Joshua Slocum’s story is an adventurous one, and so I’m surprised I haven’t heard of it before. Some refer to his work, Sailing Alone Around The World, a seafaring Walden. He also disappeared while on one of his voyages, which sounds like it should be on some sort of History Channel special.
- There is no such thing as too much research. Looking through Teller’s materials, he has everything from ship accounts to handwriting analysis on Joshua Slocum. If you’re writing, you need to be an expert – and Teller definitely was the foremost scholar of Joshua Slocum.
- Even when you think you’re finished, you’re probably not. There were several times throughout Mss 131 where I thought I had done everything. I wanted to impress my supervisor with my speed and quality of work. But as I would go through things, there was always one more grammatical error, one more formatting slip, one more folder out of order. It reminded me that in the archives, speed isn’t necessarily the most important thing – and that an archivist’s work is never done.
But, I did finish! And gleaming with pride, I almost missed my supervisor take my next assignment off the shelves. My next project is Mss 134 – The Delano Family papers.
Yes – the Delanos, as in Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Well, not exactly as in FDR. The papers are from his grandfather (Warren Delano II), his great-grandfather (Warren Delano I), and his great-great-grandfather (Ephraim Delano), as well as some other relatives. Unlike Joshua Slocum, I KNOW who the Delano Family is, as well as their relevance to the New Bedford area. The Delanos were one of the first families to come to Massachusetts (though not on the Mayflower) and purchased the Dartmouth Township from Massasoit in the early 17th century. They lived in the area, but the official Delano homestead standing today was built by Warren Delano II in Fairhaven during the early 1830s, and the 32nd president and wife Eleanor made several visits to the town. (I’ve done a lot of research on the Delano family and geneaology up to FDR, so I’m fairly confident in my ability to tell you anything about the New Bedford/Fairhaven Delanos.)
My supervisor was excited to show me the collection because it was the opposite of the Teller situation. When I started working with Mss 131, I had a detailed listing but none of the folders were in order. This time around, all the folders are in order, but I’m not provided with a background of what these folders are.
Thankfully, the person who processed this collection (Michael P. Dyer, senior maritime historian at the library) in 2007 (the year it was assessed) created something like an inventory list for me, describing contents of individual folders. What I love about this collection (aside from the fact that it’s about the Delanos) is that I’m working with primary sources – some of the documents date back to the late 18th century. These are the oldest documents I have ever touched before, and I am being extremely careful in my moments of excitement.
Since this collection was MUCH smaller than the last (it’s only six linear inches) and I didn’t have to do all the organizing like before, I went through the process in about two days. Now, I’m working on coding the finding aid, which is much easier this time around.