Announcement from The Phillips Collection Archive

Phillips Manager, Archives and Library Resources Juli Folk and former Digital Assets Librarian Rachel Jacobson share the new Finding Aid for the Directorial Correspondence of Marjorie Phillips.

The Phillips Collection Archive is pleased to announce that the Finding Aid for the Directorial Correspondence of Marjorie Phillips is available online. This was one of three archival collections that was imaged as part of a stewardship grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

To learn more about archival digitization please see the latest installment of Archives 101, Expanding Research Capabilities.

This collection is particularly exciting as Marjorie Phillips often does not receive the credit her leadership deserves. Museum visitors have seen her paintings (Night Baseball is often on view) and wondered what relationship she had to the museum and to Duncan Phillips. She and Duncan Phillips established the museum and its renowned art collection together.

Painting by Marjorie Phillips (1951). Marjorie Phillips not only ran the museum from 1966-1972, she was also an accomplished painter.

The correspondence in this archival collection spans her tenure as museum director, 1966 to 1972. She is also featured in some of the letters that make up The Directorial Correspondence of Duncan Phillips (1911-1966). This archival collection was also digitized as a part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.

Through the newly implemented archival information management system, ArchivesSpace, you can access a description of Marjorie Phillips and her correspondence collection and click on images to bring you to full, digital versions of the folders that make up this collection. You can browse all 9,913 Digital Objects on the system. These objects are digital representations of the folders that make up three collections in The Phillips Collection Archive. One goal of this project is to make these records more accessible and spark new curiosity about the documents, some of which are over 100 years old.

Photo taken at the retirement party for Marjorie Phillips October 18th, 1972. Marjorie stands with former employee Bill Koberg and Mike Green. In the background is her son, Laughlin Phillips, who directed the museum after Marjorie.

Archives 101: Expanding Research Capabilities

In this series, Phillips Manager, Archives and Library Resources Juli Folk and former Digital Assets Librarian Rachel Jacobson explain the ins and outs of how archives work.

Rolls of microfilm from the Archives of American Art (AAA). These were done so that we could have a copy of the material that the AAA housed for The Phillips Collection from 1979 to 2014. Inside each box is a film of microform which requires a specialized reader.

Welcome to another installment of Archives 101. So far, we have reviewed what an archival collection is, critical steps in archival processing, and finding aids. Now, let’s focus on archival digitization.

Digitization has been a trend in the information science field for decades. One of the early prototypes of digitization was microform, which includes microfilm and microfiche. Microform allowed multiple researchers to view material at once, helped preserve original material, and in some cases reduced storage needs. However, because microform is analog (taking up physical space) they don’t improve accessibility in the same way that digitization does. You must be in person, with the microfilm and a specialized reader, to view the material. Digitized collections can be accessed remotely, as long as you have access to the internet.

Today many archives strive to digitize portions of their collection. This is what The Phillips Collection has done thanks to a stewardship grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Three collections were imaged and are now available on The Phillips Collection’s new archival information management system, ArchivesSpace. In addition to images, the documents were also run through a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which means that you can search for specific terms within a file.

This shows how optical character recognition can pinpoint the term, “Washington.”

Through this project we have expanded our digital infrastructure and hope to make more archival collections accessible remotely in the future.

This workstation shows a digital imaging specialist at Pixel Acuity working on one of the two correspondence collections. The technicians imaged and embedded metadata for our three newly digitized collections, totalling close to 10,000 folders. Photo: Hannah Storch, Client Strategy Manager at Pixel Acuity.

Archives 101: Finding Aids are the Windows into a Collection

In this series, Phillips Manager, Archives and Library Resources Juli Folk and Digital Assets Librarian Rachel Jacobson explain the ins and outs of how archives work.

Welcome to another installment of Archives 101. So far, we have reviewed what an archival collection is and critical steps in archival processing. Now, let’s focus on describing archival material so that you, the researcher, might decide whether or not to seek further access to an archival collection.

The primary tool to figuring out whether or not an archival collection may be of use to you is the Finding Aid. A finding aid, according to the Society of American Archivists, is a description that typically consists of contextual and structural information about an archival resource. A finding aid should place the archival resources within context that allows a user to decide if they want to explore a collection more thoroughly. The contextual information generally included in a finding aid is:

  • • Title for the collection
  • • Dates, including bulk dates which indicate the period that most of the material is from
  • • Note about what can be found within the collection, usually called a scope and content note
  • • Provenance information
  • • Note about how the material has been arranged, usually called an arrangement note
  • • Description of the formats within a collection and storage information

As was the case with accessioning and arrangement, there is some wiggle room around how finding aids are written. However, this should not indicate that there aren’t documented standards and procedures for an archivist to follow.

The Phillips Collection archival repository is embarking on a new era with the implementation of the archival information management system ArchivesSpace. One of the many helpful things about the management system is that it helps create consistency across finding aids due to format and required fields. It also is the first time our archival material will be in one centralized and searchable database. We’re making progress; getting all our archival holdings into the system is a lofty goal and will take time!

However, the system will make searching through finding aids much easier. Below is a screenshot of some of the archival finding aids in our instance of ArchivesSpace thus far. ArchivesSpace refers to finding aids as collections, which are what the finding aid guides you through.

Peek into our instance of the archival information management system, ArchivesSpace.

After reading the notes and other information that gives you insight into generally what exists within a collection you can take a closer look at the contents.

Take a closer look into the finding aid. Scope and contents notes, dates, and other information give you insight into what you can broadly expect to find from a given archival collection.

By clicking on the “Collection Organization” tab you can see more specifically what the contents of a given collection are. For example, you will find titles of folders and the dates for which the material was created.

If everything still seems relevant to your research inquiry it may be time to request access to a specific folder, set of folders, or archival box.

A look inside one of the folders from the papers of C. Law Watkins (associate director of the gallery and director of the art school). Some of our folders will be accessible remotely, but for most of the material, researchers will still need to look at them in person.

Due to the arduous nature of getting to the point where an archivist is ready to create a finding aid, The Phillips Collection Library and Archives does not yet have nearly all our archival collections described. We are working to catch up with our material. The more we have available to users, the more likely we are to find those diamonds in the rough. Stay tuned for more information about the launch of our ArchivesSpace repository this summer!