Saving Working Files Conundrum

Friday, February 6, 2009

Susan Kuecker, African America Museum curator, would like to save her working files. These files have all her research for various researcher requests, grant applications, and projects, collected over eight years. Most of this information is not in her computer. Since most of the items in the files are not unique, she can’t justify spending a lot of money on recovery.

Since the material is not unique, our working premis is that we’ll clean the items good enough to make a photocopy replacement, flattening only when necessary. Our best guess is that there are about 6,000 pages. When I first priced this proposed project out using a conservation lab technician’s time, the price tag was around $24,000. Then I tried the same scenario using student workers. The price tag was $12,000. Still too high. A little light bulb went off — we are interviewing volunteers. Perfect!

After a brief discussion with Susan, we arrived at a plan whereby the AAMI will supply us with replacement folders and photocopy paper and we’ll use a combination of students and volunteers to process the files. Any exceptions (unique brochures, newspaper articles, photographs) will be separated out for a later project. New price tag is under $900. Very acceptable to all!

We’ve begun pulling the material out of the file drawers and putting them into boxes for volunteers to work on. The file drawers are going back to the AAMI. They hope to be able to clean the drawers and repaint for re-use.