By Monica Orozco
When people find out that I work at an archive they often respond by saying “That must be an exciting and interesting job!” And of course I agree that it is often both. But much our work here involves tasks that are critical but most likely would be viewed as tedious.
For instance, SBMAL has thousands of documents, books, maps, paintings, photo images, and other historical material that must be stored properly. Because standards have changed over the years, we find ourselves often having to transfer items from one type of protective sleeve, box, or file to another that meets archival standards. Such is the case with the thousands of photographs, slides, negatives, and postcards within our collection.
In past years vinyl sleeves were thought to be the proper storage format. Unfortunately, we have come to find that the vinyl tends to stick to the item stored within the sleeve. These sleeves must be replaced by polypropylene sleeves which meet archival standards. This task is time-consuming as each individual slide, photo, negative, or postcard must be transferred. Consider that we have several major photo image collections and you can only image the time and expense involved. The Norman Neuerburg Collection alone includes over 90 binders filled with photo images of various types.
Recently our volunteer Kosuke Fujiwara spent an entire day moving slides from the Neuerburg collection to new sleeves. Below is a photograph of Kosuke with 600 vinyl sleeves that once held 20 slides each. So that’s 12,000 slides Kosuke transferred in one day–and he’s still smiling!
It’s this kind of work by our volunteers that is critical in making sure that we have these historical resources for generations to come, but it takes an investment of time and funds. This is where you come into the picture. It is thanks to the support from our friends like you that we are able to purchase the supplies, such as acid-free folders and boxes, we need to take care of our vast and unique collection.
Our work in the archive is exciting and fulfilling. We take great pleasure in being caretakers of an amazing historical legacy. But we can always use more help! Here’s the SBMAL Wish List if you would like to make a contribution to help us directly with this work. And if you are interested in volunteer opportunities you can contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Monica Orozco is the director of the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library