Collecting the Records of American Business and Industry: Museums and Libraries as Midwives to Significant Manuscript Collections

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Collecting the Records of American Business and Industry: Museums and Libraries as Midwives to Significant Manuscript Collections. International Conference on the History of Records and Archives, Austin, Texas, August 2-4, 2012 Erik Nordberg, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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All Archives are Not Created Equal: The Birth of Three Significant Repositories of American Business Records

International Conference on the History of Records and Archives, Austin, Texas, August 2-4, 2012

Erik Nordberg, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology Social Sciences Department, Michigan Technological UniversityCollecting the Records of American Business and Industry: Museums and Libraries as Midwives to Significant Manuscript Collections1How have the major archival repositories for American business and industrial history gathered material?

What contexts have informed their specific appraisal and selection of this material?

Is a useful and comprehensive amount of historical material being retained which will provide adequate evidence to historians and other researchers?

Research QuestionsAs American industry has declined, many buildings and sites associated with manufacturing, mining, and heavy industry have been altered, abandoned, or removed. Archival records are increasingly important evidence of industrial history.

2Case study approach: Institutions, corporations, collections

Historical research using institutional records, published material, and other documentary resources.

Interviews with archivists, librarians and curators about appraisal and selection activities.

MethodologiesDocument historical practice at case study institutions, corporations, collections.

Assess the affect of these contexts on the materials actually collected, as well as any gaps in documentation.

Inform current and future practice. GoalsBaker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration

5A New Kind of School - A New Approach

6CollectingManuscriptMaterial

7 Rationalizing the Collection

Arthur Cole and Donald Clark

8The Library Context

9Classifying Business

10Refocusing Manuscript Collecting

[T]he volume of extant business records was really stupendous [and] our librarys initial notion of taking over all records for the country was downright idiotic.

Arthur Cole, Some Details on the Determination of The Proper Areas for Collecting Activity at Baker Library, January 16, 1961We learned that the manuscript materials surviving in the hands of enterprises, even just those of modest age, were quite too bulky for storage in a single repository; we learned that such materials were but infrequently called for by students, we discovered that the cost of putting such materials into usable conditions was costly and we came to the conclusion that [the work] while undoubtedly of high value to the advanced scholar, was pretty much of a luxury for the Baker Library.

Arthur Cole, Notes on my Early Experiences with the Library of the Harvard Business School, Nov. 12, 1960.I was always willing to regard the Manuscript Division as a marginal portion of the Librarys domain.

Arthur Cole, Some Details on the Determination of The Proper Areas for Collecting Activity at Baker Library, January 16, 196111Hagley Museum and Library Wilmington, Delaware

The Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington Delaware was founded in 1953 by Pierre S. du Pont, president of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours chemical company and chairman of General Motors. Formed initially as a library for du Ponts family papers and books, it merged with a du Pont industrial museum at the site of the companys former powder works in 1961 and became an active collector of business manuscripts.

12Hagley Museum and Library Wilmington, Delaware

Hagley Museum and Library Wilmington, Delaware

National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashington, DC

The Smithsonian Institution, the United States federal museum system, established its Museum of History and Technology in 1955 in Washington, D.C. While gathering material and information for interpretive exhibits opened in a new museum building in 1964, museum curators discovered and acquired archival records from factories and business firms around the country.

15National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashington, DC

No Formal Archival PolicyI think it's fair to say that our archival collecting efforts before 1980 were conducted largely without plan or with any good notion of what we were going to do with the material once we got it.

Our experience with objects led us to believe a) that we had a well-founded sense of what was important, b) that if we didn't take it when we found it there might not be a second chance, and c) that space would be created in response to the collecting effort.

At the same time--more so than with objects--we were generally quite willing to have the material go to other appropriate institutions; our main concern was preservation and we knew there were limitations on what we could do.

-Barney Finn, e-mail communication, February 15, 201017 - growing awareness that they were building an important research collectionLittle or no policy no cohesion not deliberate collections -- things collected willy nilly

National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashington, DC

MHT did not enter into archival collecting deliberately. Most MHT professionals associated with acquiring archival material were historian/curators; although many had advanced degrees, few had any formal curatorial training.Archival material became a necessity in understanding and documenting large objects and structures.Collecting was not generally directed toward specific exhibits; material was taken in support of more general research needs and with an awareness of the importance of preserving items that would otherwise be destroyed.Public access issues grew in importance and had an effect on the need for an archival program.

18

Despite its importance in mans adaptation to his surroundings, the field of civil engineering has, until the recent past, received hardly more than token treatment in technical museums anywhere. This deficiency is plainly a result of the size of the objects created by civil engineering. A bridge or dam does not respond to the format of conventional museum exhibit with the same facility as a collection of rare coins, or an early surveying instrument, or even, for that matter, a locomotive.

Robert M. Vogel, Assembling a New Hall of Civil Engineering, Technology and Culture Vol. 6, no. 1 (Winter 1965): 59.

Baker LibraryHagley LibrarySmithsonianYear Founded1908 / 19271953 / 19611954 / 1964ModelsHuntington and Folger Libraries Industrial Site MuseumsNational Museums of Science and IndustryStaffBusiness and Economic HistoriansLibrariansIndustrial Historians and Practitioners Partners / NetworksBusiness Hist. SocietyHarvard AlumniLibrary & Museum Professional Assns.Industrial CorpsUniv. Eng. Depts.Founding Purpose of Manuscript CollectingTo support graduate and faculty research of the Harvard School of BusinessPreserve du Pont Family and Industrial LegacyTo support museum exhibits and curators' researchEmerging Archival Theory

T.R. Schellenberg, 1960Kansas Memory Item Number: 211724 Call Number: B Schellenberg, Theodore R. *3 KSHS Identifier: DaRT ID: 211724

Margaret Cross NortonIllinois State Archives21Business records really were another category altogether with which we didnt do anything. That wasnt our role, at least as I saw our role. Our role was to record the history of engineering. Not business. Its a separate field, really. And it is. I mean, I would still say the same. And Baker School is known as probably the best repository in the country for business records. There are others, of course, but in my limited experience, they are the best. -- Robert Vogel, May 30, 2009

Archival collecting is idiosyncratic and highly dependent on timing, budget, personnel, and space.Late 19th and early 20th Century business and industrial records are voluminous and often include special formats (photographs, dimensioned drawings, etc.) whose special preservation and storage needs affect appraisal and selection decisions.There are many different users and uses for these records, often with conflicting ideas of what should be preserved for research. Initial Project ConclusionsAdditional case study institutions.Detailed review of the collections of the case study institutions to more closely understand the appraisal and selection decisions applied during acquisition. Examine literature of the history of science, industry, and technology to characterize the types of archival materials utilized as evidence.Oral interviews with archivists, curators, and researchers about these topics. Further ResearchQuestions?Erik NordbergDoctoral Student, Industrial Heritage and Archaeology Program, Social Sciences Department University Archivist, Michigan Tech Archives & Copper Country Historical Collections, Van Pelt and Opie LibraryMichigan Technological University1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931906-487-2505 / enordber@mtu.edu

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