Introduction to archival processing by Project Archivist, Jorie Thuon

Jorie was hired in July 2022 to process the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) collection. They earned their Master’s of Library and Information Science from Simmons University in 2021 and come to ULS from Drexel University.

Hello! My name is Jorie Thuon and I’m the temporary processing archivist for the Philadelphia campus. If you’ve never heard of me, don’t feel too bad about it because most of my time is spent either lurking around the staff area of Krauth Memorial Library or haunting the Brossman Center’s basement vaults.

As a processing archivist, my job is to take material records and sort, note, and generally make accessible their contents. This can be done in six steps:

  1. Consolidation: Through years of changes in staff, office moves, and new construction, paperwork and items saved by the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (of pre-ULS fame) have ended up spread across the campus. Some records end up in weird places – forgotten filing cabinets or AV dump rooms – while others reside in storage areas that aren’t sustainable long term. Bringing boxes and records to the climate-controlled vault in the basement of the Brossman Center ensures they will be protected from mold, water damage, or being thrown out during spring cleaning.
Example of water damaged catalogs

2. Research: As much as I wish I could say I know everything about the seminary and its long history, I have a lot still to learn. When I come across a record or set of records relating to a topic that I’m unfamiliar with, reading through related records, researching online/in the library, or asking former and current staff and professors for help generally gives me a greater idea of what I’m working with.

Did you know that in 1961, the 1888 dormitory was designated as a fallout shelter?

3. Assessment and Deaccessioning: Once I have more information on what I’m working with, the time comes to throw things away. While some records have great historical or institutional significance, other items may no longer be relevant to the collection, do not fit the current collecting policy, or are, simply, trash. Unnecessary records are recycled or shredded depending on privacy concerns. Other items, such as paintings, may be set aside to be offered to other archives. This is a process known as deaccessioning.

A dot matrix of survey data is interesting to look at, but impractical to keep!

4. Organization: Once I’m familiar with the materials and have determined which ones belong in the permanent collection, I can focus on arrangement. Since most records housed on the Philadelphia campus are institutional, they can often be organized according to the office that created them. For example, records from the dean’s office or relating to academic affairs, such as faculty meeting minutes, would be physically arranged together into a collection. Paper items are stored in archival quality boxes and folders to prevent molding or acidic decay. Larger items, such as blueprints, are either placed on shelves or fitted into appropriately sized boxes.

Blueprints in the process of being organized. LTSP underwent major periods of construction in the 1970s, including updates to the Hagan Center, and the 2000s, when the Brossman Center was built.

5. Finding Aids: Once the records are physically organized, they need to be made accessible for future researchers and staff to find. It wouldn’t do well to preserve something just to lose it! A finding aid, as the name suggests, is a document which records important information about a collection, including location and contents.

This loving depiction of “the Fundy Four,” the four instructors faced by 1960s juniors in their first quarter, is preserved in the art collection.

6. Online Assembly: Once finished, finding aids are posted online so information about the collection can be readily accessed. From there, Victoria, the resident archivist, can do things like direct people to specific collections or decide what records should be digitized.

An excellent review of a faculty retreat.

Research Assistance: Finally, one of the fun parts of my work is assisting researchers in learning more about the seminary and its history. This can look like answering inquiries by email or pulling materials for researchers to view in person.

Thanks for reading!

Published by

Victoria Jesswein

Archivist at United Lutheran Seminary

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