Howard P. “Buck” McKeon Collection
The very first step in processing a collection for archival storage is to establish a finding guide. The finding guide must be created first so that when ready, the information can be input correctly. Different programs can be used for this process, such as Excel or Archivists’ Toolkit. For the Howard P. “Buck” McKeon Collection (HPBM), Excel was used. When creating the finding guide, it is essential to make sure that known facts about each individual item are recorded. These facts include the date the item was written or created, the type of document it is (correspondence, report, notes, photograph, etc.), number of pages included, etc. Additionally, each item needs to be numbered so that once it is recorded in the spreadsheet; it can be located and then filed accordingly.
A topic should also be recorded in Excel. This ensures that all papers revolving around the same subject can be housed together. There are multiple subjects in the HPBM Collection, including the Elsmere Canyon Landfill, USS IOWA, and Pacific Crest Trail. It is important to make sure that a letter regarding Elsmere Canyon is not with reports on the Pacific Crest Trail. This helps to streamline the research process and give semblance to the collection.
One additional item needed for the finding guide is a brief description of the item. This provides the researcher with a brief bit of information about the item prior to searching through the boxes and folders for it. It also helps the archivist in the case of an item being misplaced or misfiled.
All these elements are essential to the process; without them, the sense of order within the collection would be non-existent. There are two additional fields that need to be included in the finding guide but will not be filled in until each item has been processed. These fields are “Box” and “Folder”. The “Box” corresponds to the number of the box the item will be housed in and the “Folder” is the number of the folder in the box. The finding guide for the HPBM Collection consists of six fields; boxes number, folder number, date, topic, type, and description. In the beginning there was a seventh field titled “item number”. The item number very is important in the beginning. It is what allows us to input all of the information needed regarding a specific document and make the item identifiable. Once the finding guide is sorted and a box and folder number have been assigned, the “item number” is no longer a necessary field.
Once the document is created, each individual paper in the collection needs to be looked at and the available information needs to be recorded into the spreadsheet. Once this has been done, the spreadsheet needs to be sorted and arranged in both chronological and topical order. The HPBM Collection was first sorted by topic. This way, all of the Elsmere Canyon documents were together, all of the Pacific Crest Trail items were together, etc. Once the group was together by topic, then the documents are put in alphabetical order by type; articles, correspondence, maps, etc. This puts all of the letters together, reports together, etc. Once the documents have been organized that way, then they are put in chronological order by date. By arranging the finding guide in this manner, items are grouped together by their topic, organized by the type of document they are and are placed in chronological order; with the oldest items coming first. This semblance allows a researcher to look for very specific things as well as very broad things. Maybe they know they need a letter or a report but they do not have a date. They can search the guide by subject and type. Or, if they know the date and the topic they can search that way as well. If they are not sure what they need they can look for a topic and preview the item description.
It is critical that the finding guide is a searchable resource; the researcher needs to be able to find something easily and simply, saving them time and creating some order in the collection. Constructing the finding guide this way will help to ensure that. All of the elements included in the finding guide (topic, date, document type, description) are ways that someone can identify and locate material.