Week 1 – August Wilson Century Series – Jitney

First, and before I misplace it, here is a link to the episode of Theater Talk that featured the Tony-award winning cast of Jitney in 2017:

This one is also good:

It was interesting the way we focused our discussion on relationships, the peripheral relationship between Turnbo and Rena, the complex and layered relationship between Becker and Booster, and the evolving, dynamic, almost dance-like relationship between Rena and Youngblood. Relationships are such an essential, human thing, always transforming, always reflecting the environment that surrounds them, for good or ill.

We could have easily spent the whole class period on Becker and Booster’s father-son relationship, Becker’s deep disappointment in the mistakes that his son made and the consequences of those mistakes, the hopes that Becker placed in Boomer, and the energy he attempted to transfer to the future where Boomer might have more and better opportunities than he had. But I also think that at some level, Boomer’s “acting up” and the decisions he took that incarcerated him was a rejection of the pressure he felt from his father, and a not so subtle decision that he was going to live his own life, not the one Becker tried to transfer over to him. At the play’s end, Boomer starts toward the door to leave the jitney office, but the phone rings, and after a negligible hesitation, Boomer goes over and answers the phone, “Car service” as the light fades to black. I think that motion and action symbolize that there is hope for Boomer and there is hope for the jitney operation.

There is of course a lot to be said about Youngblood and Rena. One thing we didn’t discuss today was the tenderness of emotion Becker displayed in his conversation with Rena and Youngblood. Becker says towards the end of Act 2 Scene 1,

When you look around you’ll see that all you got is each other. There ain’t much more. Even when it look like there is…you come one day to find out there ain’t much more worth having.

Here we see that despite the gruff Becker displayed towards his own son, he never stopped developing as a father, never gave up on his own emotional development, and we are left wondering if one day he might overcome his great disappointment and be able to show a similar level of affection for Boomer that he clearly has for Youngblood.  Alas, Becker’s potential for development is arrested on the factory floor so we will never know. As Vonnegut would say, “so it goes.”

We will see more of this relationship dynamic in Ma Rainey next week.


Week 1 of my collaborative close read study group on August Wilson’s Century Series. The first play was “Jitney.”

1. First class went well. But we jammed together introductions and close read discussions in this first meeting and we ran out of time. I had hoped for 8 group members but we ended up with 18. 25% of the members are retired attorneys who know all about unpacking language!

2. Implementing “The Community is the Curriculum” from #rhizo15 was/is a big hit. There are two high school english teachers in the group who have taught Wilson’s plays. There is a college professor who actually knew and was acquainted with August Wilson.

3. Not everybody was able to access the Google Group where I had stashed a lot of background material. We hope to remedy that by 1) getting everybody a gmail account so they can access the group and 2} mirroring the group on a publicly accessible blog site here:

4. Versioning presented a slight hiccup. Members had three versions of the play, so page # references didn’t align and we lost a minute or two in each presentation trying to get everybody on the same page (literally!).

5. It was interesting the way the group immediately seized on drawing general principles from specific instances in the play through the close reading process. (The play is about a small black community in 1970’s Pittsburgh but the group decided that the principles were/are universally applicable).

6. Next week is “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Will be posting notes here weekly and thinking about ways to move the course to a bigger virtual audience.



Preview of 2018

The holidays afforded me some useful downtime to work on the structure of the 2018 novel. If you know me, you know the structure will be a rhizomatic, a root network, and not arbolic, or tree-like. The overriding narrative arc will be non-linear and sometimes invisible, although subplot elements will be self-referential, autobiographical almost. The snippets of my poetry that appear epigrammatically will actually be chronological, but since most readers won’t be familiar with all the elements of the underlying plot sequence, it may not be readily apparent. And it will begin and end in a library, or a museum, or archive, or some combination of the three. Where else would I take you? And what’s the difference anyway?

Still working on a way to incorporate real-time reader participation. That will require some thinking, some work.

Finally, the idea will be to make it comprehendible across all reading levels, like my two favorite novels, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Ellison’s Invisible Man. I know. A tall order. But would you prefer a short order? Besides, if my 8-yr old nephew can’t read it (he’ll be nine by year’s end), I will have missed the mark.

Ok. Get your tickets early if you really want to ride!

p.s. The process will be arrangement, then description, i.e. gathering all the pieces, doing the research, etc., which will take until early March. Then I am taking a hiatus to read the August Wilson Century Series (10 plays) with a group. In May there might be a road trip to the Great Smokies, if I am lucky. Then, hopefully by June, the knitting can begin in earnest.

Ten books I have enjoyed reading on my subway commute in 2017


1. Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray
by Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray

2. May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson
by Alan Nadel

3. The Smear: How the Secret Art of Character Assassination Controls What You Think, What You Read, and How You Vote
by Sheryl Attkisson

4. The Circle
by Dave Eggers

5. The Administrative Threat
by Phillip Hamburger

6. Hooper’s War
by Peter Van Buren

7. The I-10 Incident: Book 1 in the Going Away Parties Murder Mystery Series by Kim Marie Coleman

8. Archives Power: Memory, Accountability and Social Justice
by Randall Jimerson

9. The Total Work of Art: from Bayreuth to Cyberspace
by Matthew Wilson Smith

10. Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation
by Nicholas Guyatt

AP Top News Stories of 2017

AP Poll: Sexual misconduct allegations voted top news story
Associated Press
Associated Press
December 21, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) — The wave of sexual misconduct allegations that toppled Hollywood power brokers, politicians, media icons and many others was the top news story of 2017, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The No. 2 story was Donald Trump’s tumultuous first year as president. A year ago, Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election was a near-unanimous pick for the top news story of 2016.

The first AP top-stories poll was conducted in 1936, when editors chose the abdication of Britain’s King Edward VIII as the top story.

Here are 2017’s top 10 stories, in order:

1. Sexual misconduct: Scandals involving sexual misdeeds by prominent men are nothing new in America, but there’s never been anything remotely like the deluge of allegations unleashed this year by women who were emboldened to speak out by the accusers who preceded them. Luminaries toppled from their perches included movie magnate Harvey Weinstein, media stars Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and several celebrity chefs and members of Congress.

2. Trump-First Year: The controversies started on Inauguration Day, with the new president challenged over his claims on the size of the crowd, and persisted throughout the year. Trump’s approval ratings hovered around record-low territory, his base remained fiercely loyal, and his relentless tweeting — often in the early morning hours — provoked a striking mix of outrage, mockery and grateful enthusiasm.

3. Las Vegas mass shooting: A 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player, after amassing an arsenal of weapons, unleashed a barrage of gunfire from a high-rise casino-hotel that killed 58 people and injured hundreds among a crowd attending an open-air concert along the Las Vegas Strip. Weeks after the massacre, questions about the gunman’s motives remained unanswered.

4. Hurricane onslaught: In a four-week span, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. Harvey killed more than 80 people in Texas and caused an estimated $150 billion in damage. Irma killed scores of people in the Caribbean and U.S., including 12 residents of a Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning. Maria damaged more than 200,000 homes in Puerto Rico, caused lengthy power outages, and prompted an investigation into whether the official death toll of 64 was vastly undercounted.

5. North Korea: At times the taunts had a schoolyard flavor to them — a “dotard” versus “Little Rocket Man.” But they came from two world leaders with nuclear arms at their disposal — Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Fueling the tensions were North Korea’s latest tests of a hydrogen bomb and of ballistic missiles that potentially could reach the U.S. mainland.

6. Trump-Russia probe: Trump fired FBI director James Comey, but a former FBI chief, Robert Mueller, was soon appointed to investigate potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s election campaign. By mid-December, Mueller’s team had brought federal charges against four people, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

7. Obamacare: Despite repeated efforts, majority Republicans in Congress failed to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law and replace it with new plan. At one point, a deciding vote against a GOP replacement bill was cast by Republican Sen. John McCain. But questions remained as to how Obama’s plan would fare going forward without substantive help from the Trump administration.

8. Tax overhaul: Without a single Democratic vote, Republicans in Congress pushed through a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that would cut corporate taxes while producing mixed results for individuals. GOP lawmakers, backed by Trump, said the bill would have broad benefits by accelerating economic growth. Critics said consequences would include higher budget deficits and the potential loss of health care coverage for millions of Americans.

9. Worldwide terror attacks: The first big terror attack of 2017 came on New Year’s Day — a gunman killing 39 at a nightclub in Istanbul. Subsequent targets of global terror included an Ariana Grande concert in England, a bike path in New York City and the historic La Rambla promenade in Barcelona. In October, a truck bombing in Somalia killed more than 500 people; in November, an attack on a crowded mosque in Egypt killed more than 300.

10. Islamic State: After lengthy assaults, an array of forces drove the Islamic State from its two main strongholds — the city of Mosul in Iraq, and its self-styled capital, Raqqa, in Syria. The defeats left the Islamic State without significant territory in either country, but affiliates elsewhere in the region, particularly in Egypt and Afghanistan, continued to operate.

Life at work

Halfway through the final pass and three quarters through the entire process, it is probably a good time to assess the work left, pat myself on the back about the progress, and start to jot down some content and scope notes and lessons learned from the project.

My involvement in the Jim Graham Papers project was an incidental event. As part of preparation for the Mayor’s late June visit, I offered to identify all the piles and rats’ nests of unprocessed collections occupying space in the various corridors and corners of the place. Then, being Navy-trained, I proposed a timetable for working through the assembly of clutter, a POAM if you will (Plan Of Attack and Milestones).

Jim Graham had only recently passed and it made some sense to me that his collection should be the first one we attacked. So there were 18 boxes in one place, and 13 boxes in another, and on and on, and before we knew it, we identified well over 200 boxes.

Late in July, I wrote this sonnet –

There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
and corners. Just cartons of documents,
​details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
these papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.
Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
and deeds, archived records we leave behind
won’t deliver us to any heaven –
or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
as truth, the certain object of our faith:​
​d​ried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.

By the time I finished the first pass, I had generated over 30 boxes of emptied three ring binders of various sizes that we trucked to surplus property, many with the fancy steel hinges. All together I removed a couple of boxes of office supplies that got entrained in the mix, along with a few boxes of unmarked duplicates of various documents (the marked duplicates we kept!) and some unidentified children’s toys. And there was that stack of Whitman-Walker Clinic folders and documents and AIDS-related books we separated for deposit with the GW collection that focuses that part of Graham’s life in DC.  And that was the first pass.

It is worth noting that I began the project armed only with librarian logic, but in August I began Archival Management, a CUA graduate course that met at the Library of Congress, and in late September, I began my practicum in Special Collections at DC Public Library. As I actually learned how to process a collection, I suppose I got better at it. Let’s hope so, anyway. In the arrangement phase, it appeared clear to me that the later boxes made much more sense and were better organized than the early boxes. I hope we corrected for that slight imbalance in the second pass.

In the arrangement phase, speaking of which, I initially came up with 37 categories of records and documents by subject. But I knew that 37 was too many, and as a former colleague used to say, “if you have too many foci, you lose focus.” So we consolidated categories that made sense, ending up with nine (9) general series, that included correspondence, Council service, budget approval, Metropolitan police, education, OIG reports, artifacts and plaques, photos and slides, and newspaper articles. The bulk of the collection would end up in series 2, Council service, which would include the committees Graham chaired over his sixteen years on the City Council, and which would map out both the sequence and the progression of remarkable influence he was able to establish during his ascent to and subsequent fall from local power. But we will save that for the biographical note.

Series #2 Subseries #6  (committee chairmanships) is proving to be a real challenge. I am making constant and real-time tradeoffs between original order, committee subject and chronology.  We are looking at 25-30 linear foot boxes total and so far I’ve broken it down to three overlapping tranches, 1998-2006, 2004-2011, and 2008-2014. But beyond this, it will all be downhill. Truly. The light at the end of the tunnel is what sustains me.


From the archives: Farewell to Luanda (the year 2000 c.e.)

Farewell to Luanda!

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are packing out and already I am missing this sad, strange place. Luanda. No place like it. No place like it in this world.

Coming down with malaria is a pain that I won’t miss. Nor will I miss that illness we get from time to time that fakes out the malaria test. The locals call it catolotolo, while I call it total physical misery. But I will miss the peaceful sunsets and late dinners out on the ilha, the hypnotizing popular music, dancing (more like watching them dance) the kizomba and the high-fives shared when one hits that out-of-sync step with rhythmic perfection.

I’ll miss the taste of zindungo (a spicy sauce made from peppers, garlic and whiskey), the smooth harshness of Angolan coffee, the sweetness of overripe pineapple sold at inflated prices by the women on the street who swear it will last until tomorrow, and the bitter-sweetness of gimboa (a type of local greens) fried with onions and olive oil. More than anything else, though, I’ll miss the effusive, infectious enthusiasm of our local employees, their willingness to learn, their professional dedication and loyalty.

The war, which resumed in earnest two years ago, continues in earnest. The rebels continue to wreck havoc and random mayhem in the distant and not-so-distant provinces. The government continues to blame the rebels and, by extension, the war for all the ills of the kleptocratic society it leads. Luanda’s majority continues its struggle to survive and overcome desperate, oppressive poverty. Luanda’s privileged elite continues to revel in opulent, ostentatious wealth. International oil companies continue to discover and suck out black gold, Texas tea, like there’s no tomorrow. And then there are diamonds. Diamonds are forever. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Diamonds. Y’all know the rest of that story. The American Embassy continues its bifurcated operation in the Miramar trailer park and on top of the downtown garage known as Casa Inglesa. Continuity, for better or for worse, is Luanda’s most obvious constant. The strong get stronger, the weak go further off track. Or, if corruption empowers, then absolute corruption empowers absolutely.

Angola diz basta, Angola quer paz. Angola vai vencer. Or so says the steady flow of local media propaganda. Angola says enough. Angola wants peace. Angola shall win. An associate with party connections gave me the red, black and gold t-shirt that repeats the mantra. That makes it so.

The NOB didn’t start on time and may or may not start in the foreseeable future. While I am buoyed by our accomplishments of the past two years, I am a little disappointed over the NOB delays and the failed prospect of being personally involved in yet another building project in yet another former Portuguese colony. Never mind. A luta continua e vitoria é certa (translation: the struggle continues and victory is certain).

We are coming up on ten years of official USG presence in Angola in the post-Cold War era (1992-2002). I am soliciting information, anecdotes, photographs, etc. from folks who have served in Luanda, and from PMO’s, FBO Area Managers and desk officers who have paid Angolan dues, so to speak. While talking with people in Luanda and in Washington, I’ve made interesting discoveries regarding the colonial-era Luanda consulate and its employees (1952-1975) and the Benguela and Luanda consulates that supported US Navy ships (the African Squadron) involved in slave trade interdiction efforts in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Keep those cards and letters coming and let’s all meet for a big birthday bash in Luanda in 2002!

A trip down memory lane…

Here’s my blog post from November, 2013

Library Student Day in the Life

Home studying most of the day. Short trip to the Instruction Manual Factory retirement processing office to drop off old divorce papers. Reviewed notes from 555, including Access practice. Reviewed notes from 551, including thesaurus construction project. Gathered some thoughts for tomorrow’s meeting with the oral history folks at ADST. Mostly dithered with 644. Had a brief Baghdad flashback, nothing to be too concerned about, though. They come and go. Here is a link to a review of the play we saw Sunday, The Iceman Cometh. Highly recommended.



And from 2015

The agile librarian recuperates after a fall

I haven’t written anything in over a month, two months, because I haven’t had too much to say, just very busy with life and living. Oh, and there is the blackout walking home for lunch, and the breaking of the wrist in the resulting fall, and the lengthy recovery and the therapy to learn to use my wrist again. More detail here. Do y’all know how versatile a joint the wrist is?

But back to librarying. During my recovery, I have been maintaining a part-time schedule at the reference desk of a nearby university library. It’s been a distraction from pain, but it has also been an instructive period of the semester when students are cranking out research projects and leaning heavily on the librarian at the desk. And I have learned a thing or two, about research design theory, about ethnography and user experience (which necessarily includes librarian experience), and about using QuickTime, ScreenFlow and Youtube, all of which has informed my agile practices in the library. So it has carried me off in a different direction, in several different directions. For starters:

1. Digitization/electronification of information has liquidified the learning resources/assets that used to be part of our domain. We used to be “administrators” of learning assets. No more. Now information is being accessed everywhere and all the time. The definition of “the library” has changed.

2. As librarians, we were pretty much content with getting students started with developing their research question and initial search terms, then setting them free to conduct the iterative research process. No more. Now students have an expectation that we will provide them information support throughout the research process, and we have an obligation to do so. The identity crisis is over. The librarian, like information, is and has to be everywhere and all the time. The definition of “librarian” has changed.

3. User experience has necessarily become ethnographic. Correspondingly, ethnography emcompasses both the learner and the teacher/librarian, the interaction, the form and structure of the interface, and how both sets work together to accomplish the learning goal/objective.

4. The learners are not just the students, and faculty/staff/librarians are not exclusively the teachers. We are all learning entrepreneurs, putting together various combinations of factors of learning production, some that succeed, others that fail, but all that expand the boundaries of previous static thought. There are no traditional monopolies. And the sage on the stage is no more. Both the classroom and the library are “flipped” in unique and fascinating ways.

5. Learning is rhizomatic, decentralized, and resistant to regulation. It exists everywhere and all the time.

A student came to the reference desk with some questions about research design models. I told her that was not my area of expertise, but I would help her with her research if she would teach me the models. After about 20 minutes of conversation (it was a slow Saturday) she said, “Thank you, this has been very helpful.” I was floored, because I learned a lot more in that 20 minutes than she did.

This is the journey.


And of course, 2016 was all about the election!

An old friend asked me how was I going to spend Tuesday night, out on the town or at home with friends. I affirmed the latter, that we plan to hunker down and shelter in place, with hot buttered popcorn and our favorite adult beverage, as the states report their totals. And on C-SPAN, not MSNBC (which we only have via radio), ABC, CBS, PBS, or Fox.

Let’s travel back in time.

I remember the ’68 elections, not so much for the candidates, but for the tempestuousness of the primaries and the conventions.  A leading candidate had been assassinated, another had been shot on the campaign trail, and the eventual winner, a former vice president, was running against the incumbent vice president. And it was 1968. And I was all of twelve years old.

’72 was memorable. I was taking a social studies one-semester course, The U.S. Today, and we had regular heated discussions about politics. Dudley Sr. High had just integrated the year before, and the racial polarization of the ’72 campaign tended to inflame many of our class discussions. Watergate had happened, and it was absolutely clear that Nixon was guilty as heck. The voters elected him anyway. And we know how that all ended.

The first national election I participated in as a voter was in 1976. Bicentennial. Saw the play in ’73 (1776) and the movie that summer in Chicago, All the President’s Men. It was so easy to pull that lever and vote for the Sunday School teacher. A no-brainer. It was my sophomore year, and I voted in Curtis Hall on A&T’s campus where I was a student.

I voted for Jimmie Carter again in 1980, this time by absentee ballot from the Sub Base in Groton, CT. When you don’t actually go to the polls to vote, it all seems a bit abstract. 1984 was also abstract, and again I voted by absentee ballot, this time deployed on the USS Michigan. I think I may have even voted for a third party candidate, maybe a fourth party candidate.  It was THAT abstract. And the off years don’t really count, right?

By 1988, I was a naval officer and a declared Republican. It was issued in my seabag.  I voted for Bush and the dream of a 600-ship navy.

Bush washed out, but I wasn’t about to vote for a draft dodger. In ’92, I had just joined State,  where it seemed EVERYBODY was a Democrat. The draft dodger won.

’96 memories are hazy. I was at the London Embassy, and a full time student at SOAS, and dizzy as a sprayed cockroach.  I think the draft dodger won again, but don’t quote me on it.

2000. The election of the hanging chad. We had just departed Angola and arrived in Ghana. The Ghanaians were also having elections that fall and part of my job was organizing motorpool trips for embassy election observers all over the country. The whole Bush v Gore thing was a bit of a disappointment for me as it seemed Gore gave up too soon.  People underestimate the strength of the ship of state sometimes, I think.

Something screwy happened to the votes in Ohio in 2004. I supported Kerry. He lost after being swift-boated.

I got onboard with the winner early in 2008. From Baghdad I sent checks to the Obama folks to defeat the draft dodger’s wife. Once he got the nomination, it wasn’t even a contest against the admiral’s son and the crazy lady from Alaska.

And 2012 was an off-election. They don’t really count, do they?

Reflections on November 3rd

Last November I embarked on producing a blog post every day.

Last November was a month of momentous events, and I was working part time and had lots of spare time for blogging. I was also in docent training last November and the old brain synapses were constantly popping and making connections.  It was a fun time.

I miss my time being my own.

Today is the 38th anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre. I lost a friend that day, a mentor, someone whose spirit I admired, whose vigor I envied, and whose intellect I completely looked up to. What might she have accomplished had her fate not been sealed by those bullets? It is a question that haunts me.

The resulting Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the first in the United States. Their website is still up.  http://www.greensborotrc.org/exec_summary.pdf

The New Liberator blog provides a good analysis. https://thenewliberator.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/the-1979-greensboro-massacre/ 

New job, new projects, new prospects

It’s been a while since I’ve made regular posts to this blog, which began in 2013 as a series of posts on my career transition. Let me catch you up…

Late last May I started as a program analyst at the DC Office of Public Records. The job was supposed to be primarily about planning the move of DC Archives to its new site, but so far a site has not been established, so the move is likely several months if not years away. Anyway, being there, and me being me, I decided to take advantage of the lull in activity to learn something about the operation of the place.

DC Archives has a rich history of neglect and under-appreciation. Read this 2003 Washington Post article by Sewell Chan @sewellchan to get a taste of it (not much has changed). This series of letters from officials of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) @archivists_org ‏ provides reactions from the profession, and this 2015 article by Matthew Gilmore @MatthewBGilmore provides useful updates. This DC CityPaper article from 2000 written by Elissa Silverman @tweetelissa is also revealing. Here is a Vision Paper by prominent archivist Dr. Gregory Hunter that was not easy to locate. So I will take this opportunity to archive it here!

The place is dusty and moldy, but such is the way of archives. At least I don’t have to “dress up” for work. In my first month I couldn’t take the total clutter of the supply room, and volunteered to give it an overhaul. Not exactly in my job description, but it was clearly affecting operations at every level. So I took it on, and got it done, dead rats under the palates and all. In my second month, I complained about the backlog of donated collections and scheduled records deliveries piled up everywhere and took them on. After making a list and a POA&M (plan of attack and milestones: that Navy training is the gift that keeps on giving!), I offered to “do” the largest collection, processing over 250 boxes in six different locations of the personal and professional papers of a retired (and now deceased) member of the city council that had been around for almost two years, unprocessed. It took me from July to mid-October (not counting the month we took off for vacation), but I got the initial inventory done. Now we are in the description and arrangement phase (as an aside, it helps that I’m taking a course in archives management at my alma mater (CLSC 646). Anyway, for the course we had to choose a type of archives for a lit review and site visit and I chose oral histories of foreign service offices at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training  @ADSTnews ‏. See the paper that resulted here. I have fallen in love with oral histories!).

I wrote a sonnet that captures some of my initial impressions of the “spirit” of the place. Give it a try: https://thisismypoetryblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/archives-sonnet/

Back to the subject. With the initial inventory complete, I was unsure of the next step and we hadn’t at that point gotten that far in class. So I was talking with a colleague over lunch and he told me that with large collections of personal papers, one allows the main themes to emerge from the inventory, then organizes the papers along those themes in a second run. So that’s what I did. I started with about 40 themes that covered the whole collection, then consolidated them down to about 20 themes, then assigned numbers to those themes and put those numbers into the original inventory spreadsheet. Then sorted, and presto! We had a plan! (The royal “We,” mind you, it is only me). So each theme is now a group and as of today,  October 27, I have completed arranging the two largest groups at the folder level. The first two groups were both large, and lucky for me, concentrated pretty much over some 70 boxes, so it made sense to move the boxes from their temporary storage on the second floor to the processing area I mapped out on the ground level (not having an adequate processing area has been an excuse not to attack the backlog, but I was new and didn’t yet know the ropes…). But for subsequent groups that are significantly smaller and less concentrated, I will change my operational model and dive boxes directly at their temporary storage site on the 2nd floor. (p.s. I had arranged the bulk of the boxes in numerical order is what I thought to be a safe place (basically where they had been for over 18 months) but in a miscommunication due to some infrastructure work, all the boxes got moved by contractors without my knowledge, losing all the numerical order. Luckily, the boxes were numbered, but it makes the task slightly more tedious when numbered boxes are stacked on top of one another outside the original order).

This weekend’s readings for class this Monday focus on arrangement and developing finding aids, so it’s pretty cool that there is this alignment between my coursework and what I am doing at work.

Simultaneously, the course requires a 50-hour practicum, which I am doing at DC Public Library. Slightly different, this project is an item-level collection where I am documenting every piece of paper in a single box and doing the complete accession using ArchivesSpace. More about that in a subsequent post…

DC Archives has a small library attached, some 1500 books on shelves (not counting several boxes of books already accessioned as archives that will need to be transferred to the library whenever a librarian can be hired). The boss asked me to draft a collection policy (since I am a librarian by trade), which we got approved downtown, so a project in the near future might be to weed out the collection and whip the library into shape.

The third part of the operations is the records center. I went out to Suitland, MD to do a one-day training at the Federal Records Center in my first month on the job. At some point we will have to tackle the big problem of storage of DC records at several federal repositories that dates back to pre-1985, when DC records were considered federal records managed by National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Our present facility doesn’t have the space to consolidate all our holdings, so stuff remains all spread out and incurring huge monthly rent expenses for DC Government.

OK. Finally, there is a local organization, Friends of the DC Archives @FDCArchives, the present iteration of which emerged from a shadowy origin about the same time as the beginning of the Mayor Bowser administration. They claim no ties to the original Friends group formed in 2006, and they behave more like a citizen’s oversight group than an advocacy group, cross-examining employees at their infrequent and unannounced meetings. Here is their Weebly website (note: not updated since November 2016) and here is a link to their Facebook page, though they have no record of official incorporation as a not-for-profit organization and again, they make no reference to the original Friends of DC Archives that was legitimately incorporated in 2006. See more here: The Founding of the Friends of the DC Archives.

When I worked part-time I missed being a part of a team. But now I am working full time and missing days off during the week to do other interesting things like long lunches with old friends, movies and museum/gallery visits with Filomena, grocery shopping when checkout lines are short, and the possibility of long weekend road trips whenever. Oh well, save those thrills for when I really retire!