So how, you might ask, does a small Library and even smaller Photographic Services staff undertake and complete the digitization and cataloguing of 10,000 items in the space of 12 months? We may have declared victory, but victory belongs as well to a veritable army of interns and volunteers we found when the crisis was upon us. Twenty-two young men and women from around the Commonwealth came to our aid when we most needed them. They gave us anywhere between 12 and 162 hours apiece of their service. Considering how detail-oriented and repetitive the work can be, even 12 hours is grueling.They added not only much-needed labor but also a great spirit of camaraderie and good humor to the place. We are so grateful to them! And we hope they learned something about archival and library science in the mix.
I have asked a few of these volunteers to write in and tell us which piece they remembered most and why. What you will see are their own words. Here, then, is what Ashley wrote:
The “Sailing Orders” was the first item I catalogued…ever. I’ve done some basic data entry before but nothing as precise as cataloguing. This was my first real taste of the precision it takes to make these records. Until I started working on this record I didn’t realize that everything we were working on would eventually be put online for everyone to see. I still wasn’t completely sure how to do everything and I was pretty nervous about making mistakes. Then I thought about it and remembered every record goes through numerous checks before the librarians declare them “complete.” After that I dove right in and started creating my first record.
The first part of making records, at least when you’re new like I was, is creating stub files. Stub files are incomplete records that don’t have the description or the “aboutness” tags. So after I created the stub file for this item and the other items in the box I had to go back and create the full records. One thing I realized after going back was how much easier records are when you have more information. I had no context for the “sailing orders” or Richard Curtiss and didn’t know a whole lot about the Battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. When I went back to make the full record I realized the “sailing orders” were for a historical reenactment of the Battle of Hampton Roads that occurred during the 125th Anniversary Commemoration Celebration. Suddenly everything made sense and came together.
As a native of Hampton Roads, I was born and raised in Chesapeake before I went to college; I grew up learning about the Civil War and the “Battle of the Ironclads.” We even have a tunnel we call the Monitor-Merrimack. It was great learning about the people involved in the battle and seeing what they had to say. I also became really familiar with fans and researchers of the Battle. Irwin Berent spent a decade researching the battle and its participants and helped to organize a “reunion” for the descendants of the participants that included speeches and a historical reenactment. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much this summer and I’m super excited that something I created will be used for years to come. And to make the icing on the cake even sweeter, I’m taking a Civil War class this semester and I feel like I could teach the class period that covers the Battle of Hampton Roads!