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An Intro from Fales Library & Special Collections

As Senior Archivist at Fales, for my first post I thought I’d introduce the library and touch on some of the issues my staff and I might be discussing in future posts. We are home to the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food & Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections for the NYU Libraries. Significant literary manuscript holdings include the papers of Erich Maria Remarque, E.L. Doctorow, Dennis Cooper, and the Sylvere Lotringer and Semiotext(e) Archive (which is currently being processed). Notable holdings in Downtown include the Richard Hell Papers, the David Wojnarowicz Papers, the Richard Foreman Papers, and archives of organizations like Creative Time and Group Material (again, the latter is being processed). In Food & Cookery, our newest area of collecting, we are excited to be processing both the James Beard Papers and the James Beard Foundation Archive. We’re at nearly 200,000 volumes, and have over 8,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, 27,000 video elements, 18,000 audio elements, and over 6,000 films.
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Fales has four permanent staff members: Fales Director Marvin Taylor, Media Specialist Brent Phillips, a soon-to-be-hired Librarian for Printed books, and a Senior Archivist. In addition we have a small but fantastic staff of part-time graduate students, a part-time offsite processor, an intern or two, and a grant-funded project archivist. Our graduate student staff has come predominately from the English Department, Performance Studies, and the Draper Program in Humanities and Social Thought, plus the occasional library or archives student. Because students work less than 20 hours a week, and are responsible for a myriad of tasks (staffing the reference room and paging materials for patrons; flagging, shelving, and Mylaring books; periodic tasks such as reboxing collections or assisting with installation of exhibitions) in addition to archival processing, our processing can move slowly. Ways we have tried to make processing as efficient as possible include creating a detailed processing guide, implementing the Archivists’ Toolkit, increasingly applying Greene and Meissner (MPLP) techniques to suitable collections or selected series within collections, and matching students’ knowledge and scholarly interests with collections. (For example, the student processing the Semiotext(e) collection is an English major with a strong knowledge of critical theory and fluency in French.) We’ve found that many of our students come in on a humanities track, but leave on archives or library tracks.
Some of the student staff will be blogging about their processing projects, and I expect their experiences as non-archivists will provide an interesting perspective. Our intern Lawrence, an archives student, will likely write about processing the born-digital Jeremy Blake Papers. Blake was a contemporary artist who worked exclusively with digital media; this pilot project (a collaboration with Bobst’s Digital Library Technical Services and an intern from the Moving Image Archives program) will provide guidelines for the future preservation and processing of born-digital materials at Fales. Our offsite processor will be writing about his experiences adapting MPLP techniques to the complex and often messy world of artists’ papers. Our Media Specialist will document some of his experiences describing and preserving moving image and audio material. And our project archivist will be writing about processing the Sylvester Manor Archive, a collection that documents the Shelter Island Plantation from the mid 1600s to the 20th century. I plan to write about the collection management of objects in archival collections, issues in archiving artists’ papers, and about my new project to create a Riot Grrrl Collection at Fales, among other things.
– Lisa Darms, Senior Archivist, Fales Library & Special collections

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