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What am I doing here anyway?

posted Jul 18, 2012, 8:12 AM by jj pionke
I had an email question that went something like this.....what are you doing in Uganda?  Preservation, right?

Actually, preservation is not my main job here.  The main job that I have on this year's team is to catalog a collection called the Secretariat files.  These files are from the colonial administration from about the 1920s to the 1960s or thereabouts.  The files pertain to government activities like payroll, employment applications, containing illnesses, and with the war years, refugees and internment camps.  There are about 175 boxes of these files.  Sometimes the boxes have less than 10 files in them and sometimes the boxes have over 100.  Some days we zip through a lot of boxes and some days it's a long slog.  Since I am from the School of Information, I am in charge of the master spreadsheet.  At the end of everyday, everyone gives me their files.  At the beginning of the next day, I do a cursory check of them and then incorporate the new data into the master file.  After the cataloging is completely done, we'll do a master check to make sure that everything is correct.  Then we will move on to the next project.  As we are only here for 6 weeks, this means that what we can accomplish is limited.  The catalog is the primary goal, then retyping a catalog from a previous team (it exists only on paper, but not digitally), reboxing a collection, and if there is time, starting on the catalog of another collection.

In terms of preservation, the things I am doing are basically extra.  I've helped the archive write up a patron policy and I've been talking about preservation with the archives staff.  In  probably two years or so, there will hopefully be a preservation team that will come and the things that I am doing now will help that future team know what they are walking into and prep the archives staff for what will happen when the team gets here.  I think of the preservation stuff as sort of my fun research time. 

I am not going to lie, the cataloging is monotonous to put it politely and as a result, I have listened to more music in the last few weeks then I usually listen to in like a year.  Still, I have a real sense that I am getting something done.  That I am accomplishing something of worth and interest and that makes me feel good. 

All that said, the power is once again out at the apt.  I'm holding out hope that it comes back on soon so I can make some potatoes and toast but at the rate this is going, it might be PBJ, some crisps, and a cookie to finish it all off.  Not gourmet but it will do the job if need be.