Year in the Life: Sofía Becerra-Licha, Pt. 12

Putting together this 12th and final post has been bittersweet and surprisingly challenging;  though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that most months I’ve struggled to cobble together a semi-coherent narrative for what often feels like barely-contained chaos. In some ways, this is increasingly the case now that many “smaller” tasks on the grant workplan have been completed  and the main task that remains is that of processing, processing, and more processing of materials in varying states of original order.

Alongside the challenge of tackling the backlog, this semester has brought a flurry of requests for archival materials: from external graduate students, Berklee alumni, and other members of the campus community. We’ve been tasked with tracking down audio recordings, photographs, and other media for a variety of projects. Some requests have pertained to processed, or at least accessioned, collections, but others have required delving into unprocessed materials and doing some serious detective work over the last several weeks.

More recently, and thanks entirely to my graduate intern, the Franklin McGinley scrapbook has been fully digitized and is about to be storyboarded for virtual display, a finding aid for the Dean Earl papers has been drafted, and we’re working on linking the virtual display and finding aid for the Lawrence Berk papers on the Schillinger System. It’s been painstaking work for my student assistants, but we’re finally down to the last few albums of negatives to complete processing of the Alma Berk photographic collection started by my first graduate intern. A few weeks ago, we also received the first set of master’s projects from the Berklee Valencia campus.

So where are we now? Looking back at our progress from a little over the halfway point of the NHPRC grant, we have a mission, acquisition, access, and records management policies. We’ve surveyed representatives from nearly every academic department, including those based in the Valencia campus. The archives website has been significantly expanded and includes 6 new finding aids, with two more nearing completion. Our main storage area has been transformed from a 7’ x 9’ pile of boxes to proper stacks with shelving. We’re well on our way to fulfilling our grant objectives, but there’s still a lot of processing work to be done.

From an editorial standpoint, over the last year I’ve occasionally cringed at my repetitiveness in describing the perennial lack of tidily concluded projects each month. In rereading my posts one more time, however, I find this a pretty apt representation of the reality of a lone and inaugural arranger, even if it makes for dull reading.

In short, this is a job that has required a great deal of flexibility, resourcefulness, and, above all, perspective. It’s involved a surprising amount of writing and research: drafting policies, investigating and pricing everything from shelving to more basic archival supplies, putting together processing instructions and student employee guidelines, and cranking out myriad releases and blog posts to publicize our ongoing work. It’s meant taking all the theory and practice gained in library school and figuring out how to scale that to the resources at my disposal while being patient both with myself and the process. I feel incredibly fortunate to get to do what I do and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to reflect upon my first-year experience here on the SNAP blog.