Archive for October, 2011

-Contributed by Nathalie Chernoff

During the month of August, the CHP was happy to have Nathalie Chernoff as an intern. Nathalie is a doctoral student in the Psychology Department of Lancaster University in the UK and she came to the CHP for three weeks to learn the “ins and outs” of processing archival collections.

From August 10 to September 3, 2011 I visited Akron to undertake a three-week archival internship at the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP).   The majority of my time was spent learning about the preservation and dissemination work of the archive and gaining hands-on experience by processing three new collections.

The processing procedure can be broken up into three main stages.

First, the archivist assesses the collection taking into account the condition of the materials, the scope and content of the documents and undertaking some preliminary research on the subjects that the collection is related to.  During my internship I processed one collection of personal papers and two collections of materials relating to specialist psychological societies.

After the initial assessment of each collection, I devised an electronic finding aid organizing the materials into relevant thematic categories and by chronological order.

After the finding aids had been compiled I re-arranged the collections into new folders and assigned box numbers in accordance with the storage plan of the archive.

A processed box of manuscript papers from the Paul Thayer papers, processed by Nathalie.

A document from the Thayer papers, which highlight the history of industrial-organizational psychology.

At the end of my internship Special Collections Manager Rhonda Rinehart reviewed my finding aids and posted them onto the OhioLink EAD Finding Aid Repository website which is part of a public, searchable online catalogue of archival sources.  In this way, any person wishing to learn about the history of psychology will be able to determine if there are materials of interest to them at the CHP.

The Paul Thayer papers are represented in the OhioLink Finding Aid Repository.

Learning about the archiving process was particularly interesting as it required me to reflect on my previous experiences of using archives as well as imagine a wide variety of possible uses that a historian may have for a particular set of documents.  There were also distinct differences between the content and purposes of the materials in the personal papers versus that of the papers pertaining to psychological societies.  Learning these skills reminded me that all historical documents are subject to a mediation process which occurs at all stages of its preservation beginning with the person who creates the item, then by their heirs, then by the archivist and finally the historian.

The work that I undertook expanded my knowledge of the history of American psychology and inspired me to think more deeply about the different ways that American and British psychology are linked to one another.   Thinking about the process of archiving and learning about the work of the Center for the History of Psychology also spurred me to consider new archival sources for my future research.

I particularly enjoyed the impressive CHP museum, visited by many individuals and groups every day. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the Center for the History of Psychology, I hope to return to the archive to undertake some archival research in the future and I have no doubt that the skills that I acquired in assessing and cataloguing archival materials will useful as I continue my work in the history of psychology!

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