Friday, June 17, 2011

Professional Organizers and Archivists - Practicality, Longevity, and Understanding How People Handle Records

I love professional organizers with creative ideas to help people get clutter under control. I love how their work dovetails so nicely with that of archivists. Their expertise is under-appreciated. The potentials for cross-professional collaboration between organizers and archivists is generally overlooked. We each have important expertise to give to share with the other profession. We are missing out on alternate ways to accomplish our goal, and I would say that we are even making mistakes in how we do business and care for resources because we tend to ignore the other group. I recently read an organizing newsletter that made the mistakes quite clear. I don't want to put the onous just on the organizers, because both professions can learn from each other and I hope this blog post can show that.

Organizers have their fingers on the pulse of American society. They are brought into homes to look through personal belongings. They often establish close relationships with clients. They learn people's reasons for collecting what they collect. They help individuals organize thoughts and things to better ground them and to allow them to function more efficiently. Organizers know what people have and help them determine why they have it and if they can let it go. Many often come across historical records that deserve a place in a professional repository. They see documents that archivists never get to see. Organizers could help archives repositories fill gaps in collections by connecting their clients with cultural heritage institutions when appropriate. They can help archivists understand why people do the things they do with their records and how we can better reach individuals with unique historical items before the materials are lost or discarded. I often promote the need for archivists to more actively pursue community records. Professional organizers can play an important role in strengthening our community bonds.

For the benefit of organizers, archivists can play a vital role in helping organizing clients let go, while getting them grounded in thinking about their legacy and the importance of their materials for a larger community. We offer a place for people to comfortably donate their family papers. Furthermore, archivists have expertise in preservation that can help professional organizers give their clients proper information about the care of their materials.

This is where the newsletter that I recently read comes in. In a recent issue of Organized Assistant blog carnival, organizers talk about organizing memorabilia. I've picked just four examples of advice that could be more accurate to better help organizing clients.

  • One writer talks about keeping things in stylish bins and important docs at the bank. I like the idea of stylish bins for material without historical value, but for something you want to keep permanently, preservation needs to take precedence over style. I love keeping my sewing in a beautiful basket. I keep mail in one too. In fact, I can find hundreds of things I keep in lovely containers I pick up at Home Goods and other stores to keep me ordered and to make me smile. I keep my memorabilia in archives boxes purchased through reputable archival suppliers. This is very important to emphasize with people who want and expect their items to last for a long time.
  • Similarly, another writer talks about keeping memorabilia in plastic bins. While this is efficient, it is detrimental to the longevity of your memorabilia. I use plastic bins for carrying my presentation materials. I keep my swimming supplies stored in the basement in bins between seasons. Memorabilia can be greatly harmed by these items. The length of time it will take for items to deteriorate varies, but enclosed plastic bins will speed up the process of deterioration. Papers are organic and will deteriorate over time. It is our job to slow down this deterioration as much as possible for items with long term value. 
  • One author on the right track talks about avoiding acids, but mentions nothing about other harmful factors. We must also avoid lignin, PVCs and other harmful elements. Avoiding acid is just one piece of the puzzle. 
  • One writer mentions keeping things in a bank vault. However, there are not necessarily climate controls in such a space. In addition to the storage supplies we use, we must be aware of the environment in which we keep items. It should be stable. It should not heat up above around 65% and humidity should remain between 30 and 50 percent.
I hope that archivists and organizers can find ways to get together and share ideas. I hope that we talk more about our similarities and explore how our diverse specialized knowledge can benefit the other group. This post is just the tip of the iceberg for collaboration potential.

This blog includes more information on preservation. Search "preservation" in the sidebar. Or see the "Preservation" section on the ArchivesInfo web site.

1 comment:

  1. Melissa, thank you for reading and linking to the Professional Organizers Blog Carnival, and for your valuable feedback.