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Preview: The Johnson Library Archives & Special Collections

The Johnson Library Archives & Special Collections

This blog records the progress of the archives and special collections of the Southern Polytechnic State University's Lawrence V. Johnson library.

Updated: 2014-10-04T23:13:27.621-07:00


A Note to Those Concerned


The archivist has left the building :).

Shortly after our last post, the archivist at SPSU went on to persue her career in corporate archives. Since then, she's been enjoying the archival pleasures of digital asset management, business records, and referring to herself in the first person.

Those wishing to contact the SPSU Archives concerning collection issues are encouraged to do so by calling the Lawrence V. Johnson library at 678-915-7444. Brenton Stewart, the Special Collections Cataloger, will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Those wishing to contact the former archivist directly may ask Brenton for our new contact information. We'll be happy to hand over the blog reigns to the new archivist when they arrive.

Levels of Processing


Carefully separating plats printed on degrading plastic so that they may be counted and interleaved. To see a larger image, click here.

Like many archives, the SPSU collection practices different levels of archival processing for different types of material. These levels are: box level, folder level, and item level. These levels are standard to many different institutions.

Box level processing is used for collections that are expected to be used very rarely. Most recently, we've used box level description on student survey projects from the 1960's and 1970's. You can see a picture of this here. Box level description requires minimal work; the records are put in order as best as possible, and stored in clearly labeled records cartons. One catalog record is made, and a very short description of the collection is logged in lieu of a finding aid. These are items that are only handled in bulk.

Folder level processing is used for collections that are expected to be requested by archives users, but do not have major preservation needs. Documents are housed in acid-free buffered folders, and arranged in alpha and date order in manuscript boxes. You can see a picture of folder level processing here. Series are created if appropriate. Any items known to be big preservation worries - like photographs or news clippings - are removed if found. A finding aid is then created for the collection. For the sake of expediency, the archivist makes a point of trying to only touch the folders of content, and not the items within.

Item level processing is only appropriate for our collection when preservation or format problems are present. The picture at the top of this post shows a collection that, for preservation reasons, must have every item handled. The items are given preservation treatment (in this case, interleaving).

When talking about how a group of records in the SPSU archives will be handled and accessed by patrons, it's important to differentiate between levels of processing and description. For instance, the student survey projects that were processed with box-level treatment in the archives were once on the shelves in the library, and so item level description exists for these items in the library catalog. The Gregson and Ellis Architectural drawings have been processed on the item level in the archive, but are described at folder level (by building set) in their finding aid.

September Progress Report



A new view of the drawing storage room. To see what this room looked like a year ago, click here.

It's been one year since SPSU Archives and Special Collections started with a full time Archivist. We've accomplished quite a bit in our first year, including the transformation of the drawing storage room into a space for archives users as seen above.

Here is a list of just some of the things the Archives and Special Collections has accomplished in its first year:

  • Surveyed the collections to determine those that were most at risk, and prioritized the work to be done.

  • Stated its mission, surveyed and prioritized the collections at the Library, and formulated written procedures and processes for our most at-risk collections.

  • Rehoused over 1,500 uncataloged maps and plats

  • Created a dozen SPSU wiki pages in order tobetter share our information with the community.

  • Arranged, cataloged, and rehoused almost two thousand architectural drawings.

  • Submitted our first EAD finding aid to the Digital Library of Georgia (currently pending peer review).

  • Launched the Archives and Special Collections website.

  • Submitted a proposal for building Archives and Special Collections space within the library.

  • Committed ourselves to connecting the archives to student learning by involving the collections in student Construction Management and Computer Science projects.

  • In our second year, we'll be mounting larger exhibits, calculating our average number of archives users, building a digital photograph collection, reaching out to alumni and more. Watch this blog and our main page to see us organize and grow.

    Our First External Researchers



    Picture of a researcher using our guest station. For a larger image, click here.

    August has been the month of researchers in the SPSU archives. For the first time, we've had visits and requests from outside the University of Georgia system. Above, Diana Werling from The Jaeger Company uses the visitor station in special collections. We've also had requests from the National Library of Medicine. Both requests were for scanned copies of materials; increasingly, it seems that users wish to receive their information as a digital file, rather than in photocopy form. This benefits the archives as we can index these scanned images for our own use at a later date.

    A draft of our first EAD finding aid has been submitted to the Digital Library of Georgia for proofing (you can see an unfinished rough version of it over here). Once we have pushed our product up to the standards endorsed by the Research Library Group, we'll be able to make information about our unique materials available to scholars everywhere.

    In recent weeks the SPSU blog was also one of the first blogs to be added into the new ArchivesBlogs RSS.

    August Progress Report



    Picture of CM capstone projects arranged by the archivist. For a larger image, click here.

    The Archives has now arranged and described six examples of "A" level capstone projects from our Construction Management program. Any student wishing to access the sampling of projects that have previously recieved an A should contact the archivist and schedule an appointment if possible.

    This August the cataloger and archivist started the month out by attending a class on Encoded Archival Description. We hope by the end of the month to have the finding aid for the Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings up on our home page to facilitate access to this collection. After we get the first collection up and running, hopefully other finding aids will be quick to follow.

    This month also saw the Archives launch its new main web page, loading with links to information on the archives. You can even find a list of collections in progress for those curious as to what we'll be working on this academic year.

    Off to the SAA Annual Meeting



    For the week of Monday, July 31st through Friday, August 4th, the Archives and Special Collections will be closed while the archivist and cataloger attend The Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. We're excited because it's a joint meeting this year with the government archivists.

    If you're looking for some interesting information on libraries and archives while we're gone, try these links:


    The Anarchivist


    The Shifted Librarian

    Tame the Web: Libraries and Technology

    Preservation: Everybody's Job

    Science Library Pad

    July Progress Report



    Detail from a blueprint of a pecan warehouse in Monroe, Georgia. For a larger image, click here.

    When people think of the drawings in an architect's office, they are most likely to picture the type of print above this post. Less than five percent of the material processed in the Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings are blueprints, the negative prints produced from light projected through original drawings onto paper that has been sensitized with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide.

    The over 1700 pieces that have been processed are almost all original drawings or other diazo process prints such as bluelines. A number of drawings and prints are wash-off prints (also known as See-Bee or Dupro Prints).

    The Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings will continue to be processed until we reach 2,000 pieces that are arranged, rehoused, and cataloged. At that time, we'll publish an online finding aid and pause in the processing of these documents for a period of one year. In that year the archives will run a user study to determine how students and faculty best like to access the items. The user study will inform the archivist and cataloger on how the rest of the materials should be processed.

    Archives and visual learning



    Happy Independence Day! The picture above this post isn't of fireworks - it represents a visual graph of the SPSU Archives progress blog. An explanation of the colors and structure of this graph can be found here.

    Many of the subjects taught at SPSU attract students who are strong visual learners. Giving these students objects, photographs, and drawings to study can greatly increase their interest in and comprehension of a subject. When the SPSU Archives and Special Collections opens for student and faculty use next year, we hope to enhance learning at the university by providing students with access to unique images and objects relating to their fields of study.

    To find out if you are a visual learner, take this quiz. To find out more about different learning styles and how they relate to college science education, check out the links over here.

    June Progress Report


    for a larger image of this unique drawing of a spiral staircase, click here. The Architectural Drawing Collection is still in process, and we anticipate having over 2,000 drawings of approximately 150 different structures available for use by the SPSU community this fall.

    This June, both the Archivist and the Cataloger attended workshops on the new descriptive standard for archives that is endorsed by the Society of American Archivists. We'll be using this standard, along with Library of Congress MARC records to provide access information to those wishing to use the architectural drawing collection this fall. Due to space restrictions, access will be limited to SPSU students, faculty, and staff until renovations to the existing archives space occur.

    May Progress Report



    In the picture above, a university workman removes one of the old storage cabinets. For a larger image, click here.

    The Archivist is out on maternity leave until June 26th, but progress on the architectural drawing collection continues. Brenton Stewart, our cataloger, is busy building records for each building set in MARC format. This will allow our records to show up not only in the SPSU library catalog, but in the Georgia Interconnected Libraries Catalog as well.

    In April's update, we discussed how researchers might find our drawings by searching on their location. Another way researchers might find our holdings would be to search by building type. In the first 1400 drawings, there are 125 different building represented. In those 125 buildings:

    28 are Medical Facilities

    27 are Residential Dwellings

    21 are Commercial structures

    20 are Educational in nature

    9 are Special Purpose buildings

    8 are Federal Government facilties (mostly Post Offices)

    6 are Spiritual Dwellings (churches)

    4 are Government Housing projects

    The archives looks forward to providing these resources to students and researchers who might use them for papers and publications.

    April Progress Report


    for a larger image of this Atlanta store, click here.

    While the archivist is on maternity leave until June 26th, the first 1400 drawings are being cataloged by building set. The catalog information will be accessible by Fall semester 2006. One of the ways students, professors, and researchers will be able to find items using the library catalog is by location. In the current collection sample, there are over 47 different locations listed. By percentage, the most drawings are located in Milledgeville (34.1%). This statistic will likely change as more drawings are processed; Milledgeville is over-represented in the current sample of drawings due to the large government medical facilities built there in the 1950's.

    The next four most represented locations by percentage in the current processed collection sample are:

    Atlanta - 23.3% (all types of structures, but mainly residential and commercial buildings such as the one at the top of this post)

    Covington - 3.88 % (Newton H.S. and associated buildings)

    Lovejoy - 3.15% (Properties owned by the Talmadge family)

    Smyrna - 3.15% in (commercial funeral home & office building)

    The archives looks forward to providing access to these historical documents for those interested in Georgia history in the near future.

    for a larger image of one of the Milledgeville buildings, click here.

    Tape Damage


    for a larger image click here.

    Last week the archives added a page on the preservation of cultural artifacts to the campus wiki for students enrolled in Art History here at SPSU. We also got a chance to speak to students on the subject, and lecturing on preservation topics gave us a chance to talk about some of the common challenges archivists face in every collection, like the challenge of preserving documents, artifacts, and books with tape damage. Both pictures on this week's post are samples of the many items in the collection we're currently processing that have sustained tape damage. As the pictures illustrate, even if the tape does manage to fall off over time, the adhesive leaves a permanent stain on the items.

    Pressure sensitive tapes cause a lot of damage in libraries and archives, so if you tear a book, photograph, or other item, please don't use tape to fix the problem! Often libraries have trained staff that can repair the items properly, but repair time and materials can be costly, so they usually only work with items in their own collections. Tape damage is very difficult to fix, and often the damage can not be reversed.

    When working with your collections at home, the Library of Congress has recommended that you "NEVER hinge pictures with pressure-sensitive tape...including masking tape, "invisible" tape, quick-release tape, cellophane tape, double-stick tape, and the so-called "archival" tapes." Even tapes sold as "archival" can cause permanent damage to family heirlooms. There are a lot of guides to caring for historical collections that are out there to help you preserve your family treasures. Be aware that the way we store and handle the physical reminders of the past affects how long those reminders will last.
    for a larger image click here.

    March Progress Report on the Architectural Drawing Collection


    for a larger image of this segregated doctor's office, click here.

    Last month the archives ran statistics on the first 1,000 drawings arranged in the Gregson and Ellis Collection. Four weeks later we've now run statistics on our first 1,400 processed drawings, and some interesting data has begun to show up.

    The current processed collections span the date range of 1946 to 1966. While racial segregation was a part of everyday life in Georgia during this time period, only 12 of the 119 buildings in our current sample specifically note segregation in their plans. When the architects were designing a building that was whites only, no mention of segregation was needed for the builders. Only when a building was intended for mixed-use or exclusively for non-whites was a mention of race made in the plans. Of the twelve buildings with racial notation, nine are medical facilities, two are educational facilities, and one is a special purpose building (a slaughterhouse in Milledgeville). While many of our commercial, residential, and religious structures in the collection were no doubt segregated as well, no notations exist on any of these types of drawings so far. Thus as statistics are drawn from the data, we can only confirm that approximately 10% of the structures were segregated. It will be up to students, researchers, and historians using the drawing collection in the future to tell us more about these buildings and their place in the history of building design and use.

    for a larger image of this segregated hospital kitchen, click here.

    Preserving the History of a Profession


    for a larger image, click here.

    The drawings above and below this week's archive progress report are from a rare book in the Library's collection titled The Elements of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, published in 1898.

    As we continue processing the Architectural Drawing Collection, our rare book collection reminds us that not only are we creating more research resources for our students, preserving important parts of Georgia's history, and caring for Special Collections, but we are also helping to preserve the history of the professions that created these documents.


    for a larger image, click here.

    February Progress Report on the Architectural Drawing Collection



    This month the archives was able to run statistics on the first 1,000 drawings arranged from what we're currently calling The Gregson and Ellis Collection. As the graph above shows, the rehousing project is uncovering a wealth of data on our previously unarranged holdings. Approximately 90% of our drawings are from buildings in the state of Georgia; many are of buildings of historical significance to the state, including hospitals, post offices, and educational buildings. To see a further graphed breakdown of the first 1,000 drawings, click here.

    The Architectural Drawing Collections here in the archive were chosen to be our first arranged and described collection for the library for several reasons. First, the environmental conditions of their storage made saving the drawings an immediate concern. Second, there was a demonstratable need for the drawings; our students and faculty can use these resources next year as part of their classroom materials. Third, these resources are unique to SPSU and will add to our ability to recruit and retain students wishing to research areas for which the drawings are a source of original information. Finally, these types of drawings fit firmly into the educational history of the University itself; the picture below is of an early SPSU textbook. Preserving and creating access to these drawings will continue our history of excellence in Architecture, Engineering and Design, while building a foundation for historical research into how all of these areas have contributed to the history of the state of Georgia.

    for a larger image, click here.

    Connecting the SPSU Architectural Drawing Collection to Georgia's History



    click here for a larger image.

    As we continue with the Archive's current goal of arranging and rehousing our drawing collection, it's become a fun diversion for both the cataloger and archivist to connect the drawings to events in Georgia's history. The more connections we can make with the drawings in our catalog records, the easier it will be for students, staff and faculty to use the collection in their learning experiences.

    Last week the Archive arranged prints relating to the Talmadge properties in Lovejoy, GA. The print pictured above this post is a detail of the hoses used in the Talmadge Ham Processing plant, built in 1952. Talmadge Ham was owned in 1952 by then-Governor Herman Talmadge, a participant in what became known as the three governors controversy. The bulk of Herman Talmadge's papers can be accessed from the UGA Archives.

    Within the drawing collection currently being arranged, SPSU also holds the plans for a porch built on to the Talmadge Lovejoy Farm, later known as Lovejoy Plantation. The detail below is from the porch that was built about the same time as the Ham Plant. This porch, and the Lovejoy Plantation, are an important part of Georgia's history; in the mid 1970's this property passed into the ownership of Betty Shingler Talmadge, who played host to many politicians there throughout her life. Betty Talmadge is also a figure of historical intrest because of her unique participation in national politics. She testified before the Senate Ethics Committee in 1979, and ran an unsuccessful bid for the Congressional seat in the 1980's that was eventually won by Newt Gingrich.


    click here for a larger image.

    Changes at the Library and Archives



    January has been a month of great change and forward movement here at the library and archives. We've been furthering our progress on our proposed improvements that were published on the wiki last semester. Li Chen, Systems Librarian, has overseen the redesign and expansion of our reference area computer workstations. The library as a whole submitted a long-range plan for improvements to our building, including fixing the library dome pictured above. Here in the archives, we collected proposals from exhibit designers regarding the remounting of the Sellars Tool Collection.

    The library also welcomed Brenton Stewart, our new cataloger, onto the staff. Brenton will not only be cataloging our general library collection, but he'll also be working with the archives and special collections. Already he's helped us identify our main LC subject headings, and been part of the CS project team that's organizing our web portal that will open in the fall. Project organization and co-ordination occupied most of this month; starting next week, more pictures of the collection will be offered as before.

    January Progress Report on the Architectural Drawing Collection



    A little over thirty work days have passed in the academic calendar since the archives began to rehouse and arrange our room full of architectural drawings. As of Monday, over 700 pieces from this collection had been interleaved with archival tissue, recorded with a location ID, and rehoused into flat file drawers or drop-front boxes.

    The next step in providing access to this collection begins later this month. The archives will consult with our School of Architecture, Civil Engineering Technology, and Construction to find out how faculty would best like to see the collection described for access. We'll take into account the preservation of the drawings and how students may best benefit from this resource in the future. Then the library's new Cataloger, Brenton Stewart, will work with the archives on describing the collection. Finally, a web portal will be built around the catalog information.

    If this sounds like a lot of work, you're right! Our goal is to have a little over a quarter of the prints cataloged for SPSU access by Fall semester. While Brenton works on the cataloging metadata associated with this project, here at the archive we'll still be rehousing our thousands of drawings, which include all kinds of ephemera and other sorts of mixed media.

    Archive projects for the future - looking to 2006 and beyond



    In 1995 the Alan and Louise Sellars Collection of antique tools was removed from permanent display at the Lawrence V. Johnson Library. The eighteen panels designed by Mr. Sellars were removed from display due to damage incurred over the years by reactions between the tools themselves and the original epoxy-and-wire mounts holding the tools to their pegboard bases. At that time, SPSU invested in high-quality conservation treatment for the collection. Since 1996, the tools have rested in polyethylene wrapping out of view.

    Now that the Archives and Special Collections is being developed as a department within the library, the tools have once again become a focus of attention. In 2006 we'll be making decisions regarding putting some of the tools on permanent display again, this time in museum-quality cases that will prevent further damage to the collection. While the Archives has some funds available for this project, we'll most likely be able to finance remounting only one or two displays a year. Parties interested in the Alan and Louise Sellars collection of antique tools may wish to contact the Archivist.

    Other plans for the Library and Archives can be found on the SPSU wiki. Alumni, Faculty, Students, and Staff should feel free to log onto the wiki to discuss the proposed improvements to the Lawrence V. Johnson Library building. The Archives and Special Collections also welcomes visitors and calls - the items here are for educational purposes, and belong to everyone in the SPSU community. In the coming year we'll need lots of input on how the collections may be arranged for use, and which collections are of a priority nature to the SPSU community.

    Preserving SPSU's educational history



    click here for a larger image.

    The Archives and Special Collections continues on with its rehousing project, working on our room full of prints. This week a happy coincidence occurred; while arranging prints from the late 1940's and early 1950's, (such as the one that includes details of an incinerator, below), donations of textbooks and notes from the same era of SPSU history were given to the library.

    When the Archives and Special Collections gains space for researchers, it will now be possible to view the instruction materials students were provided, and the work they produced as alumni side-by-side. This is important not only as a point of pride for the school, but for the history of the region. It will show how investment in higher education at the state level paid off in the construction of well made public use buildings for all of Georgia. The educational materials will also provide context for researchers seeking to understand the design and structural choices of architects and engineers in the past.


    click here for a larger image.




    click here for a larger image of the picture above. As of last Friday, the archive has now rehoused approximately 10% of the architectural drawings in its collection!

    Among the prints rehoused in the archive last week were 48 pieces related to the construction of a High School in Covington in 1949. One of the pieces included in this collection was not a drawing or print of any kind; it was a piece of ephemera, in this case, a press release related to the award winning features of the building.

    Ephemera like this press release are filed in a separate location from the drawings, with an note in the arrangement and description as to their location. Ephemera items often add important context to the drawings in the collection; this piece touts the new school's cost saving innovations (such as sky lights) and mentions the awards the design won. While many of the innovations seem antiquated today, the design for this building was cutting-edge for public use buildings in Georgia in 1949.

    Mixed Media in the Rehousing Project



    The image above is a colored pencil drawing of the Georgia Pavillion at the 1964-1965 World's Fair in New York City. The drawing exists on fragile tracing paper which has yellowed over time. The yellowing is caused by environmental factors and the chemical composition of the paper; the usable lifespan of this document will be greatly extended by the rehousing project. Today the archive will arrange and rehouse at least a dozen drawings of the Georgia Pavillion; the drawings are varied in their size and media. The varied formats in this collection are so far typical of those found in the archive's collection.

    As you can see in this second image of materials relating to the White Hospital, one folder of prints can contain everything from brownlines to tracings to negatives prepared for reproduction. Since the collection's holdings vary in size and composition, the flat files aren't appropriate for all of the items; smaller items are interleaved and sorted into drop front boxes, and arrangement numbering will let researchers know how to find everything for one subject. Separating the formats by size will prevent smaller items from becoming damaged or misplaced in drawers too large for their measurements.

    Preventing light damage to architectural drawings and prints



    The first two weeks of the archive's rehousing project have been very productive. In addition to gathering more information on our holdings, the archive has also been able to document the need for better archival storage, and solve a number of environmental problems related to preserving our research materials. One of the environmental threats to the collection is light damage. In the picture above, you can clearly see that information on the top left of the print has faded out as a result of exposure to sunlight. In the picture below, a print that has experienced light damage is contrasted with a print that has been stored in the dark.

    As you can see from the previous image, these two prints were made in the same office, on the same day in 1960, using the same process on the same type of paper. One of the prints has light damage, the other does not. Light damage can occur from artificial as well as natural light. Light damage not only causes the fading of materials, but contributes to the natural breakdown of the paper, causing brittleness. The embrittling of the paper causes it to break easily, and can lead to losses along the edge of the paper, as seen below. Once the prints are housed in flat files, no further light damage should occur - preventing future information loss as a result of fading.

    The first drawings have been arranged



    This week in the archive we have started to arrange the architectural drawings, prints, and maps into the new flat files.


    As you can see in the pictures above, the drawings are interleaved with unbuffered archival tissue to prevent one print from damaging another as they are arranged together. This allows for each print to be retrieved without damage; one can lift an item out of the drawer without sliding it against another item. The arrangement of the print can also be noted on the paper. The notation on the interleaving in the picture above reads "01.001.White Building.001" - meaning that this print belongs in flat file drawer 1, position 1, and that the drawing belongs to the White Building series, and is the first print in that series. This type of notation simply refers to arrangement; description and cataloging of the prints will not begin until next year. It is possible that during the description and cataloging phase, the prints may also be put into folders according to series.

    A conservative estimate of the collection gives us 2,000 items to re-house and arrange this way, so the archive will be working exclusively on this project for some months to come! Keep checking in with this blog though - there are so many interesting prints in this collection, we'll still have new pictures and information to post each week.


    Today the archive set up the first three flat files we've purchased to use in re-housing our maps, drawings, and blueprints. Because there's no room in the archive,we've stacked them outside the archive along the wall, and had locks installed on the cabinets for security. Before the end of the semester, three more flat files will be stacked on top of these. By the end of Spring semester 2006, all the flat files will be filled with organized and cataloged prints. (image)