Last Thursday, the CLIR team met with Dr. Laura Munoz, Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, during her visit to the Arizona State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections. She came to research the Alianza Hispano Americana Records of the Chicano/a Research Collection, now available for the first time fully processed.
Dr. Munoz asked to meet with us–Chris Marin, Project Consultant, Elizabeth Dunham, Assistant Archivist in charge of Electronic and Records Management, Nancy Godoy, Curator of the Chicano/a Research Collection, and myself, Project Archivist (I tuned in via Skype)–to talk about the grant and the progress made. It was also an opportunity for us to meet one of our most staunch supporters in our work, having written several letters in support of the CLIR grant. As a scholar, ready to use the processed collections, and a mentor of graduate students willing to send them our way, who can also speak to the importance of having these manuscripts ready for the sake of future scholarship, we were eager to meet with her as well.
Researchers such as Dr. Munoz play an important role in processing this grant materials. Like a scientific study, we have to come up with end results. The written grant plays a similar role to a hypothesis, where it isn’t until we execute the work we promised to, do we find out what can be achieved, what fallacies occurred that were expected and which weren’t. In the end, we have to qualify the quantity of work accomplished. Talking to researchers periodically through the project has helps us to that. We can ask experts like Dr. Munoz what these collections, processed, mean to her and the greater community of Chicano/a historians.
It’s also an opportunity for historians and archivists to work together and productively. I have found from personal experience, that too often historians and archivists clash. We may have the same goal in wanting to preserve history, but we achieve them quite differently. We may be similar disciplines but we have very different skill sets and methods.
Archivist manage information; we’re organizing machines who have all these factors to calculate into how we make materials accessible: where did the materials come from? Do we know how they were originally organized? Who’s going to use the materials? Are there going to be more materials added? How do we format the finding aid? Will we be putting it online? On the library catalog? In EAD? Will this be digitized? How much should we describe? At the series level? Folder level? Item level? Online? Etc. and so on. Sometimes we juggle too many factors that we lose sight of something historians are always keeping their eyes on: historical value.
Dr. Munoz reiterated something I’ve heard many historians I’ve met over the lengths of this project voice out: the history of how this underrepresented population was treated can be found by “following the money.” Where in general we don’t keep financial receipts because they hold little historical value and repeat information found elsewhere, financial receipts in these collections have high historical value. Knowing where Chicano/as and Latino/as bought and did business and who they bought from and worked with is solid hard documentation historians can use to map out economic status changes, social status changes, discrimination, population growth or migration, and more. Also, it’s information that can’t found elsewhere. According to Dr. Munoz we hold the only collection on SER/Jobs for Progress, Inc. in the country or at least the largest.
That’s something we have to listen to. Usually historians and researchers telling archivists to save every little thing is like traffic noise. We eventually tune out. We have so much going on in the management and preservation of information we can’t listen to everything. So the great part about this project is that it gives us the time to listen and listen through all the noise to actually hear what historians really have to say. I’d say we achieve a really great dialogue with Dr. Munoz and have a lot to work with–together.