Somehow, this is my last week at ICFA, and I have to wrap things up! My first sustained adventure in the world of archives is rapidly coming to an end, and I’m feeling very grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with the Van Nice Collection. It feels a bit like I’m leaving two worlds simultaneously–Dumbarton Oaks, and mid-20th Century Istanbul. The beautiful gardens, chilly archive rooms, and the wonderful people of Dumbarton Oaks will always be near and dear to me, but so will the cast of characters in the Van Nice collection, and the magnificent structure that they called home for so many decades. Both of these worlds have left an equally strong impression on me, and I am grateful for the time I spent in each.
Experiencing the full arc of archival processing has been especially rewarding, allowing me to learn much more than I could have from the all the individual steps separately. Looking back on the whole process, from assessing the collection in its original state to crafting a useful finding aid, I’m struck by the frequent zooming in and out from an individual item, to collection, to subgroup, to folder, and so on. This constant re-focusing, while always keeping the full scope in mind, is tricky, but the sense of accomplishment is well worth it in the end. If I have any concrete advice for someone starting out in archival processing, it would be to take VERY detailed and consistent notes during the original assessment of the collection. I thought that I was being pretty diligent, but having to go back and re-check individual folders for dates, the names of correspondents, etc., was one of the biggest drags on the pace of later steps.
I’ll leave you with a final treat–we were recently lucky enough to be able to photograph the plaster squeezes, or impressions, that Van Nice took of some of the graffiti on the walls of Hagia Sophia. These are now stored in the museum of Dumbarton Oaks, still in the original boxes that Van Nice packed them in!
But don’t click that “unsubscribe” button just yet: we plan to revamp this space in the near future to include updates on ICFA’s many projects and initiatives. We have many wonderful archival and photographic collections at ICFA, and, as I mentioned, the Van Nice saga itself is far from over. The collection still needs to be re-housed, the finding aid published, and I know we would all love to see some kind of online or physical exhibit eventually take shape from this material.