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Grassroots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the Twentieth Century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement project at Union College: Processing Plans

Council on Library and Information Resources grant-funded project at Union College

Surveying the Collections

When embarking on an archival processing project it follows the standards of best practice to embark on a survey of the collection materials.  An archival survey is completed in order to:

  • Identify the source of the acquisition and obtain any available documentation relating to the provenance of the collection.
  • Determine if there are any research restrictions that must be put in place on the collection or materials within the collection.
  • Perform research on the collection’s creator in order to understand the scope of the individual’s or entity’s body of work.
  • Locate all materials of the collection, determine the processing space and the post-processing storage space.
  • Complete an estimate of the formats and conditions within the collection, noting any items which will require special housing.
  • Determine and order needed archival supplies, such as acid-free letter- and legal-sized folders and boxes, photographic enclosures and boxes that pass the Photographic Activity (PAT) test, and oversized containers.
  • Determine any conservation needs that may require the expertise of outside professionals.
  • Begin to formulate the proposed organizational structure of the collection.


As this project includes two distinct, large collections each were surveyed separately.  The John S. Apperson, Jr., papers were surveyed in July 2014 by Ann Mulfort and the Paul Schaefer Collection was surveyed in May 2015 by Abi Simkovic.

John S. Apperson Jr. Papers Processing Plan

The processing plan of the Apperson papers involved dividing the collection between two archival processors with different specialties. The first archives processor, hired to handle the extensive photographic materials and legislative materials, came to the project with a background in law libraries and experience with processing and conserving photographic archival collections.  The second archival processor, hired to handle the correspondence and map materials, came to the project with local history knowledge pertaining to the Lake George and Adirondack regions. 

Paul Schaefer Collection Processing Plan

The Paul Schaefer Collection came to the project in two distinct segments:  unsorted material and subject files in three-ring binders that Paul Schaefer began compiling shortly before his death and which were continued posthumously by a series of volunteers and unsorted.  The processing plan for this collection involved first separating the subject files from the unsorted material.  These subject files, many of which were unfinished, were kept intact in their entirely, were rehoused from the three-ring binders into archival folders.

The unsorted material had been shifted between many hands, boxes, and buildings before processing.  A three stage processing plan was devised for this segment of the materials.  First, a collaborative, “blitz processing” approach involving two undergraduate archival assistants, three archival processors, and the project archivist.  In this stage the audiovisual material was separated from the manuscripts and the manuscripts were arranged chronologically.  During this phase, all the team members kept notes on the materials, which contributed to the series designation.  In the second phase, the series for the collection was determined.  After which, the material was sorted into these series maintaining their rough chronological arrangement.  In the third phase, each of the archival processors were assigned specific manuscripts series with which to perfect the final arrangement.  The audio visual material was processed as a separate series by the project archivist with the assistance of one archival processor and one undergraduate archival assistant.