This past Friday, some of our staff members at George Blood Audio LP went on a field trip to Princeton, NJ to learn more from our fellow archivists who are on the cutting edge of archival practices.
Starting in a warehouse at the Forrestal Campus of Princeton University, we found ourselves at The Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), a high density archive and resource sharing service. ReCAP is jointly owned and operated by Princeton University, New York Public Library, Columbia University and Harvard University. The facility currently holds 15 million items in its collection and is capable of storing 17 million items in the future. Over the course of a year, ReCAP has circulated between 250,000-260,000 items between the partner institutions.
Touring this facility was an archivist’s dream, and Ian Bogus, the Executive Director of ReCAP gave the GBA team an excellent tour of the ReCAP facilities. Beginning in the shipping room, Ian showed us the ins and outs of shipping. Moving through the room, we could see the seamless operation that ReCAP has developed for incoming and outgoing shipments. Folks working in shipping only have to scan the barcodes on each individual object; this eliminates the need to track titles and authors. If researchers need to access materials from ReCAP, they can use their partner institution’s finding aid, which will have that information. Past shipping, we had the opportunity to see where materials were actually stored.
It is hard to imagine what 15 million items look like in one place, and it is even harder to look at 15 million items in one place and comprehend that you are looking at 15 million items. As we moved through the high density shelving, I felt so amazed by the sheer amount of books lining the shelves. We shivered while we walked through the space, the archive is kept at a balmy 50º. Keeping the space chilly ensures a longer shelf life for materials (pun intended). The above photo shows just one of the many shelves at ReCAP; when you walk through the space, you are dwarfed by the volume and immensity of the materials. It is truly a testament to efficient and effective preservation work.
After ReCAP, we headed into Princeton proper for a tour of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. This facility is a part of Princeton’s rare books and special collections, and it houses many important 20th-century public policy papers. Before jumping into our tour, we had an opportunity to explore some of the Mudd Manuscript Library’s newest exhibit: “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War.” This exhibit highlights Princeton’s history of student and faculty involvement during wartime. There is an online version of this exhibition that you can access here.
The library also boasted a collection of yearbooks and alumni artifacts from throughout Princeton’s 272 year history. Our tour guide, Digital Archivist Annalise Berdini, told us about a recent acquisition of personalized bags of popcorn that Princeton’s Class of 1978 created for every classmate for this year’s annual Reunion weekend. Because popcorn is not suitable for preservation, the library staff had the opportunity to snack on some popcorn before washing, drying, and storing the bags.
Overall, this day left the team feeling energized and excited by our colleagues in the field of preservation. There is so much exciting and innovative work being done out there, and we hope to see our peers at ReCAP and the Mudd Library soon!