Special Collections and Archives blog

October 5, 2015
by special collections & archives

October is American Archives Month

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October is American Archives month and the Cline Library Special Collections and Archives is excited to share several of its treasures with you throughout the month.

Special Collections and Archives has two major collecting areas: the human and natural history of the Colorado Plateau and the institutional history, or University Archives. The department will make selections from each area of our collecting scope to highlight a few of our collections.

To kick off the month, we selected a 1936 travel journal of a gentleman named William “Wully” Wares to highlight an example of our Colorado Plateau collections. This exceptional photo-journal chronicles a 1936 motor trip which began in Butte, Montana and covered much of the Southwest. William Wares describes excavating a site at Awatobi, hunting mountain lions in Utah, and the beauty of numerous geographic landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Goosenecks of the San Juan country.

Goosenecks, 1936

Goosenecks of San Juan Country, 1936

Grand Canyon National Park Pass, 1936

Grand Canyon National Park Pass, 1936

Journal Entry, August 24, 1936. Entering Grand Canyon National Park.

Journal Entry, August 24, 1936. Entering Grand Canyon National Park.

Journal Entry, August 24, 1936. Entering Grand Canyon National Park.

Journal Entry, August 24, 1936. Entering Grand Canyon National Park.

Photographs from Grand Canyon National Park, 1936

Photographs from Grand Canyon National Park, 1936

Photographs from Grand Canyon National Park, 1936

Photographs from Grand Canyon National Park, 1936

The journal also mentions Yellowstone National Park and the Teton mountains. An Anglo, Wares made cultural observations about the Navajo and Hopi as well as the inhabitants of Mormon towns. Some of the pages in this journal contain images of culturally sensitive material. The culturally sensitive material remains part of the original diary; however, Special Collections and Archives has elected not to provide online access to the culturally sensitive material out of respect to the Native American communities those images document.

The entire journal can be viewed online via our Colorado Plateau Archives here. The finding aid for the collection can be found at the Arizona Archives Online here.

Cline Library Special Collections and Archives will be partnering with three other institutions in Flagstaff to celebrate American Archives Month: The Arizona Historical Society, Northern Division; Lowell Observatory; and the Museum of Northern Arizona. Please feel free to visit their sites to learn more about the history and archives of northern Arizona.




October 3, 2015
by special collections & archives

Special Collections and Archives Welcomes Volunteer Tom Schmidt

tom schmidt

Tom Schmidt Enjoying New Years in Flagstaff in front of the Weatherford Hotel. Photo courtesy of Tom Schmidt

Special Collections and Archives has the fortune of having wonderful and dedicated volunteers who steadfastly and meaningfully contribute to the department. One of our more recent volunteers is a librarian named Tom Schmidt. Tom has worked over 10 years in public and museum libraries in Florida, New Mexico, and most recently, the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Library and the Museum of Northern Arizona. He also enjoys history (particularly Southwest). He received his master’s degree in history from the University of San Diego (go Toreros)  and later a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (go Fighting Illini). Despite living all over the country, he considers himself a Southwest native.  Tom is volunteering in the department by helping us with our monograph collection.

Like so many of us, Tom loves reading and history. He combined these two passions and is now making selections from our monograph collection and reviewing those books on his blog Reader’s Advice! He is very excited at reviewing books from the Special Collections & Archives and wants to focus on the different peoples of the Southwest/Colorado Plateau and their interactions with each other and the natural environment, and how history affects the future of the region.

Stay tuned for weekly book reviews from Tom, and if you see him in the library or around town, please say hello!

September 22, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on Collection Pickups: Professional Peril?

Collection Pickups: Professional Peril?

In an ideal world, donors would submit collections to Special Collections and Archives (SCA) in as pristine a manner possible: boxes would be clearly labeled and the contents organized and titled appropriately; contents would be in excellent stable condition; and the threat of pests (insects etc.) would be minimal to none. The idea that a box of material–whether textual or photographic–could be a danger to a person’s health seems a little out there.

Unfortunately this is a reality that many archivists and librarians face on the job; Post graduation, recently-minted professionals would never have imagined the sorts of environments they would be exposed to while collecting valuable historical documents. Mold/mildew, mice/rats, snakes, spiders, book lice, chemicals, and other biohazards are often parts of the job that are less than glamorous and certainly seldom publicized.

Recently, Special Collections and Archives was asked to retrieve materials stored in a older-model bleekers box that was offsite storage for the organization making the donation. The name and location of the material (and its donor) shall remain anonymous. Upon opening the door to the bleekers box, the immediate heavy musty odor suggested the very real likely presence of active mold and/or wood rot.

After clearing some space in the aisle, we were able to make headway and rebox some damaged boxes

After clearing some space in the aisle, staff were able to make headway and rebox some damaged boxes

The source of this odor was not immediately clear, but it wouldn’t take long to discover that a nickel-sized hole in the metal roof of the storage container had allowed water to enter for a number of years. Subsequently, numerous boxes and wooden shelves directly underneath had active (fuzzy) mold on them, preventing the retrieval team from even looking at the contents and assessing them for potential acquisition. Active mold contains tiny spores that are easily breathed in when disturbed; often these spores can attach themselves to tissues in the body and continue growing there, leading to serious medical issues. For this reason, archivists know that specialized retrieval by a trained team of experts in full protective gear is the only way active mold should be safely removed and managed. Inactive mold (dark and powdery) has fewer health concerns, but wearing gloves and using a mask to protect airways is always a good idea.


The area directly underneath the hole in the ceiling/roof

The evidence of mold growth underneath the wooden shelves is apparent

The evidence of mold growth underneath the wooden shelves is apparent


SCA staff demonstrating responsible gear for retrieving materials in less than ideal conditions.

However, all is not lost! There are many safety precautions that can be taken to mitigate exposure and potential illness when working with at-risk materials. Prior to commencing work, SCA staff put on protective nitrile gloves; these were swapped out regularly throughout the day. One member of the staff regularly wore a protective mask as she was making regular trips in and out of the box, while two other staff were predominantly stationed in the outdoors where there was less risk of exposure. Out of approximately 125 boxes stored in the bleekers box, the contents of 91 were identified as being in stable condition. After re-housing them in new boxes (and retaining all contextual information written on the boxes), the old boxes were collapsed and discarded or recycled. A further 17 boxes were experiencing accelerated mold growth and were not touched. Other boxes contained information that was of no interest to SCA. It is anticipated that a future visit to the bleeker’s box by a special team of pest professionals will be undertaken to retrieve the remaining 17 moldy boxes safely.

AND the story is not over. To eliminate other pests (such as silverfish, spiders, beetles, and book lice) that were not immediately seen in the material, these 91 boxes will be plastic wrapped on-site and sent to a large walk-in freezer for one-week of freezing. This step is critical so that SCA does not unwillingly introduce pests to collections presently housed in its storage facility. Altogether it is anticipated that this process will take over one month before all 91 boxes (and potentially some of the other 17 boxes) are all housed in SCA and ready for a formal review for appraisal, arrangement & description, and digitization purposes.

In closing, SCA will leave you and our future donors with some recommendations for storing your material so that the scenario above can be avoided.

  • Ensure the storage environment is sealed from exposure to the elements (check for leaks, cracks, and points of entry for insects/rodents)
  • Wherever possible, provide a consistent year-round temperature and relative humidity. While this is an ideal, new research suggests that materials are hardier than previously thought and can withstand some degree of seasonal fluctuation (winter to summer and vice-versa; monsoon activity) that can affect either temperature or relative humidity
  • Mitigate the level of light beaming down directly on materials or the boxes in which they are contained. Light damage will rapidly deteriorate these materials. Most materials prefer environments as dark as possible.
  • Use acid-free (and preferably waterproof/resistant) boxes and file folders/supplies to store documents/materials
  • Organize and inventory boxes in a manner conducive to eventual transfer in the event you move or you wish to donate materials to an archival repository.

July 28, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on 101 Years Ago Today – World War I Declared

101 Years Ago Today – World War I Declared

On July 28th, 1914–exactly 101 years ago today–Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Many pinpoint this date as the beginning of the ‘Great War,’ which would soon involve many other nations in a battle that would become more commonly known as World War I. The United States formally declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917 – almost three years later. Special Collections and Archives has combed its digital holdings and would like to offer the following items that focus regionally on this historic war and the brave soldiers who fought for this country.

Harold Blome's Diaries, 1912-1918. MS.91.

Harold Blome’s Diaries, 1912-1918. MS.91

Red Cross Dog of WWI [standing in front of Babbitt Bros. Trading Company]. NAU.PH.412.1.41

World I Soldiers at Grand Canyon, 1917 ca. NAU.PH.568.8198

World I Soldiers at Grand Canyon, 1917 ca. NAU.PH.568.8198

Group of Men from Flagstaff, Arizona that Served in World War I, 1917 ca. AHS.0123.00014

A Patriotic Parade on the Campus During WWI. Morton Hall in Background, 1917. NAU.ARC.1918-6-1.

A Patriotic Parade on the Campus During WWI. Morton Hall in Background, 1917. NAU.ARC.1918-6-1.

World War I United War Work Drive; Two Women and Soldier Standing in Front of UWW Posters, 1918. AHS.0125.000007

World War I United War Work Drive; Two Women and Soldier Standing in Front of UWW Posters, 1918. AHS.0125.000007

Verde Copper News War Headlines, 1918. NAU.PH.231.303

Verde Copper News War Headlines, 1918. NAU.PH.231.303

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Oral History Interview with Ruth Mary Griffin and Agnes Anderson, 1975. NAU.OH.28.2

July 17, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on A Legacy of Canyon Adventure – George Billingsley Collection

A Legacy of Canyon Adventure – George Billingsley Collection

If you haven’t ventured below the rim of the Grand Canyon, you’re missing the best part!  For those with a more adventuresome personality (and extra leisure time), the panoramic landscape, geology, as well as unique flora and fauna are waiting to be experienced.  Regardless of the time of year and trail or site trekked,  the interior Canyon experience leaves a permanent mark on the visitor’s psyche.  For a select few, it is a passionate love affair and devotion to the Canyon that leads to numerous adventures and experiences with family and friends. Few have loved or experienced the Canyon to the depth and breath as George Billingsley.

Special Collections is proud to announce the opening of the George Billingsley collection.   This collection is the latest in a long list of archival collections documenting hiking and recreation in the Grand Canyon, including Harvey Butchart, Josef Muench, Fred and Margaret Eisement, P.T. Reilly, Tad Nichols, and Emery Kolb collections.  The Billingsley collection includes the original research and correspondence for his book, Quest for the Pillar of Gold: The Mines and Miners of the Grand Canyon (co-authored with Earle Spamer and Dove Menkes); professional publications; and published Colorado Plateau and Grand Canyon maps.  In additional, Billingsley has donated his annotated trip logs and thousands of photographs documenting his hiking and river excursions throughout the Grand Canyon region (1963-2002).  The first series of the Billingsley photographs have been digitized and are now online.  Stick around, there’s more to come!

July 17, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on The River Woman – Katie Lee

The River Woman – Katie Lee

Waterfilled Pothole at Llewellyn Gulch, 1958. Photo Courtesy of the Katie Lee Collection NAU.PH.

Waterfilled Pothole at Llewellyn Gulch, 1958.
Photo Courtesy of the Katie Lee Collection

For all the Katie Lee fans out there, check out this great interview with Ms. Katie courtesy of Arizona Public Media.

For the few who may not know Katie, she is a musician, activist, river runner, actress, writer, public speaker, and all round river goddess.  She’s still kicking @$$ at 95 years young and she will blow you away with her passion and her love of the river and wild places.

As Katie says, “I wouldn’t be anything like the person that I am until that river picked me up and took me along…”

Check out more of Katie here

July 17, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on The Struggle to Retain History and Culture

The Struggle to Retain History and Culture

It is the anniversary of Srebrenica, the massacre of a people and a culture. The wars in Bosnia destroyed families, homes, cities and factions made a point to destroy their “enemies” museums and libraries. It wasn’t just an annihilation of a people but their writings their histories and their culture. This is not the first time this has happened, World War II took a people then their homes, their goods, it took Countries and their art and sculptures and writings. It was a mass theft to be used by individuals and by a massive planned museum in Germany. Many pieces of art were destroyed or lost. All would have been when Hitler died because of an edict he wrote stating that all stolen art would be torched upon his death. If it were not for a few, the Louvre would not be as it is now, many churches and museum’s would be bereft of irreplaceable pieces.

Writings, documents, letters, art, sculpture, are not very exciting to many, but they show where we have come from, display our past in riots of color, softness and sheen of marble, crinkle of paper that displays words of those gone, but not to be forgotten.

They show us the thoughts of Lincoln, of Harriet Tubman, the humor of Twain, the courage of Douglas, of Grant, of Washington, Lafayette, of Mandela and Gandhii. The display the craft and genius of da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Picasso, The insane and glorious madness of Van Gogh, and Dali. This is what exists today but so ealily could have been destroyed.

Buddhist statues were blown up in Afghanistan as they did not fit with the regimes beliefs. Currently irreplaceable pieces of the past are lost to war and whoever gets to the town first, if it doesn’t fit they take a hammer or explosive to it. Ruins that show us the past, give us questions and answers give us wonder and joy are gone because they came under the wrong occupation.

Carlos Trujillo, date unknown Photo courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection NAU.PH.2010.39.36

Carlos Trujillo, date unknown
Photo courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection

Locally we have the same issue. Carlos Trujillo born on January 19, 1906, resided on the south side of Flagstaff during the 1930s with his wife. Carlos eventually moved to Tourist Home on South San Francisco Street in Flagstaff. His collection of information concerning his employment as a laborer and as a member of a workers’ union in Flagstaff along with pay stubs, documentation, war rations, receipts, correspondence and some religious mementos along with 44 photographs were found in the trash, rescued and brought to Cline Library Special Collections. Mr. Trujillo’s documents and photograph provide a picture of life in Flagstaff in the early part of the 1900s. It provides information of a life lived here, working conditions finances a man’s life with his family in Flagstaff almost lost to a landfill.

Carlos Trujillo with a Young Girl, date unknown Photo Courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection NAU.PH.2010.39.43

Carlos Trujillo with a Young Girl, date unknown
Photo Courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection


Agapita Encinas Trujillo with Baby, Carlos Trujillo, Reymundo Ceballos, Lauriano Baca (from left to right) Photo Courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection NAU.PH.2010.39.26

Agapita Encinas Trujillo with Baby, Carlos Trujillo, Reymundo Ceballos, Lauriano Baca (from left to right)
Photo Courtesy of the Carlos Trujillo Collection

Preservation and archivists are not very exciting and are considered old dusty people with old dusty things. They are not, they are young and old, short and tall, funny and irreverent, some even have tattoos and piercings, they all share something, a love of the past, and the knowledge that bringing it into the present, entices us with those who seek answers. History gives us a look into other lives, other times other realities that often so match our own, It is exciting and heartbreaking and joyful. So when you hear of an artifact, a geological dig, a painting, a manuscript a family’s history destroyed, think about it, what was lost? Not just a thing but the thoughts, the dreams, the realities of the people attached to it, and that loss can never be retrieved.

To learn more about Carlos Trujillo, please view the finding aid to his collection and see additional images from his collection on our digital archives.



July 9, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on Appraisal of Digital Photographs

Appraisal of Digital Photographs

Archivists enjoy good satire.

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Click here to access the full story. It is not far-fetched to assume that The Onion has a team of information professionals on staff. Ridiculousness aside, there is intelligent thought (i.e. archival theory) behind this veiled critique of narcissistic Facebook users. One such theory is that of appraisal:

…the process of determining whether records and other materials have permanent (archival) value. Appraisal may be done at the collection, creator, series, file, or item level. Appraisal can take place prior to donation and prior to physical transfer, at or after accessioning. The basis of appraisal decisions may include a number of factors, including the records’ provenance and content, their authenticity and reliability, their order and completeness, their condition and costs to preserve them, and their intrinsic value. Appraisal often takes place within a larger institutional collecting policy and mission statement.  (courtesy of the Society of American Archivists’ Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology)

Simply, appraisal is the process whereby archivists determine what should be retained in a new collection/accession with consideration of an item’s administrative, legal, and/or historic value. An excellent web resource from the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) records management unit details this process as it applies to federal records. While archivists strive to be as objective and neutral as possible with collections in their custody, appraisal is often criticized as a subjective process that is the result of one person’s  (or a small number of people’s) inherent bias(es) when surveying a collection. However, some relatively easy items can be removed from a collection during the appraisal process. These can include:

  • Redundant/duplicative material
  • Photographs that are clearly blurry and/or of questionable quality
  • Material that is the physical and/or intellectual property of another agency or individual
  • Sensitive items that contain social security numbers or other information (health, educational) that is protected through federal legislation designed to safeguard the privacy of individuals


Archives and archivists worldwide are currently facing difficult realities with the handling of born-digital materials. Digital photographs, films, documents, databases, spreadsheets, and e-mails–among many other types of electronic records–are beginning to arrive at their institutional doorsteps in greater quantity and many are minimally-equipped to preserve them, let alone facilitate their access and retrieval.  Rather than spend this entire post discussing all facets of electronic records, we will briefly focus your attention on one specific aspect of their management: appraisal.

Qume D/T 8, 8 inch drive, 1.2 MB;  Tandon TM 100-2A 5.25 inch drive, 360 KB;  Sony MPF920, 3.5 inch drive, 1.4 MB

The woman in the above-linked satirical piece would have benefited from a thorough appraisal of her images prior to uploading them in Facebook. Nobody wants to scroll through 12 million images from somebody’s vacation. It can only be assumed that the woman in this fictionalized story was far more concerned with access to the images than she was about their long-term preservation. At Special Collections and Archives (SCA), we would focus our efforts–at least initially–in preserving the images as long as possible. We would remove all digital files from outdated storage devices (floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, portable drives, etc.) and move them onto a centralized server with measures in place to ensure that data is not lost due to corruption from the physical storage medium or potential viruses. Subsequent to this, we would appraise all files and ensure that an appropriate selection for long-term retention is made. With items preserved and a selection made, access to the material is more readily facilitated.

The digital world affords archivists the opportunity to automate portions of the appraisal process. For example, keyword searches across multiple files and folders can quickly isolate anything containing a social security number or other sorts of private information for subsequent redaction or deletion. A hexadecimal number unique to one specific file (known as a hash value) can be created for all items in a series of folders and subsequently compared for the purposes of identifying duplicates. However, digital photography–especially images taken by commercial photographers–can potentially yield hundreds of files taken over a brief period of time that are nearly identical one to another. What is an archives to do?


Some strategies are clear and involve little effort. If shooting in a proprietary file format (Canon’s is .cr2 and Nikon’s is .nef), a photographer’s favorite images (selections) will have been modified in editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop. These changes will not have affected the original file but instead a sidecar (.xmp) file will have been automatically created that captures any/all modifications made to the original file. Simply seeing that a .cr2 or .nef file has an associated sidecar (.xmp) file would suggest that this specific image was of importance to its creator, especially if one can verify that they were the only ones to handle these files after the image was captured. All other items without these sidecar files could potentially be considered for deletion. If the opportunity is available, working with the original photographer on making a selection for permanent retention would be a very useful appraisal exercise, but most institutions will not have this luxury.


Neither of the above scenarios are always available to archivists. Advancements are being made on a regular basis that will help further automate the identification of nearly-identical items that could also be explored as a tool for appraisal. For example, ssdeep is a free program that can be used to analyze context triggered piecewise hashes (CTPH). Also referred to as ‘fuzzy logic,’ ssdeep looks at multiple files and confirms sequences of identical bytes in the same order, but will flag differences between these sequences in both content and length. These subtle changes between files could potentially help in the identification and deletion of near-identical digital photographs in a folder.

No solution will be perfect, but building a solid set of tools and applying archival theory to the appraisal process will help an institution appropriately manage its digital assets. Also important is experimentation and dissemination of efforts. Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” SCA looks to the broader archival profession for answers and solutions, but often its most successful efforts have been the result of experimentation. We look forward to sharing our challenges and successes about practical digital appraisal–among many others–with our archival colleagues in the near future.

July 2, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on Fred Harvey Exhibit under construction!

Fred Harvey Exhibit under construction!

The Fred Harvey Company in many ways defined the American southwest-even though their businesses expand far beyond to as far east as Cleveland, Ohio, and as far west and north as the wine country of northern California. Our exhibit will show the progression of the Harvey Company from small clapboard railroad cafes like this one:


Fred Harvey lunch room. New Mexico–Deming. 1883









We’ll move forward into time with Harvey’s rather grand plans for the Grand Canyon with the rustic and elegant El Tovar Hotel:


El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, and Navajo hogans, Grand Canyon village, south rim of the Grand Canyon










…Through the period of the elegant Fred Harvey rail-side hotels:


Rear (railway side) garden/lawn area of La Posada Hotel designed by May Coulter, 303 E. Second (east bound Route 66). April 2006.

Along the way you’ll also see the Harvey Company’s forays highway-based enterprises like this California restaurant:


California – Ontario Harvey House – Exterior

…All the way to the more interesting enterprises, like the Fred Harvey service at Ontario Motor Speedway(!)


Ontario Motor Speedway – Victory Circle Club

There will be more- lot’s more to see and learn about Fred Harvey. Meanwhile, consider this just a “taste” of what’s to come.


June 15, 2015
by special collections & archives
Comments Off on Getting on TRAC: Trustworthy Repository Audit and Certification at NAU’s Cline Library

Getting on TRAC: Trustworthy Repository Audit and Certification at NAU’s Cline Library

Recently, three members (Kelly Phillips, Todd Welch, and Peter Runge) of Special Collections and Archives attended and presented at the Western Roundup in Denver, CO from May 27-30, 2015. The Western Roundup is a joint supra-regional archives conference consisting of the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA), Northwest Archivists (NWA), Society of California Archivists (SCA), and Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists (SRMA).

Phillips, Runge, and Welch presented on the department’s recent internal TRAC audit, which was conducted to assess the trustworthiness of its digital repository. The investigation, and resulting report, used the Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories standard and checklist (ISO 16363:2012) to collect and examine evidence, record findings and observations, and report on the results and recommendations for each area where compliance would be required to achieve external certification. These areas include organizational infrastructure, digital object management, and technical and security risk assessment. Each speaker will address a different area of the report to summarize the findings of the self-audit, discuss proposed recommendations, and provide an update on the new developments since the report came out in Spring 2014 to improve the trustworthiness of the digital archives and establish a solid foundation and framework for the new institutional repository to be managed by Special Collections and Archives.

Runge presented on the organizational infrastructure perspective, specifically on issues of viability, structure, and staffing; preservation policy and planning; financial stability; and software licenses, deposit agreements, and intellectual property. He reported on the administration’s recent efforts to formulate and align policies and planning to increase support for the digital repository.

Welch presented on the report’s findings from the digital object management perspective, describing the evolution of procedures, practices, and workflows implemented in accessioning, storing, preserving, and making accessible the repository content. He discussed the deficiencies identified in the report and describe steps taken to improve the management of digital content

Phillips reported on the technical and security risk assessment perspective, illustrating the importance of technology and security protocols in building the digital archives. She demonstrated how establishing hardware and software documentation, performing cyclical ‘technology watch’ reviews, and instituting solid security practices are critical to ensuring trust among a repository’s designated communities.

The full TRAC report and recommendations is available on the Cline library’s website: