I’ve been in the process of trying to justify to myself and the powers that be why we should take ownership of a collection that does not fit within the parameters of our collection development policy. I know, bad archivist…soundly smacking wrist.
Let me start at the beginning…
On 3 September I met with the Federation Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center to discuss the storage and preservation of some materials they had stored in their offices relating to the writing and publishing of a book called The Jews of Wilkes-Barre: 150 Years 1845-1995 in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. The collection consists of photographs, newspaper articles, scrapbooks and other memorabilia that documents the activities of the Jewish community in our area for roughly the past 150 years. The materials used to write the book are currently being housed in a storage room at the JCC, under less than ideal conditions.
Most of the material was stacked in piles on two tables while the rest was stored in boxes on the floor; a couple of pictures were scattered across the floor of the storage room. As a historian, an archivist and an instructor, I just couldn’t stand the thought that these documents and pictures would be left in their present condition. So I wrote a letter to the University president in which I stated:
“Upon viewing the collection, I cannot help but agree with The Jews of Wilkes-Barre Committee in their belief that the collection is in dire need of proper storage and preservation. Although I recognize that we do not have the space to house the collection, I think this is an opportunity that we simply cannot refuse, as the inconvenience to the Sister Mary Carmel McGarigle Archives is outweighed by the potential benefits of maintaining this collection. Taking this collection would provide the University with an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Catholic communities as well as preserve an important part of the history of the Wyoming Valley.”
I truly believe that taking this collection is the right thing to do, despite it being outside of our purview because the loss to the Jewish and Wyoming Valley communities far exceeds bending our own collection development policy.
What do you think? Should I have said “thanks, but no thanks”? Does this mean that I may have to be flexible when assessing other materials for our collection?