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Archives: The Ties that Bind

December 16, 2008


From working in the archives, I have found certain tasks, while essential to archival practice, can be mundane and rather repetitive.  Two that come to mind are accessioning, where new materials are formally received by the receiving institution and given a quick survey to provide a basic inventory for the archival record, and arrangement, where materials are are arranged in their original order and often rehoused in archival containers and folders.  However, in the course of working with a collection, one can find small treasures such as unusual items, documents that provide insight into the creator of the collection, or in the case of the Wellman Papers, letters and correspondence showing the relationship between Richard Wellman and the University of Pennsylvania.



Some of the documents I uncovered revealed the origins of why Richard Wellman had his papers relating to the Uniform Probate Code sent to Penn Law Archives.  That same document gave evidence to the established agreement between the Uniform Law Commissioners (ULC) and Penn to archive the ULC’s records to be made available to scholars and those interested in the papers.  In addition, another letter documented the transaction of sending Wellman’s papers to Penn.


Wellman also had ties to the Penn Law community.  Some of his correspondence showed him seeking the opinion of professors on specific cases or aspects of probate law.  Other correspondence demonstrated his interest in some faculty members such as Curtis Reitz and their work in relation to National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).


Gems like these make the archival process more interesting, breaking up the monotony of some tasks.  They serve to validate the work of archivists or archivists-in-training as well as provide a valuable look into an archival collection.