So, here I am in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s been roughly three months since I arrived and I’m slowly settling in. While my social life has all but disappeared here, my work life has been moving along at speeds apparently unanticipated. When I accepted the position, the plan was to process about 500 linear feet of records pertaining to the nation’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. When I arrived, I was shown about 100 feet of records to process, with the rest of the collection remaining in the park’s archives at a far off location (deemed unnecessary for this current project due to having been previously processed). Having now physically processed all of the boxes, removing unnecessarily duplicated documents, bulky binders and spiral bindings, and excessive amounts of empty space, I’m left with just over 76 linear feet of records. 500 feet down to 76 is amazingly reductive. And I still have (a proposed) 9 months left here.
Luckily, a plan was put in place in anticipation of this. After initially surveying the collection in early June, I spoke to my supervisor and let her know that at the speed I’ve been trained to process (4 hours per linear foot, thank you very much PACSCL), it should take only about 3 to 4 months to complete the records on the shelves. Even factoring in the government’s love of meetings, I’ve managed to remain under 3 hours per foot, so far (granted, I still need to do some writing and data entry, but the rough stuff is done). She decided that we would head back to the park (next week!) and get the rest of their records so that I can incorporate those into the new collection arrangement and make one, hopefully coherent, collection of all of the park’s records. Due to the Park Service’s penchant for item level cataloging, we’re not exactly sure how much is left – somewhere between 100 and 200 linear feet. And, there is another project in the works after that (depending on funding and my availability).
The point here is – plan ahead. Especially if you come from a fast-paced, minimal processing background, the archival world you are entering will more than likely expect you to move slower than you do. Former PACSCL project processors have found this to be overwhelmingly the case. Keep your supervisor informed. Don’t try to hide the fact that you are efficient and skilled. Work together to plan ahead. You’ll avoid sitting around with little to do, your employer will (I hope) be happy to get more accomplished than s/he had anticipated, and you may also prove that you are worth keeping on for a longer period than originally planned.