Related product Collections Management

Preservation of Archival Materials – Interview with Jenny Dunbar

An Interview with Jenny Dunbar, Archivist at College of DuPage

Nora Gabor, Rare Books Librarian at DePaul University

For 2019-2020, the CARLI Preservation Committee is sharing a series of interviews with preservation managers, conservators, and other library specialists who graciously described their experiences on preservation and conservation topics of interest to CARLI libraries. In this installment, Nora Gabor, Rare Books Librarian at DePaul University asked Jenny Dunbar, Archivist at College of DuPage, to share some experiences working in the archives at a community college.

Interview with Jenny Dunbar, Archivist at College of DuPage:

What responsibilities do you have as an archivist? How does preservation fit into your role?

I am a solo archivist, and am responsible for the collection, preservation, and administration of the historical and official records of the college. Additionally, I provide reference services pertaining to the collection.

You currently work with archives in a community college setting. Can you explain how that might differ from other academic libraries?

As a community college, the nature of our student body and academic offerings are different than four-year institutions, but by-and-large, I feel that there are more similarities than differences in the actual archival work.

What are the collection strengths of your archival collections at College of DuPage? What kinds of formats are included in your collections?

The focus of the collection is the history and development of the College, including administrative, instructional, and scholarly aspects as well as features of student life. We have a particularly good collection of photographs that is widely used.

The archival collection includes photographs – analog and digital, 16mm films, VHS, DVD, CD, audio cassettes, books, blueprints, ephemera, and of course LOTS of paper.

What are some of the differences in caring for archival collections compared to other library collections?

The one-of-a-kind nature of the collection, as well as the fragility of some of the material, requires daily monitoring of the environment and being very attentive when patrons are using the collection.

What type of outreach are you able to do so that others in your institution are aware of the archives and your services?

I feel that it is important to create a relationship with the persons or departments making requests. After I deliver the information or material they are asking for, I explain what types of resources the archive has and gently emphasize how important it is to collect what they are currently creating to document how the college operates right now. I also make a point of attending as many college events as possible to see if there is material that needs to be acquired.

Does your institution have a preservation department, or do you work with outside conservators?

We do not have a preservation department and do not work with outside conservators at present.

How are your materials stored? Is anything stored offsite?

Physical materials are stored on-site in a space dedicated to archival storage. To ensure the security of the collection, there is a very limited number of people that have access to the storage area. Digital materials are stored on a separate drive on the college’s server, and again access to that drive is limited. This is only a digital storage, not a digital preservation, solution. We are in the process of selecting a digital preservation system and hope to have it implemented shortly.

How do you monitor the environment where your materials are stored?

I have a hygrometer in the archival storage area to monitor the environment and check it daily.

What is the preservation related task that you do most often in your work?

I feel that the act of collecting material is the first step to preserving it, and collecting is the task I do most frequently.

What is an example of a preservation related project you have worked on during your time at College of DuPage?

We have undertaken two digital preservation projects during my time as archivist. We chose to digitize the college newspaper – The Courier, and also a student/community literary magazine – the Prairie Light Review.

What were the goals of that project and did you meet them?

The goals were two-fold: to preserve the physical material digitally, and to enhance access to the publications. The Courier newspaper is a valuable research resource in the archive, and having it in a digital format means that it is keyword searchable which is a tremendous timesaver for me. Having the collections on Internet Archive provides wider public access to the publications and raises the visibility of the archive and the College.

What level of expertise do you feel like your project needed to be competed? How did you (and your staff) gain that expertise?

Because of the size of the projects, we outsourced them to the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive has a long history of digitizing material and, because of that, the necessary expertise. They provide the material in a variety of different downloadable file formats.

Were there any surprises with your project? How did you handle them? What would you do differently if you could?

There were no surprises, and I feel the projects were successfully completed. There really isn’t anything I would do differently.

Do you have any preservation advice or resource recommendations for other archivists in similar environments?

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Return to Preservation Interviews: Learning from our Collective Experiences, the homepage of the Preservation Committee's 2019-2020 Annual Project.