To make the best of the short amount of time you’ll have with all of your volunteers on-site, it’s vital to get as much basic organization of the collection done before the workshop. If a small group can arrive at least one day in advance to work with the organization’s staff members to prepare the collection, it will add to the ease and flow of the workshop. If you as organizers are not able to arrive in advance to help with the pre-workshop triage, you can also communicate these needs to the host organization and request that their staff work to do some of this organizing before you arrive. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Sort materials based on priorities
Using separate tables, book carts, shelving, or any other way you can think of, separate the material out into groups based on priorities of what you’d like to accomplish. By this point you’ve made estimates on the amount of material you’ll be able to process, but be sure to have more material available and ready to go if volunteers work faster than you anticipate. Label these prioritized smaller collections very clearly, so if someone other than one of the organizers needs to step in to decide what to work on next it’s very clear. Unlabeled materials should also go into another pile, as they may require extra processing to determine their contents.
Consider deaccessioning some materials
Deaccessioning may or may not be part of the work you do with your host organization. Present the option to the collection managers based on their existing collection policies and the reality of their storage situations, as well as the content and condition of the materials. For instance, it could be decided to deaccession vinegar materials if they’re not projection prints, or to donate materials that fall outside the institution’s collecting policies. It’s best to make these decisions prior to the workshop. If you can weed out these items before volunteers arrive it’ll lessen confusion.
Arrange like materials together
Arranging like materials together will help the workflow of processing move as smoothly as possible. If you have separate work stations based on format, ie., separate work areas for 16mm and 35mm, separate those formats into separate groups and place them near their respective workspaces. In addition, if you’re dealing with a collection that has multiple prints of certain titles or pre-print materials such as negatives, soundtracks, outtakes, etc. for one title, group those items together to aid in efficient processing and cataloging. In arranging these materials together beforehand, you could also determine with the collection manager if they’d like to keep multiple copies of single titles. Leave notes on the cans to explain any special handling instructions to your volunteers; for instance, if you do have two prints of one title, you may want the processors to determine which print is in better condition and add those to their cataloging notes. Be very specific about your needs!
Organize existing paper or other records that might aid in processing
As with arranging like film materials together, any paper materials or other records should also be grouped based on title or other logical signifier based on the nature of the material. Determine how the host organization would like to store the accompanying paper material. You’ll want to be very specific with your volunteers about how to handle paper materials they may find in boxes or cans. Should they discard them? Will it go in archival envelopes and be stored with the film? Will it be labeled with a unique ID to link it to a film print it accompanies and stored in a filing cabinet?