Looking Back, Going Forward

2018, Report/Plan
anthropology, archaeology, Archives, British Columbia, Canada, collections, genealogy, history, Michigan, photography
About This Project

Project Member: Madeleine Long


Looking Back, Going Forward aims to describe and preserve Harlan I. Smith’s personal collection of photographs, notes, correspondence, maps, drawings, newspaper clippings, and assorted ephemera, with the view of ultimately donating the collection to an appropriate museum or other cultural or heritage institution. It is intended to help Smith’s descendants determine the best place for the collection, and to facilitate the materials’ entry into established institutional infrastructures. While the archive is currently a private collection, the project includes digitized archival photographs, which can be made available upon request.


Smith’s descendants were a great help during the process and provided additional insight and information about collections material that were valuable to the project’s outcome.


Planning for the project began in late Fall 2016, and continued to September 2017. Work on preparing and describing the collection began in October 2017, and cataloguing continued to April 2018, where the project remains ongoing. Recommendations for eventual donation were made in April 2018.


All materials were made and saved digitally and stored in directories that paralleled physical documents’ locations in the collection. Files were named based on Smith’s existing labels, and original order was maintained wherever possible. Files were backed up in multiple locations. Photographic materials were digitized at a resolution of 600 dpi and saved as .TIF files. Originals were saved without adjustment. These choices are standard best practice for digitizing images for preservation. Images in the collection were catalogued using VRA Core 4.0, and the catalogue was organized using Microsoft Excel, which is available to University of Toronto students free of charge.


The extent of the collection is large, and there are significant conservation concerns facing many of the materials. As such, cataloguing and digitizing the entire archive has not been achieved. Still, a picture of the scope of the collection and the types of materials available has been ascertained, and an informed decision with respect to the eventual destination of the materials can be made.


I would like to thank my grandparents for letting me work in their house, and especially my grandmother for putting up with all my questions about Harlan Smith! I would also like to thank Professor Brower for being helpful, insightful, and accommodating throughout this process.