I don’t usually like to talk about new collections that have just come in the door. That’s for a very good reason: usually there’s at least a little bit of lag time (depending on the size of the collection or how busy we are) between the receipt of the collection and when we can start making it available for research. And announcing collections before they are available tends to result in unhappy researchers. And I can’t blame them a bit!
But that isn’t what I wanted to say, which is Thank You to Ermalee Hickel. Thank you on behalf of Archives and Special Collections, the Consortium Library, and all the researchers who may someday find that the information they are seeking is available in the Hickel papers. And I don’t want that thanks to wait any longer.
Here’s why. Governor and Mrs. Hickel gave us a portion of their papers a few years back and more this month (one more shipment is scheduled for tomorrow morning). It’s a relatively sizable collection–I’m estimating about 400 cubic feet or so–and sometimes what happens with collections of that size is that the sheer size of them can often mean that they end up in some sort of a backlog queue: waiting for an archivist to get the block of time needed to describe them. Now we’re not real fans of backlogs around here these days but with collections this size, scheduling the time it will take to do the collection–and the researchers–justice, well, it can be difficult.
And Mrs. Hickel has solved that problem for us. She has provided a rather large funding donation that will enable us to hire the help we need to make these papers accessible to researchers. Which is, after all, the reason she and her late husband gave them to us. It’s not going to be immediate: we want to make sure we spend that funding very wisely, so we need to spend some time now to come up with a good plan for handling it, but it is going to be faster than it would have been without the funding. And over the time of the project, we’ll be able to describe the collection to a level that ensures researchers will be able to find what they are seeking in it.
One more quick note. The big move of materials this month happened on the 18th. August 18th would have been Governor Hickel’s 91st birthday. I like to think that he would have been pleased that on his birthday, a little bit more of his and Ermalee’s legacy was preserved for future generations of scholars, researchers, and the Alaskan community.