Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Scale of work

Most people haven't spent any time at archives, and those that do might not talk to the archivists about their jobs and the records they safeguard. Governmental agencies are supposed to turn their records over to NARA, but that doesn't mean that when (if) they do, they're in any sort of order, or have any index that can be used to find a particular document.

I'm lucky in that the Navy had a filing system that all their documentation was filed in, but it's a little arcane; would you expect to find damage and loss reports under "Appreciation, depreciation, and disposition?"

But I overheard the archivist in charge of RG 181 here at San Bruno telling a couple other researchers about one accession that was 114 large boxes (roughly 18 inches long each) that was a collection of photos from Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The only way to look for a specific ship or photo is to go through the photographer's logs, which themselves are six boxes long. Try and imagine how long it might take to categorize that and create a useful finding aid. Anyway, long of it is, "no googling."

Had a good find today. I've had a website on the destroyer Ward for about six years, and it's been one of those "low burner" research projects. Since she was built at Mare Island, it was a fair bet they'd have some records, and I knew that the First Shot Naval Vets had used some photos from Mare Island in their "Ward Fires First Shot" book.

So I found Ward's folder today; most were photos I'd seen before, but there were a couple of new ones:

This one was interesting, I'd never read that her ship's wheel was specially inscribed.


PresterSean said...

Any chance that was a Commisioning day special, and spent the rest of it's life in the wardroom or something like that?

Tracy White said...

It's possible, albeit it did stay on the ship for at least part of her early career; she was commissioned in July and the photo is dated September.

Although who knows, maybe it was just mounted for that one photo; the handles look pristine when I blow it up.