The Layout of a Forest – the Lucinda Bunnen Papers

by Cori Williams, Collection Services Processing Intern, Lucinda Bunnen papers

This is the second post in a series on the accessioning and processing of the Lucinda Bunnen Papers. 

The Lucinda Bunnen Papers arrived in two accessions, one consisting of 18 boxes and the other over 100. After finishing some introductory readings about accessioning and archives, familiarizing myself with:

  • Archives vs. manuscripts- “Archives are the noncurrent but still useful records of an organization or institution preserved by that organization or institution” and “manuscript collections are the records created or gathered by an organization or individual but transferred from the original custodian to a collecting repository”. (Meissner 2019, 3-4)
  • Provenance- “this principal provides that records are maintained according to their creator or source of rather than according to a subject or other form of classification system. Materials from different creators are not intermingled.” (Meissner 2019, 5, 7)
  • Original Order- “[the records] come into existence with a certain order already imposed on them…. the physical arrangement of the records gives fundamental clues as to why they have been created and how and why they may have continuing use” (O’Toole and Cox 2006, 103)
  • Arrangement/ levels of control- “the difference between physical and intellectual arrangement… a five-level hierarchy of arrangement moving from the larger scale to smaller- repository, record group/ manuscript collection, series, file unit, and document” (Meissner 2019, 57)

I had to resist the urge reorganize the boxes I had originally packed. For example, when packing, I had made a point to divide her correspondence roughly into categories: Professional Correspondence (Artist), Professional Correspondence (Collector/Philanthropist), Personal Correspondence etc. But it was pointed out by my supervisor, Laura Starratt, that sometimes within professional correspondence there is a quick line -“How’s the family? I hope you had a good time on your trip….” aka a personal touch. The categories weren’t so black and white. Although the way I had organized them wasn’t incorrect, perhaps ordering the letters chronologically could be a more correct way. The concept of looking at the collection through the needs of the researcher was illuminated. What is the best way for someone to access and find the material they need (without disturbing an original order)? While I might be curious about correspondence specifically between Lucinda and other artists, a researcher might be interested in who she was corresponding with during 1996 since she photographed the Olympic Games that year.

However, dates aren’t always easily discernable. I hoped postmarks were legible and not smudged or that the writer had dated their letter.

Detail of correspondence from the Lucinda Bunnen Papers (MSS 1530)

Detail of correspondence from the Lucinda Bunnen Papers (MSS 1530)







However, I am still at the stage of accessioning the collection, looking at the collection as a forest versus the trees. So, for now my original categorical organizational system remains. This led to having correspondence spread across a few boxes that had been processed at box level. Each box does have a time frame associated with it, so currently there is a bit of cross reference between subject and time period. How best do you present the collection to a researcher?