When History Gets Dirty You Mask Up! A Glance at Inventory in Three Perspectives: Part 3, Weird and Funny Anecdotes from our Inventory

The inventory of the acquisitions room is a task that I believed would take us an infinite amount of time to complete considering the daunting amount of boxes, papers, and files I could see from first glance. The room was dusty and freezing, and as we set up a large standard gray folding table and some chairs as a workspace within this cluttered room I hoped my initial assessment was wrong. On our first day we put some boxes onto a rolling cart to bring over to the table, and as soon as we put two boxes onto the table, it collapsed. Mikaela and I frantically rushed to one-handedly catch a thirty pound box stacked full with paper before it fell off one end of the table as we both also held up the bottom of the table with our thighs. We were in limbo waiting for someone to come rescue us from outside the acquisition room doors. Unfortunately, Miranda was locked out and knocking on the door, worried about the chaos she could hear erupting inside. We were off to a great start.

The acquisitions room pre-inventory.

Our first day already foreshadowed an interesting, dirty, educational, and physically challenging (though laughter filled) job. We quickly realized that this task would not take us an eternity, as I feared, but would be a brief evaluation and organization of the contents in the room. The first thing that caught my attention was a rat-eaten and mold-covered book that Mikaela found. It was with fascination that I observed the fragility of the object and the destruction that was growing on it. The bizarre sights didn’t stop there; they kept coming, and among other things, I learned to distinguish active mold from inactive mold!

Along with each of these new fascinations came new terminology. I noticed some film with a crusty yellow residue on it. The film pictures looked well preserved, however, and were in clean plastic storage strips, so I figured the residue was just cardboard from inside of the box the film was in. However, seeing how so many other items had been in bad shape, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to err on the side of caution and ask Holly, our expert on all things concerning bacteria and bugs that could haunt an archive, and that’s how I found out it was “sticky shed”. Sticky shed sounds to me more like a term for an action an amphibious animal would do than anything else; however, it’s just a form of degradation that can happen to film on magnetic tape when tapes “deposit a residue” that can be both harmful to the tapes and the objects that play the tapes (Library Of Congress).

The three of us learned our physical limits — including our collective height limitation. Purely for inventory reasons, of course. Some of the boxes weighed around fifty pounds, and repeatedly lifting fifty pounds over one’s head with the use of the arms grows tiring. The only one of us who could manage this was Miranda, who was also the tallest of the three of us. It must have had something to do with her one inch advantage over Mikaela and me. We were all aided by the step stool and took turns hefting boxes from the ground then standing on the step stool and placing items on the shelves. I was impressed by the simply-labeled diagram Mikaela drew of the shelves so that we could chart where each item belonged. With our combined efforts, the inventory was completed in just one week!

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The acquisitions room is now a neatly-kept room that has been swept and holds labelled boxes on the shelves lining the walls. The room is furnished with a large (sturdy) wooden table that for generations has been passed down from MFA grad student to MFA grad student. The table donated by Jim stands in the middle with chairs around it, and the room is decorated by an inflatable alien mascot that was hiding in the piles of papers. Now that he’s been rediscovered, he can again appear at random around Special Collections, though we like his current place on the table — at least for now.


Works Cited

“Magnetic Tape ‘Sticky Shed’ Research: Characterization, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Magnetic Tape “Sticky Shed” Research: Characterization, Diagnosis, and Treatment – Research Projects – Preservation Science (Preservation, Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

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