Poorly Described Folders and Human Hair: Processing Report with ALUA Archivist Shae Rafferty

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Shae Rafferty, the Reuther Library’s Labor and Urban Affairs Archivist, explains what happens behind the scenes to get donated collections ready for researchers. She discusses how collections are prioritized for processing, or organizing and describing them to make it easier for researchers to find the information they’re looking for. Rafferty describes some of the memorable things she has found in the collections she has processed, both pleasant (like a scrapbook made by friends and Detroit theater ushers in the early 1900s) and unpleasant (like human hair…among other things). She also recalls finding a deeply important but largely forgotten log of 1940s racial incidents in a folder unhelpfully titled, “Barometer Report,” emphasizing how important it is for archivists to re-evaluate and re-describe the contents of collections in order to make them more accessible to researchers.

Related Collections
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Lyrick Club Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace