Philo Archives Management Outline

The collection contains photographs, ceremonial documents such as diplomas (many of which are hand-calligraphed) and formal invitations to inter-collegiate debates, and a wide range of document types, which include debate resolutions, minutes, the February 1813—and sole—issue of the society’s newsletter, the Philolexian, original prose a and poetry, petitions, and news clippings, and the Society’s literary journal of more recent vintage, Surgam. Since the collection intends to represent the entire history of the society, permission from the Columbia University archives will need to be obtained for the use of the older documents—as well for digitization of said images—and permission will need to be obtained from the Society for use of the newer board minutes and from various authors for use of their Surgam writings.

Likewise, a decision needs to be made regarding which images and documents will be sampled for the project. A clear and realistic mission for this project needs to be articulated, so that the project does not go over-budget or expend time, labor and resources on digitizing records that are not relevant or do not contribute to the objectives of digitizing this organization’s records. A preliminary list of the records to be digitized will be drawn up, to serve not only as a concrete blueprint for establishing and seeking funding for the parameters of the project, but likewise to act as a useful reference and to prevent future confusion.

I will work with the Columbia University archivists to copy documents which are in a more fragile state, such as journal and newspaper clippings and member registers from the mid-19th century, so that all of the relevant information, including author, name of publication and date are visible. Archival photographs and digital photos which I will take of the diplomas will be scanned in 600 dpi and saved in .tiff format, as there are relatively few of these in the archives, I believe they have enduring intrinsic value, and so want to ensure that their digital surrogates are as clear and accessible as possible. All germane information regarding the date, location and author will be noted in an accompanying database, whether in Excel or Access. Captions for the images may contain all of the available information for that image, or they may link to a different page which, in addition to a more extensive description, which contextualize the digitized images and defend their inclusion in the project, vis-à-vis their relevance to the project’s mission.

As Philo is a literary society, written documents will comprise the majority of the images available on the website. The descriptions of particular documents may link to other pages describing the well-known alum mentioned in the letter or to a particular Society ritual, which has been noted in other campus publications.

As the Society in its most recent incarnation has consistently publicized the volunteer efforts of current and honorary members and alumni, it is conceivable that the physical labor of scanning, tagging and indexing—much of it, at the very least—would be done by Philolexian members. Reaching out to this audience could significantly reduce the overhead of the project—and, in turn, the specter of the members volunteering their efforts in this endeavor might inspire donations from alumni who are not local or even from external sources such as the University, responding to these demonstrated efforts of the Society to reduce costs and perform as much of the labor “in house” as it can. There are already several current students who are familiar with the Society’s records, so they might be approached to work on scanning, transcribing, and tagging. Additionally, if individuals have a penchant for historical study—or at the very least, for the study of the Society’s history—they would be encouraged to conduct further research that would enable us to provide more information about some of the earlier records, especially as the handwriting on older board minutes and photographs of the various places on the Columbia University campus where meetings were convened.

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