The Koreshan Unity Collection: An Inside Look into Processing a Large Archival Collection (Part Six)

Preliminary inventory: Check.

Transfer to State Archives: Check.

Initial sort of boxes: Check.

Now it’s time to begin detailed processing; but where to start? Something especially intriguing, such as members’ personal correspondence? Something likely to be very heavily used and with great exhibit potential, such as photographs? Something fun, such as the Koreshans’ sheet music collection?

Fox Trot for Orchestra

Fox Trot for Orchestra

Lunar Festival Overture

Lunar Festival Overture

We decided upon a two-pronged approach, addressing both the photographs and the administrative and operational records of the organization first. Not only will the photographs be heavily used, but about 1,000 of the images will receive item-level cataloging and be made available on the Florida Memory website with the assistance of a federal grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Most of the photographs were grouped together in plastic cases or scrapbooks. Most were fairly well identified, and those that were not were usually easy to identify based on their context among better-identified photos. The photos included a small number of glass plate negatives, primarily portraits of Cyrus Teed that also exist as prints, but also images of Teed’s body after his death that apparently are the only such images in existence (see Part Three of this series). The glass plate portrait below did not survive the trip from Estero to Tallahassee; fortunately, the rest of them did, and they are being placed in custom enclosures to prevent any future damage.

Broken Glass Plate Portrait

The administrative records were also a logical choice to address early in the project, since they document in detail the operations of the organization from its beginnings, and provide a foundation for understanding the organization and the rest of the collection. Original constitutions, minutes of meetings, bylaws, organizational correspondence, legal and financial records, property records, and more have been identified and organized, moving from inaccessible piles of envelopes in boxes such as this:

Unorganized Administrative Records

to well-organized, clearly-identified archival folders and boxes such as these.

Organized Administrative Files

Along the way, we’ve discovered a number of unexpected items in the collection. More on that next time!

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