Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Two)

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

In 2009, the Koreshan Unity collection was transferred to the State Archives of Florida and staff began their initial assessment and planning for processing the collection.

The collection had been rearranged numerous times over the course of its century of existence, so archivists could not determine in what order the records might have originally been filed or used – what archivists refer to as original order.

Here is a typical box as it appeared upon arrival at the State Archives:

Unprocessed box

In the absence of original order or any obvious organizational scheme, archivists began by identifying general categories of activities or topical areas under which all of the records appeared to fall. Archivists then began a rough sort of the boxes into these categories, forming preliminary record series, or sets of files that document certain functions or activities of the organization.

In late 2011, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) awarded the State Archives grant funding to conduct detailed processing of the collection. The grant enabled the Archives to hire a full-time project archivist whose work we are highlighting throughout this series of posts.

Processing the collection

Koreshan Unity Collection

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

Ever wonder what archivists mean when they say a collection is in process?

This is the first in a series of posts about processing a large historical records collection. Join us as we transform hundreds of boxes of disorganized, mislabeled files into an accessible, understandable, research-ready collection.

Assisted by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant funding, the State Archives of Florida is processing the records of the Koreshan Unity, a late 19th/early 20th century religious utopian community whose members shared a common belief in Koreshanity.

Among the Unity’s unique beliefs was their guiding principal that the Earth existed as a concave sphere. As a result, Earth’s populace lived inside the Earth, with the planets existing in the center of the sphere where the Earth’s core would otherwise have been.

Poster depicting Koreshan beliefs

Poster depicting Koreshan beliefs

 

The Koreshan Unity collection contains many thousands of documents and photographs illustrating the members’ beliefs and the expression of those beliefs in their communal lifestyle. The collection accumulated for a century throughout the Unity’s existence. In 2008 and 2009, State Archives staff traveled to Estero, Florida, to evaluate the collection and identify materials of historical importance to be transferred to the Archives. Here is what we found in Estero:

Koreshan Unity Archives as stored in the College of Life Building: Estero, Florida

Koreshan Unity Archives as stored in the College of Life Building: Estero, Florida

 

With extensive assistance from Koreshan State Historic Site staff, archivists prepared and transported the historical records to Tallahassee so they could be preserved and made accessible.

Because the Koreshan Unity collection provides a unique look into both the archival process and Florida history, we’ve decided to share this journey with blog readers and patrons of the State Archives of Florida. Watch for future posts for more on the history of the Unity, collection processing activities and interesting finds in the collection.