A Day in the Archives

Spring weather is settling in, and this morning before class I spied a squirrel trying to eat the flowers off of a newly green tree outside my window. The main walkway trees are also starting to put out their flowers, which will make for a picturesque, if slightly smelly, campus in a few days.

Right now, I’m settled in at the Robert E. Smylie Archives, which are on the second floor of Sterry. I’ve mentioned it briefly before, but I’m here to work on a project about Marie Irvin, an artist/interior decorator/teacher/librarian/humane society activist who came to Boise in 1898. The College has several of Marie Irvin’s pieces in its permanent art college, and in November of last year, a scrapbook full of her work was donated to the College.

That scrapbook is a wealth of information, with art pieces, sketches, letters, newspaper articles, and, literally speaking, some scraps. What I’m doing is going through that collection and cataloging its contents. I started work in March, and by that time, our archivist, Jan Boles, already had everything into protective plastic sleeves and had pulled together some other tidbits about Marie Irvin, in addition to digitizing some of the material. So while I’m not starting from scratch by any means, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Currently, the catalog is in the form of an excel spreadsheet, with categories for things like date, medium, subject matter and dimensions. I’ve also included a key words category, which will hopefully make the spreadsheet easily searchable. In the future, our hope is to digitize the material on some form of website, which will then be linked to the spreadsheet, and vice versa. But until then, this database is living on my Macbook and in my inbox.

In other art news, I have finished up the work I was doing on the College’s permanent art collection. There are photographs of about half to two thirds of the collection, but they were all named and organized by an accession number, which doesn’t give a lot of useful information in and of itself. So using one of the already complied databases, I entered each piece’s title, artist, date, and medium into the properties field linked directly to the photo, and then sorted all the photos into folders based on their artist. So now each image has a lot more information associated with it, and will hopefully be more useable. The College has quite an extensive art collection, even if most of it is boxed and crated up out of sight. The collection largely comprises works on paper, which the initial collectors thought most suitable to the College’s ability to store and display. While most of the collection is comprised of more obscure names, there are a few famous ones in the collection too, including Roy Lichtenstein, Chagall, and Alex Katz.

From the Archives,

Megan Mizuta

Megan is a junior Literature in English major from Boise, Idaho.