Archival Processing Methodology: Part 7 – Big Company vs. Small Company

While the challenges presented by languages and dates in the Vinson collection have already been discussed, a remaining challenge to explore is the varied depth of the materials for each make. What I mean by this is that some companies have twenty or more boxes packed to the gills (think Audi, Ford, Chevy). Others, have just five items or sometimes just one item. How does one find an arrangement scheme that can accommodate both the small and large companies?

Well, what I’ve done is developed a distinction between what we call big companies and small companies. Big companies feature the regular arrangement detailed in previous methodology posts, where large numbers of items are broken down into folders by model or publication types and such. Small companies (those with just a handful of items) instead use the subseries names as the folder titles.

Let me explain by way of an example. A small company might have three brochures: two trade catalogs for different specific models and a color sample. We could give each of these separate folders. However, that would be wasteful, both in terms of supplies and wasted space in boxes through an overabundance of folders. This also creates subseries with just one item, which is simply unnecessary.

To combat this, the folder for that make will read: General Publication and Trade Catalogs: Specific Models, 1956-1970. Then, the narrative series description above will contain the usual information (languages, quantity of material) and also say: The general publication is a color sample and the trade catalogs are for model X and model Y. As you can see, the information that would have been your folder title, is now just moved to the series note.

There is no hard and fast rule about the size a company would be to be classified as big or small. It often comes down to the variety of materials present.  It is my hope that the consistent use of the same series names and sorting terms will help simplify access. It is important to keep in mind that both big and small companies will tell you the same information; you would just have to look to a folder title in a big company and the series note in a small company.

Previous methodology posts can be found here.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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