This isn’t an April Fools Day joke, but in the spirit of the day…
We had a researcher in recently trying to track down some photographs that appeared in a publication by William Laughlin. We have his professional papers. Unfortunately, the images the researcher wanted weren’t in the described part of the collection, but (maybe? we didn’t know) in the extensive addition we received a few years ago. Normally we’d just pull out the undescribed boxes and let the researcher go through them but there were two problems in the way of that. First we suspect that some of the materials in the collection addition may have some legal access restrictions (student records, medical records, so on). Second, there’s 30 boxes of apparently unarranged materials. Not fair to the researcher! Since she was looking for something fairly specific, I said I’d do a quick once-through to see if I could spot them. If I did, great, I’d pull the folder(s). If not, I’d go through looking for sensitive materials to flag and then let her go through the rest herself.
It took me til today to get to this project. Here’s the April Fools Day joke on me: no kidding, of the 30 boxes? The folder was in the last box, in fact was the last folder of the last box.
It gets better. I closed up that box to discover my hand was bleeding. 1/2″ long scratch along one of my knuckles. I’m now trying to remember when I had my last tetanus shot since the last time some of these records saw the light of day were on expeditions to Kagamil Island when Laughlin was excavating burial grounds in the middle of kittiwake rookeries.And I’m thinking that while he probably washed his hands, I’m not sure he washed his notebooks.
This type of thing tends to be an occupational hazard for archivists (maybe not digital archivists) and so most of them that I know are up-to-date on tetanus shots, but there’s a larger lesson here. If you ever doubt our dedication to access for researchers? Doubt no longer. We bleed for you. Have a great April Fools Day.