Down in the archives

The 1978 and 1980 VW rabbit owner’s manuals were a fun find, and I love old gas station maps.

While this is a little outside the work with political papers and rare books that I usually do for the university, I pitched in today to help weed an archival collection in the regional history manuscript portion of our department. These are some weeded documents that I thought Oppo might find interesting. Somewhat sadly, this is also all material that is going into the recycling bin.

This is from the collection of a German scientist who was brought over to New Mexico as part of Operation Paperclip. He became a leading researcher on guidance and control systems for missiles, and later, spacecraft.


His collection came to the library in the 70's and 80's, and it is one of our longer-term unprocessed collections sitting in a seldom visited portion of our regional history manuscript collection stacks. We’re devoting some time over the summer to weeding some large collections that either may be outside of our collecting scope as a repository and de-accessioned and either returned the original donor (or their kin), donated to another institution or to the giant recycling bin in the sky. Some are also collections that contain large amounts of non-pertinent (and generally non-unique, published material) that needs to be weeded and disposed of.

At one time our department was in a collecting mode of taking anything and everything it could get and then dealing with it later (sometimes many decades later). These days, like most cultural heritage institutions, the limitations of space, money and staff time for processing and preservation of archival collections mean that we are much more focused in our collecting scope and selective in collections we accession. We also now try to appraise collections as much as possible before accessioning them to reduce amount of weeding non-pertinent material later on (and the reality that good inventory work at accessioning can make unprocessed collections much more accessible to researchers before they are processed and better support future options for more product, less processing practices later on). This collection has many dozens of linear feet of magazines,scientific journals and government reports that need to be weeded.


This is all non-unique, published material that is available elsewhere, so in the recycling bin it will go. I love 60's and 70's fonts and graphic design. I also really like old gas station maps, but these aren’t specific to Southern NM or even NM/the borderland in general. Were they specific to the region, I would’ve added them the Special Collections (the published materials part of our department, could be thought of as rare books, although it is a lot more than just that). Likewise, sales literature and manuals for all sorts of industrial equipment is also way outside our scope.

The collection does contain hundreds upon hundreds of government reports, mostly related to spacecraft and missile guidance systems. These are all government documents available elsewhere, but we’ll offer them to a nearby space museum before disposing of them. I also came across some blueprints for various rocket motors and the Apollo spacecraft. Those were neat, and they’ll probably stay in the collection as they were found within his personal research files.

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