Preserving Pension Records in Ireland

Images courtesy of The Military Archives
Images courtesy of The Military Archives

In June 1923, the Oireachtas of Saorstát Éireann (Irish Free State) decided to recognize and compensate the wounded members, and the widows, children and dependents of deceased members of the Irish National Army, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army that had active service during the Easter Week of 1916, the War of Independence, and the Civil War.

An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives
An early recruitment poster, c. 1925. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Various pieces of legislation allowed applicants to consider themselves eligible for gratuities, allowances, or pensions. In determining the accuracy of these applications, supporting material was gathered by a committee. These materials included membership rolls, reports of activities carried out by the military formations, detailed information on the course of events during the time period, and about 68,896 military medals.

Today, the Military Service Pensions Collection is being made available online through a series of releases ending in Easter week 2016. Project leaders want to enable the long term preservation of the original records, and allow the public to access the complex collection of about 270,000 to 300,000 individual files. The materials have suffered from poor storage conditions, use of poor quality paper, rusting of the pins, staples and fasteners used, and bad handling.

The preservation process began with the documents being physically cleaned, including the removal of metal, treasury tags and other ties. Files were then reorganized using acid free archival standard supplies. A lab was established on-site for the conservation of badly damaged material. Due to their poor physical state, some files were microfilmed and digitized in order to minimize the handling of the material. Other sources were scanned in color directly as TIFF files and backed up and stored. To allow the public and relatives of former participants in the 1916-1923 period to obtain high quality copies of relevant files in the collection, PDF files were created, and photographs taken of the very fragile material.

One of the Pension Documents, image courtesy of the Military Archives
One of the Pension Documents. Image courtesy of the Military Archives

Next, an online database was created with the digitized original documents through a Military Archives website to maximize the access to the collection. A suitable collections management software package was identified, and then customized to suit the military nature of the files and records. The entire collection was divided into searchable databases, reflecting the vast bulk of the individual applicant’s files in the collection. All files relating to an individual are co-located to fit the various reference codes and have a unique file code as a primary key for reference and sourcing.

The release of the Military Service Pensions Collection comes at a critical time. In 2016, Ireland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin. This marks the most significant uprising in Ireland, and the start to the independence movement. Following the rebellion, the Irish Republican Army launched a war against the British government that ended in a July 1921 cease-fire and an eventual treaty that established the Irish Free State. The fully independent Republic of Ireland was formally proclaimed on Easter Monday in 1949. With the release of the pension records over the next two years, Ireland can continue to celebrate its independence and remember those who fought to gain it.

Celebrating American Archives Month All Across America

October is designated throughout the United States as American Archives month. The month was founded in 1969 by the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, but now Archives Month is a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories. Society of American Archivists (SAA) takes active part in promoting and developing the month-long celebration, raising much needed public awareness and providing professionals with new ways to attract attention to the priceless treasures they preserve and valuable services they provide. Instruction on how to preserve family photographs and documents are also usually provided in each state. The majority of the states get involved and plan out different sorts of activities that pertain to archiving. You can follow the ongoing events by searching for hash tag #ArchivesMonth on Twitter and also by visiting SAA on Facebook.

Throughout Archives Month, museums, libraries, and other archival institutions all across the country are celebrating by defining their respective histories and the ways that make them unique to one another. Each participating state designed a poster that reflects the chosen theme while showcasing some of the finest archival ephemera and photo treasures normally hidden in boxes and folders.

Some states picked very unusual and original topics for 2012 Archives Month. For example, Washington is presenting it’s illustrious history of crooks, cops, and courts. University of Texas at Austin Archives were inspired by fashion and clothing, while The Oregon State Historical Records Advisory Board concentrated on a more serious issue by commemorating the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage in Oregon. From maps to music and home videos… Hey, even Rock&Roll Hall of Fame got in on some archival action 🙂

You can see the more comprehensive list of activities and themes on SAA’s site designated to Archives Month. or on the Council of State Archivists Archives Month Directory site, which sorted them by state.

His Songs are Our Songs: NEDCC Conserves Woody Guthrie Scrapbooks

In anticipation of this summer’s 100th birthday celebration of Woody Guthrie, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, in concert with the Woody Guthrie Archives, (curated by Guthrie’s daughter Nora) began the process of conserving and digitizing (made possible though a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)) six of Guthrie’s scrapbooks and notebooks. The process of conservation included cleaning, digitizing and encapsulation.

Woody Guthrie publicity photograph for his 1943 autobiography, Bound For Glory. New York, 1942.
Woody Guthrie publicity photograph for his 1943 autobiography, Bound For Glory. New York, 1942. Photograph by Robin Carson. Encapsulation of photographs and fragile scrapbook pages in polyester film provides excellent protection during handling.
One of Woody Guthrie’s notebooks from 1952.
One of Woody Guthrie’s notebooks from 1952. Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie’s daughter and Archives Director, personally delivered materials from the Woody Guthrie Archives to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, for conservation treatment and digitization.

These materials showcase the ideas, illustrations, and songwriting techniques of one of America’s musical treasures. All of these items are in Guthrie’s own handwriting and include lyrics, poetry, artwork, and photographs with handwritten captions. These books captured road trips that Guthrie and his family took through Oklahoma, Texas, California, Florida, and New York. The scrapbooks date back to the 1940’s and 1950’s and even include rejection letters from major record labels.

NEDCC’s process for conserving the scrapbooks included the removal of photographs for cleaning. Found on the back side of these were handwritten captions that shed light on the setting and subjects of the photos. “It has changed the way we research,” says Guthrie Archivist Tiffany Colannino. “And solved more than a few mysteries,” she added. The condition of some of the volumes was so poor that researchers at the Guthrie Archives had not been able to fully examine them. Through conserving these scrapbooks, NEDCC conservators were able to introduce new resources to the Guthrie Archives’ collection.

Included in this set was a 230-page book that contained details about Guthrie’s 27-year stay in New York City and his friends, associates, and collaborators there including Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Allan Lomax, and Sonny Terry. This scrapbook is now a cornerstone of a book project from Nora Guthrie and the Woody Guthrie Archives entitled My Name is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s New York Town; A Walking Guide that is slated to be published by PowerHouse Books in May, 2012.

With Woody Guthrie’s indelible influence on making music to bring about change, successors like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Bruce Springsteen have kept his message alive and with this conservation project and the resulting archival discoveries, more artists will continue to follow in Woody Guthrie’s footsteps.

If you have a special collection of photographs or documents, see University Products’ selection of photo products and archival storage folders & enclosures.