What exactly am I doing at NARA?

Several of you have been curious as to what I am doing for my internship.  So I thought I would take this time to explain.  My project for the summer is to process 300 cubic feet of land transactions that NARA has obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Portland Area Office.

First of all, what is a cubic foot?  This is the size of one archival box, which means I am processing 300 boxes of documents! These boxes are acid-free and expected to last forever, while protecting the documents inside.

Secondly, what does processing mean?  When I process these documents, I remove them from the original folders that they were put into, and then I put the documents into acid-free archival folders.  These help to protect the documents so that they will last longer.  On the outside of each folder, I hand-write a description of the file inside.  Currently, I am just copying the description that has already been put on the folder originally.  Next, I go through the file to make sure that there are no unstable documents.  In other words, I look to make sure that the file doesn’t contain thermofax or other types of papers that will bleed onto other pages.  If I find such types of acidic papers, I then make a preservation copy (on acid-free preservation paper).  Once the copy is made, I then put the pages that I copied into witness disposal, where they are disposed of properly.

Thirdly, after the processing is complete, the next step is entering the data from the files into an Access Database.  This information is used to make finding aids for researchers to locate files that they desire.

The documents that I am working on are land transaction case files.  These all involve allotment lands that were given to the Native Americans under the General Allotment Act of 1887.  The files date from the early 1940s to the mid 1960s.  I have run across some very interesting things to be sure!  Because the files that I am working on come from the Portland Area Office, the reservations and tribes that are included are Collvile, Shoshone, Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene from Northern Idaho, Klamath, Warm Springs, Western Washington, and Yakima.

I hope that this helps to explain my internship a little bit.


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