Alan Haeberle began work as Project Archivist in March 1997, leading a team of graduate assistants including Matthew Brown, Heather Crocetto, Glenn Gray and Rebecca Zeltinger. Additional graduate students from the University of Maryland College of Library and Information Services processed portions of the collection as part of class assignments, generally lasting one semester.

The first step in the process was to perform a survey of the entire collection. As a result of this survey, 8,450 books and journals were transferred to NAL's Cataloging Branch for processing into the general collection. Under the leadership of Michael Esman, 3,000 items, new to NAL's collection, were added to the general collection. Records for the remaining 5,450 items were amended to reflect that they had been included in the USDA History Collection.

The Project Archivist developed a draft finding aid for the documentary material using an existing outline of the collection developed by ERS historians. The organization of the finding aid followed the ERS groupings of materials, and divided the collection into 12 major series with a number of subseries.

Processing area, September 1997
Processing area, September 1997.

The collection was transferred to NAL in metal file cabinets, card catalogs, and in boxes of various size and condition. The Project Archivist and graduate assistants moved all documents into archival-quality boxes and folders, and removed pins, staples, paper clips and other non-archival fasteners. To keep packets or bundles of material together, the staff used plastic or stainless steel paper clips with slips of acid-free paper between the clips and the documents.

Documents in three-ring notebooks and other bindings were removed from the binding and transferred to archival folders unless removal would cause damage to the materials. Fragile documents, clippings, and materials on highly acidic stock were photocopied or interleaved with acid-free paper, or stored in separate folders. Oversize items, photographs and other special media were moved to separate containers, with separation sheets inserted to link the original and new locations.

Box of processed documents
Box of processed documents.

The original organization and arrangement of the materials has been maintained where ever possible. Materials received without any clear or logical order have been arranged in a system (alphabetical, alpha-numeric, chronological, etc.) to make the items most easily accessible.

Within individual folders, most materials were filed in reverse chronological order (e.g., December at the front of the folder, January at the back). Series of folders labeled chronologically were also found in reverse chronological order in the original file cabinets or boxes (1989 followed by 1988 followed by 1987, etc.). In processing, the staff has arranged folders in boxes in normal chronological order (1987, 1988, 1989). However, the reverse chronological filing within each folder has not been changed.

The collection has been processed to the extent noted in the following table. All amounts are stated in cubic feet; one cubic foot is approximately equivalent to one linear foot of shelf space.

Table: Processing Report.

Numbers are approximate. Totals may not be exact because of rounding.

Series No.Series NameQuantity in cubic ft.
I Documentary Files 360 165 165 cu. ft. processed, 195 cu. ft. partly processed
II Class File 56 56 56 cu. ft. completely processed
III Secretary's & Agency Memoranda 30 29.5 29.5 cu. ft. processed, with 0.5 cu. ft. unprocessed additions
IV Annual Reports & Directories 9 0 9 cu. ft. partly processed
V Press Releases & News Clippings 48 45 45 cu. ft. processed, with 3 cu. ft. unprocessed additions
VI Newsletters 25 18 18 cu. ft. processed, with 7 cu. ft. partly processed additions
VII Photographs 7 5 5 cu. ft. processed, 2 cu. ft. partly processed or unprocessed
VIII Audio, Video, & Oral History 3 3 3 cu. ft. completely processed
IX Administrative & Biographical Records 36 0 36 cu. ft. partly processed
X Historical Manuscripts 3 3 3 cu. ft. completely processed
XI Personal Papers 58 0 58 cu. ft. partly processed
XII Addenda 17 0 17 cu. ft. partly processed
  TOTAL 652 324.5  

Unprocessed materials remain in order as received. Partly processed materials may be in original folders, but are in proper order in archival boxes.