For the past few weeks, I have been absorbed in processing the records of Congregation Sherith Israel. There have been a variety of challenges so far and lots of rewarding moments too! One of the challenges of this collection is the condition of many of the bound volumes in the collection. The burial permits for the congregation’s cemetery, for example, are a fantastic source, dating all the way back to 1861 and continuing, uninterrupted, up through the mid-1940s. Many were contained in bound volumes that were in poor and sometimes very poor condition (with missing boards, lots of tape, and damaged contents). These volumes can sit in a box for a long time in this poor condition, but the ultimate goal in processing this collection is to provide researchers the ability to access and make use of these records. The condition of the volumes makes handling the records nearly impossible and, therefore, providing access very difficult. So, part of processing this collection involves making nearly daily decisions about how best to handle these problematic volumes and how best to house or re-house their contents them to allow researchers to use them.
Today, I spent some time with the burial permits from the early to mid 1860s. Here is what they looked like when I took them out of the box:
At one point, these bound volumes had boards, I assume. Not so much any more. As you can imagine, it would be problematic to pull these items out for researchers because handling them would be difficult and would risk damaging them further. So, here is what I did with some of them:
Thankfully, these volumes were easy to disbound (with some good tools). Re-housed, safe and sound, and easily accessible to researchers!