Step by Step: The Archival Process, Part 3

County of Marquette Commission Minutes Finding Aid

A sample finding aid

Now that the material’s mold and dust have been taken care of in the accession stage, it is safe to move on to the third step: processing. “Processing”, in the archival world, means an in depth arrangement and detailed description of a collection.  The material is sorted into specifically labeled folders and grouped accordingly into boxes, all acid free of course.

Jaime Ganzel is the NMU Archive’s official Arrangement and Description Specialist. She is responsible for processing of all our incoming collections.  When Jaime is given a collection, she starts the long term preservation work. She goes through every document and newspaper clipping and makes reproductions of any damaged pieces or items that have limited longevity that may have been missed in the prior stage.

Once the material is neatly organized and all packed up, she creates a Finding Aid, which is a final report containing all of the information about the collection. The Finding Aid includes a summary of the collection identifying what form the collection is in (such as audio, manuscript, volumes, etc.), a biographical note about the person or organization from which it came, and scope and content note which gives a brief description of what the collection contains. It also has a “related materials” section as well as a complete collection inventory. The information is then entered into our data base and the Finding Aid is posted online so that the collection is searchable by Archives employees and the public.

Many of the online resources, such as finding aids and project websites, are managed by Olivia Ernst, the current Senior Student Assistant and Digital Resources and Technology Coordinator. Some of the larger, more heavily accessed collections (such as the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company Records) have been digitized, and custom websites were built in order to increase accessibility. Designing, linking digital objects to finding aids, and troubleshooting a custom website is a long process, but in the end it allows patrons around the world (some of our websites have been accessed in places like Thailand) to view the materials from our small Archives.

Editing HTML in WinSCP

Behind the Scenes: A sampling of the HTML for one of our project websites, and the SFTP client used.

Nowadays, most of the digital resources management is done through NMU’s Drupal-based content management system.  This allows for quick fixes for broken links, as well as an easy way to keep the front page up to date and exciting. If you ever notice an error on one of our websites, send an email to– we want to have the most accurate and user friendly websites possible!

That’s it folks, we’ve reached the end of the archival management cycle. Hopefully the Archives is less of a mysterious place now. We hope to help you on your research endeavors soon!

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.


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