Demystifying Mudd: Reprocessing

By Nicky Steidel ’18

This summer I have worked on reprocessing the Triangle Club Records, representing just one slice of the the holdings in Mudd Library.   

Triangle Club prides itself on being the the oldest touring collegiate original musical comedy organization in the nation” and boasts a whole cast of well-known alumni, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, José Ferrer, and Brooke Shields, among others. Historically, Triangle has garnered both praise and notoriety for its punchlines, kicklines, and male cross-dressing, although of course female students have participated since “A Different Kick” in 1968.

Mudd’s collection reflects Triangle’s longevity. It contains materials from 1883 until the present day in a variety of formats. I’ve handled everything from bound scores from the late 19th century to U-matic tapes (the forgotten predecessor of the VHS tape) to old shellac records (be careful with them, because they’ll shatter!) to a variety of musical theater ephemera (costume jewelry, set designs, even a seal embosser).

More specifically, I have been going through Mudd’s post-1996 Triangle accessions (in other words, materials received from Triangle members and alumni since 1996). “Re-processing” the collection means I am checking the metadata we currently have in the finding aid against what I find in the Triangle collection containers as I go through them in the stacks at Mudd. In addition, I am going through each container to make sure all of the materials are properly housed. I am re-processing the post-1996 Triangle accessions with a particular eye for missing metadata at the folder level and identifying the format and location of all audiovisual materials.

For each container that I go through, I create one tab on a spreadsheet, marking down folder titles, the date range of materials (or a lack thereof), and whether any material requires re-housing. Folders that contain both dated and undated material are marked with both their date range and the “Undated” designation.

The process is as follows: I look at the contents of a container, try to identify folder titles and dates, and then enter them into the spreadsheet. After that, I check my information against the finding aid, adding any additional information that the finding aids contain that aren’t apparent upon first glance (sometimes there are more specific dates, clearer folder titles, etc.).

Finally, I make sure to check for any audiovisual material in the container I’m working on. If there is anything, I want to make sure that we know about it, determine its format, and mark it down for potential digitization in this form:

Once I enter in the box number and title, I can select which format I am working with. As you can see in the pie chart below, there are quite a few, and I’ve found at least one of almost all of each in the containers I have been re-processing.

Finally, I mark down whether there are multiple copies of the material I am processing and whether it has been digitized yet. This last part will require that I take an additional look at the AV materials that I’ve processed, making sure to note what materials have been digitized, are able to be digitized, and/or should be digitized.

After going through all of the post-1996 accessions, fun sets of data like this can be compiled:

Since the Triangle Club has one of the University’s most active alumni corps, it also generates one of the largest volumes of new accessions in all of Princeton’s student life archives. Reprocessing the more recent Triangle accessions is important as we continue to preserve the rich legacy of a club that has seen the turn of two centuries. I’d like to close by giving special thanks to my supervisor, Mudd’s Project Archivist for Student Life, Valencia Johnson, without whom I would be utterly and completely clueless–and unemployed!

This Week in Princeton History will return on September 3. Notable events of the week of July 30-August 5 we’ve shared with you in the past have included the University’s purchase of a new computer with 4MB of memory, a new phone system that allowed calls to be dialed without an operator, a controversial magazine that hit the stands, and the  political reason China revoked a student Olympian’s visa.

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