Cal Poly Pomona’s Special Collections and Archives was selected in 2017 to receive an 18-month, federally funded grant project from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the project “As California Goes, So Goes the Nation.”
The project goal was to process 600 linear feet of archival collections across four areas — University Archives, Pomona Valley Historical Collection, Southern California Wine and Wine Industry Collection, and W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library.
By the time it was completed in March, archivists and librarians had processed more than 900 linear feet with 53 finding aids, which contain detailed information about a specific collection of records within an archive.
Before the grant, “it felt like going on a hunt for a needle in the haystack many of the times when researchers would contact us with a question,” said Katie Richardson, head of Special Collections and Archives, in an email interview.
There were many boxes with unorganized materials, said project archivist Rob Strauss. “Sometimes, they were grouped together in folders, but other times it would just be a pile of items in a box that you had to organize.
“The other difficulty was that, previously, many of the items had not been grouped together by donor so it took some sleuthing to find which items belong with which collection.”
Another challenge was provenance — information on the origins, custody and ownership of an item or collection.
“For this project, the provenance for a lot the materials was unclear,” said archivist Alexis Adkins. “We relied on old department records and the memory of long-time staff to figure out the provenance.”
Many treasures were discovered.
One of Richardson’s favorites was a photo album belonging to W.K. Kellogg.
“I think it really captures the Kellogg ranch in its heyday,” she said.
The Italian Vineyard Company photo album in the Don Galleano Collection is a favorite of Adkins.
“It’s such a great record of Southern California wine history,” she said.
For Strauss, it was a photo of W.K. Kellogg’s children from the late 19th century.
“I always enjoy looking through correspondence, too. Those can be some of the most fascinating documents in any collection,” he said.
The work is not done, according to Richardson.
“We plan to continue processing the remainder of the backlog of collections and also rev up our collection development efforts,” she said. “This grant project has helped us identify gaps in our collecting areas and we hope to fill those gaps with appropriate materials.”