My name is Audrey Belanger and I am a graduate assistant at the Davis Library Archives and Special Collections. I am currently in the final year of my Library Science degree at St. John’s University. My main interest is archival and special collections librarianship, so I was excited to get to work at the Davis Archives this semester processing the Records of the Insurance Women of New York (IWNY). The IWNY started in 1934, making it one of the oldest insurance women’s organizations.
The bulk of the collection was comprised of newsletters and meeting documents (meeting minutes, reports, flyers, etc.) which were dated, making them fairly easy to organize. The newsletters were especially fun to go through since official club business was interspersed with news, poems, and the occasional illustration. I had expected a collection about an insurance organization to be dull, but it was actually very interesting to see the formation and development of a professional women’s organization from the 1930s. Alongside their professional interests, the women of the IWNY socialized, participated in charity, and attended cultural events.
Undated and miscellaneous items proved the most difficult to organize, as I imagine is the case in all archival collections! These items included two unlabeled and undated black and white photographs, detailed instructions for conducting a ceremony for the installation of club officers, and an invitation to a Christmas Tea.
The IWNY records contained such a wide variety of materials that I ended up dividing the collection into nine categories (called series). It is important that the collection is arranged and labeled in a clear and concise way that allows researchers to find the information they need. To further assist researchers, I created a finding aid, which is a written document explaining the collection and its arrangement. In my finding aid I was able to explain that the series “Organization information” included documents such as a ceremonial for the installation of officers and unlabeled photographs.
Processing this collection taught me about the interests and activities of professional women in New York beginning in 1934. It also helped me to learn how to take what at first seemed to be a random assortment of documents and arrange them in a way that they would be accessible to future researchers.