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Steven Fullwood Shares Archives Expertise During Spring Workshop

May 31, 2018

“You have to be ruthless with yourself.”

This was just one piece of advice Steven G. Fullwood shared during his workshop, History in Your House, In Your Hands, held May 23, 2018 in Drexel’s Library Learning Terrace.

“Be ruthless and know what sort of person you are if you want to get serious about organizing your photos and other documents in your personal archive,” Fullwood explained during the event, which was sponsored by the Drexel Libraries. “Are you the type of person who will get stuck looking at every photo for 20 minutes? If you are, you need to set realistic expectations and timelines for organizing your materials.”

Several people gather around a long table to look at photos and newspaper clippings.
Steven Fullwood shares pieces from his personal archive during the "History In Your House, In Your Hands" workshop.

Fullwood, a documentarian, archivist and writer, is also the former Assistant Curator of the Manuscripts, Archives & Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, and the founder of the In the Life Archive.

During the two-hour session, Fullwood spoke to an audience of 35 people from across Drexel and the local Philadelphia community about the importance of personal archives, as well as the challenges of preserving and maintaining those histories. He also offered tips and practical advice for organizing personal photos and documents using a four-step process he calls the “Is/Do model.”

“First you want to identify what you have – name the piece. Next, start segregating your documents so you can see what you have. Discard the junk, and then organize the rest,” Fullwood recommended.

Attendees had the opportunity to examine several pieces from Fullwood’s personal collection, which included photos, newspaper clippings, event flyers and more. They also shared stories about their own collections – what they have, the format of their materials, and where the collections are stored. Responses varied widely, from participants whose materials are stored in boxes in the attic to those who have uploaded their collections to online repositories, but most came to the workshop for the same reason: to learn more about storing and organizing photos, documents and keepsakes to ensure their family histories can be preserved and shared with future generations. 

“As an institution, Drexel is doing just that through its own University Archives and various curated collections,” said Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries. “This includes documents and other items that preserve the University’s institutional history, as well as The Legacy Center in the College of Medicine, and of course the rich archives and specimens chronicling our country’s history of discovery and natural history at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. Through this event, the Libraries offered the Drexel community – and the local community – guidance for navigating the photographs, letters, papers and other materials that make up their personal archives, highlighting how each of us as individuals can contribute to what’s happening in society by taking care of our own personal histories.”