Archive Treasures: Poverty In The Archives

A Handmaid Diamond Jubilee, News

A glance at poverty in the repurposing of paper products to classify and organize documents.

As we continue preserving our archives we are again indebted to so many who have helped us acquire the boxes, binders, garment bags, photo sleeves etc. In transferring items from old cardboard boxes to solid plastic we’ve have the misfortune to find a few casualties be it fabric mildew, moth damage, or mice nests (sans mice) which we are working to remedy. But we have also enjoyed a peek into the past Handmaids’ work in organizing boxes.

Handprinted file dividers…with the podiatry poster still visible on the backside.

In these photos we glimpse their lived poverty as they carefully used whatever scraps of paper they could find or repurposed others to build a file system. Our Founder’s poetry box was just one instance. Several nuns worked on this over the decades and, as you can see in places, much was kept on small pieces of paper. The file dividers were literally handmade using podiatry posters. Used mail envelopes also found their way into service. As one generation of sisters passed the tasks onto the next, each had their own system. At least now we’ve gotten much of the fragile paper, some of it carbon copy paper [some of you will have to google that], better protected before we return it to long term storage boxes (ones mice can’t get into).

Sister Imelda creatively turned a stack of posters into file dividers as she labored through organizing our Founder’s writings.