Behind the Scenes: A Technical Perspective

The following is an interview with Shaunette Payne about some of her varied responsibilities as a Technical Services Technician in the Prints and Photographs Division. Here we discuss her work with the Division’s stereograph cards, circus posters, and offsite collections.

Melissa: You and other colleagues in the technical services section are working on a project to catalog images from the Stereograph File. What does the project involve, and what do you like best about the work?

Shaunette: The project requires us to catalog items from the U.S. Geographical portion of the Stereograph File for a multi-year project. This part of the File is organized alphabetically by state. We are hoping we will have all of the scanning and most of the basic cataloging done by the end of the fiscal year.

Boxing pineapples for shipping, Fla., U.S.A., 1906. Stereograph card by Keystone View Company. //

What I like about the work is that it takes me away from reality. During the winter I was working on Florida, on specific categories like “pineapple industries” and “residences.” It was nice to imagine being somewhere warm when the weather here was still cold. It also really helps that I can just turn on my music, focus, and get it done.

Beautiful sunken gardens of a Miami home, Miami, Fla., 1926. Stereograph card by Keystone View Co. //

Melissa: Can you talk about your work with the Prints and Photographs Division’s circus posters? Have any posters stood out so far?

Shaunette: We are currently working to scan and catalog the division’s circus posters, and I’m involved in both parts of the process. First, I prepare the posters for scanning by labeling each item with a Digital ID number and making sure each is housed properly. Some of the posters in this collection stand out because they don’t necessarily seem circus-themed – like the one below, of animals in more natural settings. The Forepaugh & Sells poster showing “Phenomenal Acts of Contortion” is more typical.

Scenes with walruses, polar bears, deer, zebras and bison, 1891. Poster by Calvert Litho Co. //

The great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers shows combined. Phenomenal acts of contortion, 1899. Poster by Strobridge Litho. Co. //

Then, I assist a colleague from the Library’s Digital Scan Center while she scans the posters using our large-format scanner.  The last step is where I come back in and catalog them. There are already existing scans for some of the posters and in those cases I update the record. We do minimal description to get the records out there faster. There are a little over 400 circus posters total and so far I’ve created about 140 records.

Poster being scanned on large-format scanner in Prints and Photographs Division. Photo by Melissa Lindberg, 2018.

Melissa: Another one of your roles is to help manage the movement of P&P materials that are stored at the Library’s Fort Meade storage facility. What does this entail?

Shaunette: When Prints and Photographs coworkers request to have collection material brought to Capitol Hill I get the automated emails indicating a request has been put through. If someone is planning to order a lot of boxes they will usually let me know beforehand so I have some warning. When the boxes arrive onsite, the Library’s Collections Management Division’s (CMD) staff email me to let me know I can pick them up and bring them to Prints and Photographs Division storage space. I have to make sure that the material matches the request and I have to put in a new request if there was some confusion with the original request. It keeps me busy.

Boxes from Ft. Meade that Shaunette recently delivered to the Prints and Photographs Division’s space. Photo by Melissa Lindberg, 2018


The Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers, America’s greatest shows consolidated–The miraculous Melrosas, 1900. Poster by Courier Litho. Co. //

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