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May 1 / Matthew Fredericks

SLIS Alternative Spring Break – At the Benson Ford Research Center

By Laura Kennedy, MLIS student

SLIS student Laura Kennedy (right)

I had the opportunity to join three other students at the Benson Ford Research Center at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan over spring break this year. Our assignment was to do preliminary processing of a collection they have had since 2009 and have not had time to process yet. The collection consists of over 200 boxes of material from the Watts-Campbell Company in Newark, New Jersey. Watts-Campbell was established in the mid-1800s and was in business until the early 2000s. In the early days of the company they made the large steam engines necessary to run many factories at the time. Later, once steam gave way to other technologies, they became a job shop and provided repair and installation services. Our job at the Henry Ford involved going through the company’s records, including incoming and outgoing correspondence, invoices, ledgers, and other business records. It was dirty work, but rewarding in so many ways. We saw correspondence from Thomas Edison and his company, as well as some very interesting letterhead. While were unable to process all the boxes of the collection, we were able to put a dent in it and, hopefully, helped the Henry Ford staff move a step closer to having the whole collection processed.

In addition to the work we did at the Benson Ford Research Center, other highlights included getting to tour the stacks (including seeing Henry Ford’s original driver’s license), seeing the paper and textile conservation labs, and getting to tour the museum during breaks.