July 11, 2008

the subtle beauty of surveys

This project has introduced me to many types of materials and aspects of history that I was previously unfamiliar with. It has also been teaching me a lot about balance and letting go of rigid ideas of perfection. Some days, it is easy to get lost in the enormity of the task that is processing a 400 linear foot collection. I panic about deadlines and not meeting all of my goals.

Yesterday, as we were putting Benjamin Chew Jr.'s papers to rest, I found a number of folders of oversize material that still needed to be integrated. It would have been easy for me to become frustrated that I had forgotten where every piece of paper was, but then I opened one of the folders and found this:

Survey of Chewton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, [n.d.]

I don't know why I am so affected by surveys. I have fallen in love with their subtle, sweet beauty. I am always moved by the depictions of trees and houses, the meticulous detail with which the surveyors rendered their subjects. It could be that I've developed this interest because of the sheer number of surveys in the collection, but I think it is more that they offer such a simple view of boundaries and the space between place and place.


NYCC Project Archivist said...

I can relate to the overwhelmed feeling . . . but, yes, for me there is just something about finding all of those hand drawn diagrams, maps, and plans that is kind of thrilling. It reminds me of drawing dissection diagrams in Biology class. I guess its just nice to see work so detailed, so painstakingly done.

Cathleen Miller said...

I've found surveys creeping into my creative work--in poems and visual work--though I fear that I will never render them as beautifully as the originals I'm processing.