A Semester in Archives: My Experience Processing the Richard A. Jenson Collection

This blog post was composed by graduate student Zach Loflin, a Master’s student in the Museum Studies department. 

Photo of Zach Loflin working at laptop.
Zach working on the finding aid.

Hello there! My name is Zach Loflin, and I am a second-year master’s student in Baylor’s Museum Studies Department. In my last semester here at Baylor, I decided to complete a practicum in archives to finish out my degree plan. Up to this point, my primary area of interest and experience has been working with museum collections, however, I really wanted to gain some practical experience in processing archival collections. The W. R. Poage Legislative Library was kind enough to offer me that opportunity, and now a semester later, I stand here (well, sit rather – as I write this) having gained a lot of very valuable experience processing the Richard A. Jenson collection.

Clipping of Bill Kilgarlin advertisement.
Advertisement for Bill Kilgarlin, Texas Supreme Court candidate. (found in Richard A. Jenson collection, Box 3, Folder 42)

The collection I processed this semester was donated by Richard A. Jenson. He serves as the President of Jenson Research and Communications, an Austin-based business which was founded in 2005. Jenson had previously served as a consultant for political candidates in Texas, including Texas Supreme Court Justice Bill Kilgarlin. Jenson extensively collected political campaign materials and memorabilia from the 1980s and 1990s. These pertained to all branches and levels of government, but Jenson’s prime areas of interest were the Texas Supreme Court and Appellate Court judicial races.

In 2014, Jenson donated his collection to the W. R. Poage Legislative library. The materials in the collection are largely related to Texas political campaigns, specifically focusing on the judicial and legislative branches which comprise the two largest series in the collection. There is also a wide range in the types of materials found in the collection. Campaign fliers, advertisements, newspaper clippings, correspondence, posters, buttons, VHS tapes, and audio cassettes are all present. The variety of material types made it a very interesting collection to process as I was constantly encountering new pieces of campaign memorabilia.

Window hanger advertisement for George H. W. Bush.
Window hanger advertisement for Presidential candidate George H. W. Bush. (found in Richard A. Jenson collection Box 6 OVZ, Folder 5)

Starting this project, my goal was to have the collection fully processed by the end of the semester. The first step involved sorting all the loose materials into folders, imposing an order that would make sense for researchers, and creating a preliminary processing plan. This plan established a general outline for how the collection would be organized. Once the collection materials were organized into folders, an inventory was compiled so that we would know truly the full scope of everything the collection contained. From here, what remained was the task of composing a finding aid for the collection. It was very important to ensure all information on the finding aid was detailed and laid out properly as it will be an invaluable resource for any researcher looking to utilize the collection.

Photo of Zach holding a gavel.
Zach is “The Strongest Avenger.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Poage Library this semester. Through this experience, I have gained a greater understanding of the archival process and a strong insight into best standards and practices. I feel that this experience will be very valuable to me as I pursue a career in the museum field. To anyone interested in gaining experience in libraries or archives, the Poage Library is truly a great resource to consider.

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