Case Study – Donor-Assisted Processing (UCI)

Bernard Gilmore musical scores

I. Overview

Collection type:

Faculty papers from a UCI music professor

Extent and scope:

8 linear feet of musical scores

II. Approach

The donor provided an electronic, item-level inventory and a biographical note that was re-purposed into an EAD finding aid.   


The wife of Professor Gilmore contacted us about donating his papers.  She had already hired a student to organize and inventory Professor Gilmore’s materials.  The Head of Special Collections reviewed this preliminary inventory and worked with them on improving it so it could be repurposed.   After donating the papers, the donor emailed the inventory and a brief biography to us.


  1. An archivist created an accession record.
  2. A student put the scores in folders and boxes.
  3. A student labeled and numbered the boxes and folders.
  4. A student annotated the donor-supplied inventory with box and folder information.
  5. A student copied and pasted content from the donor-supplied inventory into the Archivist’s Toolkit, noting the box and folder numbers of the matching score.
  6. The archivist and student did not adjust the order of the donor-supplied inventory or the physical collection. Following the order of the donor-supplied inventory, the finding aid shows the box and folder numbers in non-sequential order.  For example:
Box 2, Folder 5
   Jazz Idioms for Woodwind Quintet, woodwind quintet 1990
Box 3, Folder 1-2, Box 4, Folder 3-6
   Distant Sundays, symphonic band 1999
Box 5, Folder 5-6, Box 4, Folder 1-2
   Fantasy -- Variations on the St. Anthony Chorale, wind band 1992

7. The archivist created all of the notes in the finding aid. She edited the donor-supplied biography very little.   


The EAD finding aid:

III. Processing rate:

Approximately 1.5 hours per linear foot for accessioning and processing

      Head of Special Collections: 4 hours

      Archivist: 4 hours

      Student: 4 hours

IV. Pros and Cons


  • The donor was happy for the opportunity to help shape her husband’s legacy. 
  • The intracacies of the musical scores would have been very difficult for an archivist not trained in musical notation to sort out.   Some of the manuscript scores were not labeled clearly.  Because the donor supervised the inventorying of the collection, she was able to supply many pieces of missing information.  The resulting finding aid has rich, accurate item-level description without too much labor from Special Collections staff.
  • The donor hired a technologically savvy music major who was able to bridge the needs and concerns of the donor and the archivist.


  • With the donor so invested in the organization and description of the collection, the Head of Special Collections spent more time training and working with the donor and student. Rather than supervising the archivist, the Head of Special Collections quasi-supervised the work of the donor and her student. This saved time for the archivist and reduced staffing costs for the department, but required the Head of Special Collections to invest far more time than usual in the details of acquiring a collection. Trained staff could have completed the project in far less time than the donor and her student spent on it, but the donor desired this ownership over the project.

Version 3.0. Last reviewed: August 20, 2012