First day at the Glennon Archives




The Dr. Thomas J. Glennon Archives started out as a manuscript repository in the early 1800s, and the majority of its holdings are published historical works relating to Woburn people and organizations. It also has photographs and museum objects. Tom Doyle works alone as archivist at the Woburn Public Library’s Glennon Archives, but feels a sense of community at professional events like the upcoming NEA conference, and in between events on the lone arrangers listserv. He gave me several collections to choose from; I decided to start with the Joseph H. Foley papers. This collection was donated in early January and is mainly comprised of letters to and from Joseph Foley during his training and service in WWII (medical detachment). He was the donator’s uncle. The bulk of the letters are from Joseph to his mother, Mrs. James A. Foley.


Our best picture of Joseph Foley.

A volunteer had already begun processing the collection. She separated the letters into nine folders and each folder spans two months. Folder 1 has letters from March-April 1942. The tenth folder contains ephemera. My first task is look at a list the volunteer made of each letter’s sender, recipient, and date. Tom wants me to compare this list to what I find in the folders, just to make sure the list is accurate. I noticed the volunteer had written down the dates from the envelope postmark and I mentioned it to Tom. He said we should be writing down the date from the letter (if any) and only rely on the postmark date if the letter itself is not dated. So I’m correcting all the dates on the list.


I’m making note of:

  • Letters on the list that are not in the folder
  • Letters in the folder that are not on the list
  • Materials other than letters (in the envelopes) such as clippings from army newsletter, copy of Roosevelt’s address to congress, an illustration of army equipment (I don’t know if it’s worth the time to make notes about these things but they are showing up rarely so I guess it’s okay?)
  • Apparently misfiled letters, for instance an envelope postmarked 12/6/42 contains a letter from August. I’m leaving them the way they are of course.

Tom thought a bio for Joseph Foley was in the ephemera folder but it’s not. He said we’ll have to “pull the obit”, I asked how – from microfilm downstairs. But first we need a date of death.

Tasks assigned by Tom:

  • Check folder contents against previously-made list of letters and correct list where necessary.
  • Do some research about how to preserve personal letters. Tom thinks taking letters out might be the thing to do, he’s heard some people cut up folders to make smaller ones for the letters?
  • Read some letters to get a sense of the collection for scope and content notes
  • Create finding aid
  • Reminder: in processing notes, mention the dates are taken from letter and from postmark when letter is undated

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