The official history of the Minnesota Orchestra Archives began in 1975 when the Orchestra transferred their records to the University of Minnesota Libraries' Manuscript Division. Before that sporadic attempts had been made to document and save Orchestra history. Orchestra manager /cellist /program annotator, Carlo Fischer, saved newspaper clippings about the Orchestra, many of which were pasted into large scrapbooks from 1908-64. Because office files from this period have been discarded, the scrapbooks remain the sole record of the first half of the Orchestra's history.

When the staff at the Manuscripts Division received the first deposit of Orchestra records, they began processing the collection as staffing allowed. But by the end of the 1990s a significant backlog had accumulated. As the Orchestra began planning for their centennial in 2002-03, they recognized the enduring value of their archives and wanted to make it available for research. They decided to make a permanent gift of the archives to the University in 1999 and provided funding for three years to fully process the collection. In January 2001 archivist Leslie Czechowski was hired.

Processing of the Collection

Early materials in the archives, mainly from the 1970s, were partially arranged and described, however no appraisal had been done of the records. Most of these records may have been from the office of Orchestra President, Richard Cisek. Using this arrangement as a foundation, Czechowski developed the current system of organization for the archives. The term "Series" was used for materials rather than "Record Group" because the archives was part of the Manuscripts Division and this terminology was more consistent with other materials in the Division. During the first year of the project all the early materials were appraised and re-described.

The remaining materials in the collection had not been appraised nor arranged. Some of the 300 record cartons of materials had detailed container lists; over half had none. Many of the cartons were from a common storage area at Orchestra Hall, and files from various offices were interfiled and mixed to an extent that it was often impossible to decipher the office of origin.

It was decided to separate materials by format for ease of use and because researchers requested them that way. A decision was made to create a series for events files. Some of these were already created in the original schema (notably Tours), and because it was often difficult to know from whose office files originated, it made sense to continue these artificial series. In addition many of these events involved staff from various offices and bringing the records together would assist researchers. In the future, as the archivist will be able to record the office of origin, it may not be necessary to continue this arrangement.

By April 2003 many of the finding aids were complete to an extent that Czechowski started to convert them into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) to provide Web access to the finding aids. This was an auspicious time to begin the project because the Special Collections and Archives units in the University Libraries simultaneously embarked on an EAD planning process.

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