31 – Preserving History | Jonathan Nelson – The Wisconsin Historical Society

Jonathan Nelson
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Have you ever found yourself wondering what you’ll leave behind? As the saying goes, you can’t take it with you, but it might be worth archiving, or something like that. Our guest today is Jonathan Nelson, a collections development archivist with the Wisconsin Historical society. He also has the privilege of working with the collection recording the history of Organic and Sustainable agriculture.

Today we’ll discuss how Jonathan became an archivist, what the job entails, how archives work, how Wisconsin started a collection on Organic history, and much more.

We recorded this conversation at the 2018 MOSES Conference, so there will be more background noise, but it’s a great conversation, so without further ado, enjoy this episode with Jonathan Nelson.

Listen To The Show

Show Notes:

    • Jonathan Nelson started out as a lawyer, worked at a bookstore, studied library sciences.


    • Worked at the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma as an archivist, and then started working at the WI Historical society when the job opened up.


    • An archivist is an information professional that deals with unpublished material from various people.


    • A librarian works with published resources, an archivist works with one of a kind documents and information.


    • Rather than hoarding (collecting everything), archivist’s cultivate usual information.


    • The WI Historical Society is a State Agency, that is actually older than the State of WI.


    • Anything the Society collects is something they are committed to keeping in perpetuity.


    • Jonathan Nelson became involved in the Organic and Sustainable collection in 2013, because the Society surveyed what was within their collection and found they were lacking in Organic and Sustainable records.


    • Early attempts were unsuccessful, but working with Roger Blobaum and Faye Jones helped yield results.


    • The goal of archiving information is to maintain the information is the order it was intended by the originator.


    • Not all the information is digitized and available online, there’s simply too much information and too little time to do that.


    • Grocery lists are not necessary to archive.


    • Things that are important to society should be remembered, and remembered accurately.


    • There’s a real concern with future records and information being kept digitally.


    • Paper, so long as it you don’t burn it or drown it, is durable.


    • The batteries will die someday, and the file type becomes outdated.


    • Among the collection are the records of F. H. King, author of Farmers for Forty Centuries.


    • F.H. King was a soil scientist who worked with the USDA, and eventually started working with the University of WI in the soil sciences department.


    • F.H. King’s study on the farmers of Japan found that through soil management they maintained the organic matter to be able to produce throughout the lifetime.


  • WI is not the only state that has an Organic collection, there are two others in Universities, but they focus only on what happens in the state they are in, WI gives a more national perspective.

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