My latest discovery re: accession numbers and archive numbers and their relationship with a certain hockey tape

Or…an end-of-summer walk through the weeds

Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash

As we wait on the university to produce the two hockey tapes that may or may not have something to do with an interview with several Miami Hockey Coaches, I haven’t exactly been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. If the tapes they produce turn out to be our coaches, great. Success. But if they’re some other unrelated hockey-themed videos, what then? Also, if the tape that’s referred to in Oral History Project progress logs and archive lists as Miami Hockey Coaches is actually labeled something else, how would they know if they’d found it? Would someone even recognize it if they were holding it in their hands? Which is why l want to be able to tell officials, at the appropriate time, the exact location where they need to look for the missing tape, regardless of its title. And today I’m happy to report that I’ve found additional evidence to support what I believe to be the honest-to-goodness real-life home address of the Oral History Project recording currently known as the Miami Hockey Coaches.

That’s right. I think that the missing tape’s accession number is msv00110 and I think its archive number is 10F-4-129. 

Let’s think about that for a second. When all of this began, I had virtually no clue which Oral History Project recordings weren’t posted online, and I didn’t know the so-called Miami Hockey Coaches recording existed. Now, even though staff members have had a tough time figuring out where the Miami Hockey Coaches recording may be, I think I can pinpoint its exact numerical ID  in not one but two University Archives numbering systems. So yeah. It’s one thing to know the title. But titles, like people’s names, can be confusingly similar. (Hence: Miami Hockey Coaches vs. Hockey Tape #2 vs. Hockey Interview #1.) Having a recording’s accession and archive numbers is like knowing its street address, Zip code, and that plus-four number at the end. That’s way better.

Granted, we’re talking in archivist jargon here, the distinction of which I’m not entirely clear on. As far as I can tell, an accession is the term used for an item that’s being added to an archives, so the accession number is the record that’s produced to track the accession as soon as it enters the door. Earlier in this blog space, we learned that the university tracks its accessions in a database known as ArchivesSpace. As for the archive number, that appears to be used to distinguish one record in a collection from another. I’m not sure why a person would need both numbers to keep track of a particular record. Maybe the archive # provides more specific information to the archivist, such as the record’s physical location—a particular filing cabinet, shelf, or drawer—or to identify a particular grouping of items, such as the Oral History Project. I don’t know. I’m not an archivist. This much we do know: as far as the Oral History Project recordings are concerned, each tape has both numbers.

If you want to see these numbers for yourself, out in the wild, you need to look in two separate places. For the accession numbers, go to the university’s Miami Stories Oral History Project web pages and click on the individual recordings. On the page with all of the credits, you’ll see that the accession number is identified as such and will start with the letters msv followed by a string of zeroes.

To see the archive number, you can visit the Special Collections and University Archives web page, and it will be included with the title and date of each recording. For the Oral History Project recordings, the number will start with the prefix 10F-4.

To further complicate matters, when I was going through the Oral History Project boxes in University Archives this past June, I stumbled on what appeared to be more numbers to ponder. At the top of an important-looking document were the words “Miami Stories Oral History Project Sorted by ARCHIVE #.” And then there was a table of titles next to two columns: one for an Archive # and another for the Control Panel #. In both cases, the numbers were one, two, or three digits with no prefixes. The numbers in the Archive # column were in order, although some numbers had been skipped over, while the numbers in the Control Panel column were jumbled. In some locations, especially on the last two pages, several boxes are left blank, some in both columns. The list ends with the interviews that had been conducted in May 2009, so they still had 13 more interviews to go at that point.

Here’s that document.

So I was yesterday years old when I finally realized that the numbers on this table are the same as the accession and archive numbers that we know and love, just sans the prefixes. In other words, if you take away the msv and a few of the preceding zeroes from the accession number, you’ll have the control panel number. (I don’t know why it’s called a control panel number—maybe it has something to do with ArchivesSpace?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Also, the WC in a few of the control panel boxes means Western College, but the numbers are still the same.) Likewise, the archive numbers in the table are the same as the ones on the Special Collections and University Archives page minus the 10F-4.

Me: 🎉 🎉 🎉

You: 🫤

Me: Wait. Why am I the only one celebrating?

You: Um…and this is important…why?

Oh, sorry. This is important because now we can fill in the blanks on the ARCHIVE # chart, especially the last two pages. And if we can fill in all of the blanks except for those next to the Miami Hockey Coaches, then we should be able to figure out which numbers should go into the Miami Hockey Coaches’ slots too.

Here’s the result.

Let’s start with the control panel number and count down from 105. Number 105 is the School of Engineering and Applied Science, number 106 is Stewards of Campus Grounds and Natural Areas, number 107 is assigned to the Marching Band Directors, 108 to Marjorie Miller Donovan, 109 to the Oxford Village leaders, and 111 went to the Physics faculty. Only number 110 was skipped over and only the Miami Hockey Coaches tape is missing a number. You guys, it’s gotta be. The control panel/accession number for the Miami Hockey Coaches is 110 or msv00110.

Now let’s look at the archive numbers, counting down from 125, which is assigned to the Cradle of Coaches members. Number 126 is Heanon M. Wilkins, 127 is Harry Lee (Bud) McCoy, 128 is the Marching Band Directors, 129 is skipped, 130 is the Village of Oxford leaders, 131 is Marjorie Miller Donovan, and so on. Again, only the Miami Hockey Coaches is missing a number and during that time period, the skipped-over number is 129. So the archive number for the Miami Hockey Coaches is very likely 10F-4-129.

page 4 — click on image for a closer look
page 5 — click on image for a closer look

Oh, sure, sure. My little system isn’t perfect. You may notice that the control panel/accession numbers experienced some skips in the early days. Some of those skipped numbers belong to the other four unposted recordings, but others may have something to do with the fact that they used to reuse the tapes after converting them to DVD. But I’ve charted it out and, from what I can tell, the last skipped accession number before number 110 was prior to June 16, 2007, at roughly the same time they stopped reusing tapes.

On the archive number side, you can see that the numbers run in consecutive fashion with the occasional skip of one or two or, yikes, eight. 😬 That’s harder to explain, and, again, the skips tended to be early on, though not all of them. I look at it this way: throughout the entire year of 2009, from January 20 through September 19, 2009, there were only two skipped archive numbers: 116 and 129, and there was only one unposted recording for that year, our Miami Hockey Coaches. Based on its placement, my bet is on 129, though admittedly 116 is also possible.

It bears repeating: University Archives doesn’t discard any of its records—whether they’re related to the Oral History Project or not. A number that’s skipped is a strong indication that a recording has been assigned that number, even if we can’t find it. The question is: where is msv00110, aka 10F-4-129, hiding?

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