Backstage Pass: Processing Collections

by Kimberly Rice, Archives Intern


My name is Kimberly. I am a graduate student at San Jose State University where I am currently working on my Masters in Archives and Records Administration. I have a Bachelor degree in History from DePaul University in Chicago. I have interned at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American History and Culture in Atlanta, GA. I have been an intern with the Napa County Historical Society since May 2013 and am learning a lot about Napa history.

Before moving to California, I thought Napa was just where wine came from. I didn’t know anything about the history of the land or the people. I have recently worked with ephemera collections here on topics such as earthquakes, bridges, and boat transportation.

Currently I am processing a collection of materials donated by the Tulocay Cemetery Association. Established in 1859, this private nonprofit, non-sectarian cemetery sits on 50 acres in Napa.

I have found handwritten documents with bright red official seals dating as far back as 1877 and typed documents with paper punch seals dated as recently as 1962. Surprisingly most of the older documents are in excellent condition, thanks to older paper making techniques.

The majority of the documents processed are cemetery plot deeds and perpetual care agreements. I have also found documents for business loans, caretaker payments and association elections.

Most of the collection is deeds to burial plots and contracts for perpetual care. There are also some receipts for general business purchases that give you a glimpse of what things costs 100 years ago and what kind of wages people were paid.

There are also letters regarding burial plot ownership and transfers from known families in Napa County including the Coombs family.

Digital preservation is my focus in my graduate studies. Information and document preservation is very important to the field of archives and there is so much technology available today to make it easier and cheaper than before. Making collections easily accessible to the public online for research keeps your documents safer because they are handled less but allows many more people access to them. Not everyone can visit Napa County but they all can get to know more about Napa through online research. I hope to make a lot of this collection available online to you all soon.