Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chess Archives and Records Management

Chess Archives and Records Management

At the Mass Open George Mirijamian and I got into an interesting conversation about Chess Archives. Historically chess organizations do a poor job of record keeping for posterity. In fact, I find that the BCF bound collection of past Chess Horizons is probably the best source of Mass chess history around. But old state and club history is difficult to obtain. Example: there existed a slight controversy as to who was the Mass Open Champ of 1964 & 1965 for some time because of sketchy record keeping.

We both feel that many times the few records of existing or former chess clubs are on shelves in a person's house and end up getting thrown out when the holder of those records passes away and the family does not recognize the importance of them. There is probably much information that would be useful to chess fans but never gets turned back into circulation. The sanest thing to do if the records can't be returned to the original organization is to donate them to the Cleveland Public Library which has the largest chess library in the world called The White Collection. At least there they will be well taken care of, cataloged and accessible to the public.

Several years ago Paul MacIntyre made a redundant offsite repository (his house) of critical BCF records, like legal and tax records, in case of fire at the BCF. Recently at a BCF board meeting the same subject came up because Bob Oresick was trying to find more former BCC champions and mentioned that there are very few old records around. Paul MacIntyre related how he was excluded from going back to try and retrieve some old files that were left behind in a separate room of the BCF following the move from Clarendon street to Elm Street. BCF is in possession of some records about the Rhode Island chess club from the 1960's.

The Quincy Chess club had to dissolve it's assets when it moved to the Atria assisted living at 4 Seaport Drive because the Atria would not provide a location to put a steel cabinet for storage of their stuff. Over 50 years old, the Quincy chess club had almost no records, not even a list of the club champs, only some photographs of past members. BTW these are now possessed by Irving Yaffee, who I believe currently is 86 at this time. Everything else: clocks, books, sets, were divided up among members with the thinking at least they are being used somewhere in the promotion of chess instead of being cooped up in someone's basement rusting.

One positive thing: clubs & state associations can have are web sites and blogs. Now here are living documents developed to meet current daily needs that can become historical records of the on going life of an organization. Over time you are building quite an asset, a record of daily chess life.

Also you have people like Tony Cortizas who's photo journalism creates images of players that can be viewed years later. In fact a photographer like Tony possesses his own private library that has 1000'nds of more photographs than were ever produced in the past when developed film and processing made photography more expensive and time intensive. I should also add Bob Oresick and Steve Stepak as possessors of huge personal photo archives as well. I hope these gentleman make arrangements for their archives to be maintained beyond their days.

And it would be fantastic if some of these unknown, "lost", archives of players 30+ years ago popped up because of this essay. Do you have, or know of any chess archives?

Please Comment.

Thank You

Mike Griffin.

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