By Irene Lule

The SCA Archive documents the activities and business of the organization from its inception to the present, and is now available at Texas Archival Resources Online.

A sampling of photographs documenting the American roadside from the SCA Archive

A sampling of photographs documenting the American roadside from the SCA Archive.


The overall goal of any archival processing project is to establish physical and intellectual control over a collection. Currently measuring at 9.42 linear feet and with over 900 photographic materials, the SCA collection can be called an artificial collection, which is “a collection of materials with different provenance assembled and organized to facilitate its management or use.”1 A majority of the material comes from former SCA board members including the Alexander Architectural Archives’ curator, Beth Dodd. Combing the records of different board members to create one cohesive collection is a difficult task mostly because everyone has a different way of organizing their individual records. In this case, we attributed many of the folders to their original creator. For example, Beth Dodd was one of the co-organizers of the SCA’s conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September 2008. Since many of the records contain her personal notes, we made sure to attribute the proper folders to her. Bringing together the records of former board members is critical in creating the SCA collection, but it is also important to attribute the individual creators when appropriate.

Collection Highlights

One of my personal favorite features of the SCA collection is the material documenting the publication of the quarterly newsletter, SCA News (now known as Road Notes). We were fortunate to acquire the records of its former editor Gregory Smith. As editor, Greg received correspondence, letters, and clippings from SCA members and the general public about the current events in the commercial built environment. A majority of the photographic material comes from this section of the collection including some wonderful photographs of neon signs.

Additionally, the SCA collection documents the various events of the organization. Particularly active in the 1980s, tours and conferences featuring diners to quirky cities like Wildwood, New Jersey provide a glimpse into the past activities of the organization.

A draft of the newsletter from the SCA collection

A draft of the newsletter from the SCA collection. These are examples of the types of materials former editor, Gregory Smith, would receive for publication consideration.

SCA also contains the minutes, agendas, and various administrative records of the organization. Given its status as an artificial collection, there are some gaps we are hoping to fill through outreach. We attended the SCA’s 40th anniversary conference in Cincinnati where we presented on the project. We actually came home with some donations! We are still in need of archival material. If you are interested in donating your SCA records, please contact Beth Dodd at first. Materials the Alexander Architectural Archives is looking to acquire include:

  • Planning of SCA conferences
  • Publication of the SCA Journal and Road Notes
  • Documentation of SCA elections
  • Committee material
  • Photographic material documenting SCA events

We are not in need of any issues of the journal or newsletter.

As long as SCA exists, this collection will continue to grow. The Society for Commercial Archeology collection has a very special place in my career. As the largest and most complex collection I have ever processed, I have taken away a lot of lessons about rehousing, description, arrangement, and project management along with educating me about a unique part of the built environment. The Alexander Architectural Archives wants to thank SCA and its members for their recent monetary donations. These gifts are crucial to the development and care of the SCA collection. Thank you!

1 “Artificial Collection,” Society of American Archivists, accessed November 20, 2017.

Did you enjoy this article? Join the SCA and get full access to all the content on this site. This article originally appeared in the SCA Road Notes, Summer 2018, Vol. 27, No. 2. SCA Road Notes, informally known as SCA News, is a quarterly publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology. Back issues are available for download.

More Articles Join the SCA

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Post comment