Undergraduate Archival Internships: Opportunities for Professional Development -AND- Student Outreach

 

Gene Hyde headshotUntitled-1This post was authored by guest contributor Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections, and Ashley McGhee, archival intern at University of North Carolina Asheville

The University of North Carolina Asheville is the designated public liberal arts campus in the UNC system, and as such we serve an overwhelmingly undergraduate population. In Special Collections we work closely with the UNCA History Department to offer a credit-bearing internship experience for undergraduates. An internship is the equivalent of a 3 credit hours History course, and interns are vetted by the History faculty in collaboration with Special Collections.

Our interns work 150 hours over a semester with a set schedule. Internships start with readings in archival theory, followed by hands-on arranging and describing of a collection, creating finding aids, and creating a display and/or blog post about their work, all accompanied by plenty of one-on-one mentoring. We have interns most semesters, and sometimes we’ve had two or three at time. Interns seem to enjoy the experience, and often express interest in careers in archives, librarianship, or public history. Indeed, part of the mentoring process often entails discussing these career options.

Last year Special Collections received an internal UNCA grant to purchase a significant local history collection and hire a student intern to process it, and we hired Ashley McGhee. Ashley had previously worked in Special Collections as an intern and had proven herself as gifted and hard-working, plus she is from Western North Carolina and has a strong interest in Appalachian history. As part of her internship responsibilities she was required to process the collection, join me in meeting with the donor and discussing the collection, and write a process paper describing her internship. Her process paper is below.

Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections, UNC Asheville

AshleyMcGheeUNCA

Ashley McGhee in the UNCA Special Collections Reading Room

The John Brown Land Speculation Collection Papers
A Process Paper by Ashley McGhee

          When I came to UNC Asheville to pursue a second degree in History I had no idea how the Library’s Special Collections would have an impact on my life.  I spent more time in the library than I did in class, and quickly made the acquaintance of both the Head of Special Collections, Gene Hyde, and the Archives Assistant, Colin Reeve.  After I worked a summer internship in Special Collections, Gene realized how at home I was among books and manuscripts and asked if I would be interested in working on an additional project.

A private donor who is an amateur historian of Western North Carolina (WNC) and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had offered Special Collections papers from the Brown family, which were related to the Speculation Lands Collection already housed in UNCA’s Special Collections.  The Speculation Lands Collection documents land acquisition and ownership in Western North Carolina during the late 1790s -early 1800’s, when land speculators sought land for investments instead of settlement like most frontier residents, and it provides an intimate, and often unique, look at land business dealings during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Brown family papers document land speculation efforts by John Brown and three generations of his relatives.  After securing the details regarding the collection, Gene and I traveled to the donor’s home to meet with him and his wife to discuss some of the finer points regarding the collection.  As noted, this private donor is a historian of Western North Carolina, and every nook and cranny of his personal library contained books, maps, and pictures, all housed in a warm wooden room full of soft lighting and squishy chairs, a bookworm’s dream come true.

The donor was willing to share what he had already learned about the Brown collection as well as provide extensive notes of his research. This was the beginning of background research for the collection, but it only scratched the surface.  Since the collection was related to the larger Speculation Lands Collection, the obvious research choice was to start with that collection and then work backwards.  After perusing it, and then books such as Sadie Smathers Patton’s Buncombe to Mecklenburg: Speculation Lands, along with the previously published “John Brown’s Journal of Travel in Western North Carolina in 1795”, I realized I was going to have to go back even further in my research.  Eventually, I ended up having to go all the way to the mid-1600’s with the first England Land Grants that were chartered for North Carolina, and then the original Eight Lords Proprietors.

When Special Collections received the papers, they were in a big box containing several manila folders with all the documents mixed together. The donor purchased the collection at an estate sale, and there was no evidence that any original order was intact by the time it was obtained by Special Collections. After examining the collection and conferring with Gene, we agreed that the logical way to organize the collection was to separate the documents by each speculator. Most all of the documents were from speculators within the Brown Family, but each man worked in different areas and in different time periods, so I wanted their documents categorized unto each of them so their work could tell their individual stories.

Before even getting to that though, I had to relax the documents, which involved placing the documents overnight into the bottom of a dry plastic container and then sitting that in a larger, deeper container which held a couple of inches of water in the bottom, thus reintroducing moisture and making the items more pliable and less fragile when handled. The materials were then laid flat between acid-free sheets of paper and weighted down to flatten out. Finally, to wrap up the project, I described the folders of material, wrote a detailed description and history of the collection, and created a finding aid.

Once the collection is made public on the UNC Asheville Special Collections website, it will be available for all to use.  Gene and I plan on stopping in to see our friend who donated the collection again, and enjoy his hospitality and talk Western North Carolina history and archives.

Live Blogging from RAO Marketplace of Ideas, Group 3

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we are not only encouraging attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but are also experimenting in LIVE BLOGGING–RIGHT NOW.

Group 3

Group 3

We are asking groups of Marketplace shoppers some outreach-related questions to get discussions going, and below are some of the responses we are getting LIVE:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

    • Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. Outreach resides with the Museum. Tumblr blog for Library. Has 13,000 followers to date. Have a big following among tattoo artists, who like illustrations. Interact with them through Tumblr. Also have a First Friday program with pop-up exhibits.

      Othermalia

      Othermalia

    • Temple University. Cookbooks, do a potluck with older recipes. People come in and find recipes from a selection of cookbooks.
    • Stanford. History of Information class. Students had to make recipes.
    • Go to. Tufts – Alumni events around commencement..Bring a button maker featuring Jumbo the elephant. Flooded with activity. New series of Tufts traditions.
Tufts button maker and buttons.

Tufts button maker and buttons.

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

3. That being said, what have been some of your outreach fails?

4. Who do you consider an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

Live Blogging from RAO Marketplace of Ideas, Group 2

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we are not only encouraging attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but are also experimenting in LIVE BLOGGING–RIGHT NOW.

Group2

We are asking groups of Marketplace shoppers some outreach-related questions to get discussions going, and below are some of the responses we are getting LIVE:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

  • Chicago. Open Archives Day. Did a tour on a day when enrollment management was doing tours. Got middle school children in to see archives.
  • MIT. Centennial of move from Boston to Cambridge. Made a coloring book and had crayon packets. Hands out at cookouts on campus with children, hands them out at commencement.
  • Arlington, Virginia. Lobby displays in the public library. Took a colorful business postcard and turned it into a puzzle. Have now made five of them. 48-piece puzzle. Adults and children both like it, serves as a conversation starter. About $60 to make one.
  • Library of Virginia. 2 year anniversary of transcribe program. Have programs once a month to have people come in to transcribe. Get a diverse audience of transcribers. Just did a Facebook post on two-year anniversary.
  • Go-to and a fail – inexpensive banners. Picture and a paragraph. Can bring them to different events. Have brought them to County Fairs with someone there to talk about posters, but people didn’t really engage. Over-reliance on go-to activity.
  • Go-to. Behind the scenes tour at the Corning Glass Library. Can be a lot of traffic. Looking at a virtual tour option.
  • Library of Congress. Have users tweet. Give them hashtags.
  • Social Media is a go to.
  • Exhibits and public programs are go tos.
  • Meet-ups at the Library of Congress have been successful, in-person and online.
  • Flicker feed has gotten a lot of people talking about collections and providing information

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

  • Statistics. Best performing posts, traffic and interactions.
  • In the case of the puzzle, people continue to use it.
  • Very little setting of benchmarks before events.
  • Measuring the impact by gathering feedback through conversations.

3. That being said, what have been some of your outreach fails?

4. Who do you consider an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

  • Corning Glass Museum.
  • University of Iowa Special Collections social media, especially Tumblr and YouTube.
  • Austin Archives Bazaar.

Live Blogging from RAO Marketplace of Ideas, Group 1

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we are not only encouraging attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but are also experimenting in LIVE BLOGGING–RIGHT NOW.

Almost time to get started. Jill is ready!

Jill is ready to get started!

We are asking groups of Marketplace shoppers some outreach-related questions to get discussions going, and below are some of the responses we are getting LIVE:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

  • Campus-wide open house at MIT. Cartoon of a character crossing the bridge from Boston to Cambridge, blew it up for people to take pictures with. Used a fake plastic torch for people to hold. Inexpensive, fun thing to do. Photos were tweeted out. Big success with families.
  • Book talk at University of Hawaii. Air conditioner went down. Made fans out of reproductions of pictures of an individual in the archives.
  • University of Wyoming. Faculty members – matched research interests with collections. Invited them to a limited open house. Had materials. Great way to connect materials and faculty members. Had event in the early evening. Did research on faculty beforehand.
  • Southern Illinois University. Working with incoming graduate students. Break up into groups and tell them about sources before they decide on theses and dissertation. Offer pizza and beer.
  • University of Alaska, Anchorage. Go to new faculty orientation. Anthropology faculty are frequently interested. Basic presence where they are has been really helpful.
  • Idea for a bring a friend to work day for student assistants who work in the archives.
  • Center for Jewish History. In-reach. Exhibit about historical cookbooks currently. To augment it they are having a historical bake-off, things like a jello mold with horse radish in it.

Go To’s for Outreach

  • Exhibits
  • Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Vine, Instagram
  • Tours
  • Movie Night
  • Teach with primary sources
  • Workshops – Like personal digital archiving. Sexier the better!

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

3. That being said, what have been some of your outreach fails?

  • Tours and talks to prospective students, was an uninterested audience.
  • Library audio tour that said front doors of archives were kept closed to keep room cool.
  • University of South Carolina – Twice they reached to every Chair in History and Political Science across South Carolina to generate research use. Reached out to 50 people, zero response. Hard to get faculty to break their patterns.

4. Who do you consider an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

  • David Carmichael was on public radio talking about archives, was very impressive.
  • Art Museum on Southern Illinois campus has a very vibrant community.

Group 1

 Group 1

We’re Live Blogging from the RAO Marketplace TODAY at #saa16!

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we will not only encourage attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but will also experiment in LIVE BLOGGING. 

We have prepared a number of outreach-related questions to start discussions with groups of Marketplace shoppers, and plan to share responses throughout the event, which takes place Friday, August 5, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm. Below are some of the questions we’ll be discussing:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

3. That being said, what have been some outreach fails?

4. Who is an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

If you are attending ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2016, please consider joining us for lively outreach discussion and the live blogging experiment. And if you can’t attend, simple follow #ArchivesAWARE and this blog feed to follow and join in the conversation!

Beyond the Elevator, No. 5

Beyond the Elevator 4

 

authorsportraitsBeyond the Elevator is a cartoon strip created by Mandy Mastrovita andJill Severn. The strip expresses their heartfelt belief that the magic of archives can and should be worked into ANY conversation or situation.  The prospect of this axiom has exhorted the two into paroxysms of giggles, chortles, and howls despite the sober and noble subject matter.  Indeed, they have spent hours cooking up likely scenarios to bring to life in future cartoons.  These little gems appear inArchivesAWARE! on amonthly basis for the foreseeable future, or until they run out of ideas. Which is where you, the reader can help. Tell them your best stories about talking archives—the wilder, the weirder, the crazier; the better They will even take an elevator story if you make it good. To share your story, please send a description of your concept, relevant details, and contact information (your name and your email address) tobeyondtheelevator@gmail.com.

Sound and Vision: Using Video to Tell the Tales of Archives and Archivists

BurnsPortrait

This post was authored by ArchivesAWARE! editor Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist at the University of Vermont.

This is the first in a series of posts about the use of video as an archival awareness tool. This initial post will feature videos which focus on what an archives is and what archivists do.  Future posts will look at promoting these videos, determining their impact, and will take a closer look at some of the other topics archives are using this format to cover. Feel free to contact the editors of this blog at archivesaware@archivists.org if you have a video or topic you would like to see covered, or if you would like to contribute to this series.

On August 26, 2015, Kathleen Roe premiered the Society of American Archivists’ Archives Change Lives video during her plenary talk at SAA’s annual meeting. As of this writing, the video has over 3,400 views on YouTube. The video clocks in at just under three minutes and features Kathleen Roe, Dennis Meissner, Steven Booth and Samantha Norling talking about the power of archives, cut with images from archives, of archivists at work, and of people interacting with archives. The core message of the video is articulated by Kathleen Roe, “What I hope that my colleagues and I will all be able to do together is to explain to people in clear, compelling language why we think archives matter, why what we do is valuable.”

The video was unveiled at the end of Roe’s year as President of SAA, a year where she led Year of Living Dangerously for Archives initiative, which challenged SAA’s membership to increase their advocacy for archives. One compelling way to get this message across, as Kathleen and SAA demonstrated, is through the use of video. A search of YouTube for videos relating to archives, archivists, and special collections turns up a number of attempts to do just that. These videos tackle a range of topics and vary in their approach, goals, budget, and production quality.

The National Archives UK has done a series of videos, compiled in an Explore Your Archive playlist, that tackle big questions as well as feature archivists talking about particular records.

One of the big questions they address is What is an Archive? The production elements are similar to the SAA video, it clocks in at just under 3 minutes, features a combination of talking heads and still images, and has music playing in the background throughout. Like the SAA video, the premise is simple and direct, it is a short video of archivists and archives users speaking passionately about the power and importance of archives. The three-minute length of these two videos is no accident, as it is often recommended as the maximum length for promotional videos. The video was published in October, 2013 and has been viewed over 4,100 times.

A video produced in 2014 by Duke University’s Rubenstein Library begins with a voice stating, “I think it’s a challenge and a curse to explain what an archive is to people, and it’s because it means so many different things to different people.” The video, The Guardians of History, digs a little deeper than the two mentioned above, taking a look at the work of seven archivists at Duke. This video is a little longer, coming in at just under 9 minutes, but again features interviews, still images of archives and archivists, and a musical backing track during part of the video. The interviewees speak candidly about the difficulty they have in explaining what they do to friends and family members, one speaker noting, “sometimes it’s not worth the effort to explain what an archivist is, so I’ll go ‘Oh, I’m a librarian.’” The video is an honest look at the work of archivists, giving voice to their passion for the work, and discussing some of the humorous and very human items in archival collections. The video is a good introduction to archival work. The budget is not on a Hollywood scale, but the quality of the sound, images, and editing are all very good. To date, the video has been viewed over 1,500 times.

At an Institutional level, BYU took a novel approach in 2011 when they made a fictional trailer for their L. Tom Perry Special Collections, parodying the trailers of blockbuster Hollywood adventure films. To date, the clip has been viewed over 13,000 times.

Two years later, they made a more conventional, and more informative, introductory video. This video has been viewed just under 800 times.

Of course, the number of views a video gets does not really tell us whether a video has successfully met its goals. Those goals could be for an institution to experiment with the process of producing a video, or to create a video that can be played in a classroom setting or sent to a patron in advance of a research visit. However, creating a high quality video that people want to watch and share should also not be understated. It is relatively easy to shoot footage, and increasingly easy to edit that footage, but creating a video where the sound quality is consistent, the edits are relatively seamless, and the content is compelling takes a certain level of skill and patience.

A number of videos get into the question of what an archivist does, which can be helpful in explaining our profession to people who might be interested in a career in archives as well as getting the word out more broadly.

A 2010 example of this type of video comes from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Archives, A Day in the Life of an Archivist. The video features an archivist explaining their work over a musical backing track. As the comments indicate, from both viewers and the creator, this was an initial attempt by the Sackler Archives to work in this medium and there are some issues with sound levels. That said, the video has been viewed over 12,000 times, which demonstrates that this is a topic of interest, and is either well promoted or frequently found through internet searches.

By comparison, another video done at the same time, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives Introduction, has been viewed just under 1,900 times.

Some other videos that introduce viewers to archivists and their work are:

Meet Our Vintage Collection Archivist, Bill Bonner – National Geographic (over 45,000 views)

 A Day in the Life of a Processing Archivist, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, 2014 (300+ views)

 Aaron Rubenstein, University and Digital Archivist, UMass Amherst Libraries, 2014 (around 150 views)

 Peter Hirtle’s Thoughts on Being an Archivist, Debra Schiff, Here and There Blog, 2011 (2,300+ views)

 Not all institutions are as well-known or have the same ability to promote content as the National Geographic, but there are a few key principles that we should keep in mind as we develop content in this area in order to ensure our videos successfully reach their intended audience.

  • Compelling content. As archivists, we know we do interesting work. Video is not and should not be the only way to tell our stories, but the passion we have for our work and the visual appeal of the materials we work with make video a great opportunity for archivists. Demonstrating that passion, telling fascinating stories from our work, exhibiting collection highlights, and using humor are effective ways we can pull in viewers.
  • Clearly defined goals. Why are you making the video? Who do you hope to reach with the video and how will you reach them? Is your video aimed at an internal audience or a much broader audience?
  • Production value matters. Experimentation and a Do-It-Yourself ethos are laudable, but we should also be striving for something that people want to watch and share. Poor production quality will compromise good content.
  • Promotion is key. Creating a well-produced video with a good story is only the beginning. Working with whatever outreach outlets are available and appropriate for your video is essential to achieving success.

The videos highlighted above show that there is an audience for stories about and from the archives. We can create a larger audience for this content by collectively developing more content. Some of it will necessarily be institution-specific, but there is also certainly a role for more videos produced by SAA and others that talk more generally about archives and archivists. Video is a powerful medium, and we as archivists should be taking advantage of it to promote our institutions and the archival profession.