October 5th is Ask An Archivist Day!

askanarchivist_gif_2016

What Is #AskAnArchivist Day?

It’s an opportunity to:

  • Break down the barriers that make archivists seem inaccessible.
  • Talk directly to the public—via Twitter—about what you do, why it’s important and, of course, the interesting records with which you work.
  • Join with archivists around the country and the world to make an impact on the public’s understanding of archives while celebrating American Archives Month!
  • Interact with users, supporters, and prospective supporters about the value of archives.
  • Hear directly from the public about what they’re most interested in learning about from archives and archivists.

How Does It Work?

On October 5, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Take this opportunity to engage via your personal and/or institutional Twitter accounts and to respond to questions posed directly to you or more generally to all participants.

Questions will vary widely, from the silly (What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?) to the practical (What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?), but each question will be an opportunity to share more about our work and our profession with the public. Visit SAA’s Storify that summarizes the 2014 #AskAnArchivist Day to get more examples of questions and answers. Last year generated thousands of questions and answers, some of which have been Storified:

Between now and October 5:

PROMOTE #AskAnArchivist Day among your users and constituents via your institution’s website, Twitter account, blog, newsletter, and any other mediums available to you.

For additional inspiration on what your promotion of #AskAnArchivist Day might look like, see our Storify of marketing from the 2014 #AskAnArchivist Day, as well as these great examples of museums’ promotions of past #AskACurator Days:

Examples of possible Twitter promotion:

  • Happy #AskAnArchivist Day! Our archivists are waiting for YOUR questions. Tag us at @TWITTERHANDLE and use #AskAnArchivist.
  • Archivists at @TWITTERHANDLE are gearing up for #AskAnArchivist Day on October 5! Literally—documents and photo boxes stacked and waiting!

ENCOURAGE the public to use #AskAnArchivist and your institution’s Twitter handle (e.g., @smithsonian) when asking questions so you won’t miss any that are intended for you and so we will be able to track questions and answers to measure overall participation.

TALK to your staff and colleagues to develop a plan for responding to tweets throughout the day.  Will one person respond to all tweets?  Will you share the task? Will individuals sign up for time slots and let the public know who will be available when?

Here’s one example:

  • During #AskACurator Day, one person at the Indianapolis Museum of Art was selected to monitor both the general hashtag and tweets sent directly to @imamuseum. When direct questions came in or interesting general questions were posed via the hashtag, the designated monitor sent the questions to participating curators via email. The curators (and their archivist!) replied with their answers, and the monitor posted all answers from the @imamuseum Twitter account. (See the Storify of the IMA’s participation in #AskACurator Day for results.)

CREATE an institutional Twitter account if you don’t already have one. #AskAnArchivist Day and American Archives Month are both great opportunities to start one! Click here to get started.

And if an institutional Twitter account is not an option for you, answer questions from your personal Twitter account! If your institutional affiliation and job title are not already listed on your profile, be sure to add that for the duration of #AskAnArchivist Day.

If you plan to participate, please email SAA Editorial and Production Coordinator Abigail Christian with your Twitter handle so we can create a list of participants.

TWEET and GREET! Take advantage of this opportunity to join with archivists from around the country to talk to and hear directly from the public on October 5.

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.