New Ideas for Outreach at Archives*Records 2016

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This post was written by guest contributor Chloë Edwards, who is a digital records archivist at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and session chair of “Remembering the Afterthoughts: Outreach to Archives’ Underserved Constituents.”

As early career employees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), Krista Sorenson and I were interested in finding a way to participate in this year’s joint SAA-CoSA conference.  When thinking up a session proposal our biggest goal was to create a session we would want to attend, something with a practical focus that could speak to the daily work of archives. It came down to outreach for a couple of reasons. First, whether you work for state government, a university or a corporation, whether you’re a lone arranger or one staff member out of 50, we all have to do outreach in one form or another. Second, Krista and I both work on different outreach programs at MDAH that have been fairly successful and easy to implement at little or no cost, and we knew we couldn’t be the only people with good outreach ideas to share.

With this in mind, we realized that the lightning round format would be a great fit. We could bring together a much larger group of people to tap into a wider range of experiences. Even better, each session participant would get just a few minutes to share the basics of their most interesting or most successful outreach programs without getting bogged down in the institution-specific details that can make other people’s programming seem inappropriate or out of reach for your context. Recruiting a mix of state government and university archivists would let us and the audience learn from the best of what two professional groups that don’t always interact have to offer.

To that end, finding a good mix of speakers was going to be the key to our panel’s success. We thought long and hard about where we wanted to reach out. At this session you will hear from early and mid-career professionals working in institutions across the southeast. Limiting the search to this geographic area was a strategic decision. Conceptually, it provided a nice geographic theme to tie everything together. Practically, recruiting would be easier if those with limited travel budgets—especially other state government archivists—were in driving distance of Atlanta.

We ended up with a fantastic group who were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about participating. Two of our speakers come from small, private, liberal arts colleges, one secular (Oglethorpe University) and one affiliated with the Baptist Commission (Samford University). Another speaker represents the Georgia Institute of Technology, a large, public research university that was founded as a school to train engineers after the Civil War. Also represented is Duke University, a highly ranked private research university in North Carolina, and most uniquely, the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of historically black colleges and universities whose Robert W. Woodruff Library serves the student body of three separate institutions.

Our government archives speakers come from the Library of Virginia, which serves as both the state library and state archives for the Commonwealth; the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, which grew out of the dedicated collecting work of the South Carolina Historical Society; and of course, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, one of the nation’s few comprehensive state historical agencies.

The outreach initiatives you will hear about in our session are similarly varied:

  • Jessica Hills from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History will talk about SCDAH’s annual electronic records training day for state agency employees.
  • Krista Sorenson from MDAH will discuss how the Local Government Records Office has worked to deliver individualized training to county governments across Mississippi.
  • Amy McDonald of Duke University will discuss her pop-up outreach to student groups on the Duke campus.
  • Jody Thompson of Georgia Tech will share how she has reached out to working architects to bring their collections into the archives.
  • Eli Arnold from Oglethorpe University will impart how on-campus exhibits have helped foster cross-campus connections.
  • Claire Radcliffe of the Library of Virginia will talk about collections blogging at LVA.
  • Chloë Edwards from MDAH will discuss the department’s efforts to bring the archives to the state legislature.
  • Rachel Cohen of Samford University, a Baptist institution, will share how the archives has bolstered its connection with the Baptist Historical Commission.
  • Andrea Jackson of the Robert W. Woodruff Library will discuss her efforts to promote the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection through events including a block party and on-site conference.

We look forward to sharing our stories with you in Atlanta next month!

The lightning round “Remembering the Afterthoughts: Outreach to Archives’ Underserved Constituents” will take place at Archives*Records 2016 on Saturday, August 6th at 10:30 am.

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