There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Samantha Bradbeer, Hallmark Archivist

This is the second post in our new “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, which will feature examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  To continue this new series, COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Samantha Bradbeer, archivist and historian at Hallmark Cards, Inc.

SBradbeer Interview Photo 1

Samantha Bradbeer, Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Samantha Bradbeer has served as the archivist and historian for Hallmark Cards, Inc. since 2011. Prior to Hallmark, she was an assistant librarian at the Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library on Ft. Leavenworth, KS and interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

She is a Certified Archivist (CA), and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology (BA) from the University of Kansas and a Masters in Museum Studies (MA) from Johns Hopkins University.

Samantha is an active member of SAA’s Business Archives Section and ICA’s Section on Business Archives, and serves as the vice-chair of the Kansas City Area Archivists.

RS: How did you get your gig?

SB: I began my career at Hallmark almost seven years ago. At Christmastime 2010, a friend recommended that I apply, as she felt that the job announcement was kismet. We both felt that it was written just for me, as I met all the requirements to a tee and have been a brand supporter for years. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting Hallmark Gold Crown stores for cards and Keepsake Ornaments with my parents, and, as if there was serendipity involved, I even saw some of my first Hallmark purchases stored in the Hallmark Archives during the interview process. As luck would have it, Hallmark hired me on Valentine’s Day 2011.

Since then, I have been responsible for preserving and sharing Hallmark’s corporate and product history with employees, business partners, special guests, media and the greater Kansas City community. I am able to do so by answering research requests, creating exhibitions, providing tours, recording oral history interviews and responding to guest speaker opportunities. I am also responsible for arranging, cataloging and storing the collections.

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Samantha prepares several displays for the 2017 Keepsake Ornament Club Convention (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

RS: Tell us about your organization.

SB: The Hallmark Archives is located inside Hallmark’s worldwide headquarters on the southern edge of Kansas City, Missouri.

The significance of our holdings stem from Hallmark founder J.C. Hall’s encouragement for a high level of quality and creativity and a longstanding tradition of support for the arts. Hall began assembling our antique card collection, one of several collections we hold, in the 1950s in the interest of creating an accurate and varied record of the historic development of the greeting card industry, and our company’s major product line.

The Hallmark Archives has since served a dual role in that – in addition to serving the entire corporation and outside organizations as a source for industry history, holiday origins and graphic design trends  – it also serves Hallmark by supporting current product development. Hallmark artists and writers often reimagine past designs based on current marketplace trends or anniversaries. For example, Hallmark is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of gift wrap, and several vintage gift wrap patterns from the Hallmark Archives are currently in stores to mark the occasion.

RS: Describe your collections.

SB:  The collections housed in the Hallmark Archives provide a visual and historical representation of greeting card history, industry and printing technologies, and serves as the repository for materials documenting Hallmark corporate, family and product history.

  • The design collection includes advertising, chromolithographs, folios, original artwork, prints, progressive proof books and rare books from the 17th to 19th centuries.
  • The historical collection includes Victorian-era greeting cards representing holidays and everyday, as well as advertising and trade cards, handmade or folk art, playing cards, postcards, scrapbooks and salesman’s sample books.
  • The corporate collection includes Hallmark advertising, audio visual materials, correspondence, photographs, publications and oral histories from 1910 through today.
  • The product collection includes greeting cards and other products manufactured and sold by Hallmark from 1910 though today.
  • The masterworks collection includes samples of original Hallmark product art dating from the 1950s through today.

Unique items in the Hallmark Archives include medieval manuscripts, two examples of the world’s first printed Christmas card and Victorian-era Valentine puzzle purses.

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Samantha adds original artwork to the masterworks collection (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

RS: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

SB: Hallmark has created millions of products since 1910, and the Hallmark Archives has stored and preserved a sampling from every year and holiday or occasion. It can be challenging at times to select which products to keep, but luckily our complete set of employee newsletters and product catalogs provide insight into the full product line, when needed.

Although our retention schedule automatically sets aside most products, many departments keep their records as working files for years, even decades. We recently started relocating some of these records to the Hallmark Archives, as the departments needed additional working space. Retired employees and fans of the company have also donated other products and records, and, like many archives, we have a backlog of materials to still process and properly store.

As technology has improved, we have also been digitizing our collections gradually. Most of our materials are digitized when our employees and business partners request them, but, as time allows, we have also scanned entire collections, including our masterworks collection of over 40,000 samples of original Hallmark product art dating from the 1950s through today. With that being said, an extremely small portion of our corporate records – including audio visual materials stored on now obsolete formats – has been digitized. I hope to start digitizing more of these records, especially as we are sharing more and more of our company history online and in the media.

RS: What is the favorite part of your job?

SB:  Over the past 100 years, Hallmark has partnered with dozens of well-known and influential artists, writers, celebrities and politicians. Many of whom – including Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell – built personal relationships based on mutual respect and admiration with our founder. I grew up reading about these icons, and having the opportunity to see their original artwork and read their personal letters still gives me goose bumps.

I love to display these materials and other unique items from the Hallmark Archives as often as I can at the Hallmark Visitors Center, so employees, local residents and visitors to Kansas City can see a glimpse into our collections and company history.

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Samantha shares the history behind J.C. Hall and Norman Rockwell’s friendship and business partnership with Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family talk show host Ken Wingard (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

 

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed on ArchivesAWARE!

 

A Bazaar by any other name is still…(an event)?

This post was authored by guest contributor Vince Lee, Archivist at the University of Houston, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

As we wrapped up our inaugural Houston Archives Bazaar in September of this year, I was curious to see what others were doing all around the country and in their region. What did they call their events? The Houston Archives Bazaar took inspiration, and if we’re honest, help from the Austin Archives Bazaar and the folks who helped create and run it. They were very generous in sharing their time, knowledge, and experience of the planning and logistics that went into hosting the event.

Image Credit: Austin Archives Bazaar Org

The Austin Archives Bazaar was started by Archivists of Central Texas in 2014. “We were initially inspired by the LA Archives Bazaar and the Portland Archives Crawl, but have since learned of other institution-independent collaborative outreach events which also predate the Austin Bazaar,” said Jennifer Hecker, one of the cofounders. Jennifer is joined by Daniel Alonzo, Madeline Moya, Molly Hults, and Kristy Sorenson as the other cofounders of the group. To date the Austin Archives Bazaar has hosted two events in 2014 and 2016 and are currently in the planning for their third in 2018.

Image Credit: Oklahoma Archivists Association

Looking around the Southwest region, another newcomer to the scene is the Oklahoma Archives Bazaar. In partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society, they just held their inaugural Bazaar back on October 28 during American Archives Month. Not unlike our Houston Bazaar, they also featured door prizes, an oral history booth, self-archiving workshops, and presentations by archivists as well as historians.  The Bazaar was organized by the Oklahoma Archivists Association (OAA), a group of local professional archivists dedicated to providing education and networking for archives professionals, record-keepers, and students in the area.

Poster of the 2016 Oregon Archives Crawl (Image Credit: Kylie Thalhofer)

The Oregon Archives Crawl was established in 2008 and has been hosted every other year by a group of volunteers in the month of October. As the name suggests, rather than having all activities and events at one venue or under one roof, attendees are encouraged to visit and “crawl” between the Portland Archives and Records Center, the Multnomah County Central Library, and Oregon Historical Society. Much like a pub crawl, the benefits are that it allows visitors to sample and get a flavor for each of the venues in their natural settings, while at the same time they can pick and choose activities offered at each site, and also they can get a sneak peek or tour behind the scenes at each repository.

Perhaps the Granddaddy of all Archives Bazaars goes to? Survey says…. Los Angeles (LA) Archives Bazaar! Established in 2006, the LA Archives Bazaar has often been the genesis and inspiration for other Archival Bazaars that have sprung up around the country. Hosted annually by USC Libraries and LA as Subject (an alliance of libraries, museums, and other archival and cultural institutions), the event has been at the Doheny Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Southern California. Their motto to visitors has simply been, “All Day. All in One Place”. The goal is to share the rich and diverse histories that make up Southern California. Participants at the event have included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles Public Library to private collectors. Visitors will also get to meet with exhibitors, attend programs, and workshops throughout the day.  (Bonus: check out this time-lapse video of the LA Archives Bazaar!)

LA Archives Bazaar at the Doheny Memorial Library (Photo Credit: Rich Schmitt)

2016 Vermont History Expo (Image Credit: Daryl Storrs)

But wait just a minute here. Although not technically a Bazaar and according to their website it is now defunct, the Vermont History Expo was started in 2000 as a result of expanding upon the success of the Vermont Heritage Weekend that was hosted in 1999. Throughout the next 16 years, thirteen expos would be hosted at the Vermont Historical Society until 2016. During that time expos would feature heritage exhibits, children’s activities, historical reenactments, performers, authors, and historical presentations that focused on different themes throughout Vermont’s history. There was literally something for everyone and every interest.

It seems up for debate as to when the concept of the Archives Bazaar, Crawl, or Expo started, and which one is the oldest, depending on the criteria one uses.  What isn’t debatable is that each of these events, regardless of their names, serves to promote the importance of documenting local/state/regional history and raising awareness of the various repositories that exist, whether they be archives, libraries, museums, or cultural institutions, in preserving that history. It also raises awareness of the ongoing and important work that we as archival professionals do within our regions and locales.

We would love to hear from others on the creative lexicon of terms you’ve encountered to title an archival event!

Asserting the Archivist, No. 1

Square HeadshotThis post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This is the first post in our new “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

In January 2016, I authored a post for ArchivesAWARE titled “Asserting the Archivist in Archival Outreach: A Case Study and Appeal.” In that post, I described the process by which the Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives staff evolved our approach to social media outreach and took purposeful steps to include–and often, feature–archivists and archival work in posts on a regular basis. In doing so, we introduced our audience of primarily design- and architecture-enthusiasts to the work that goes into preserving the collections that intrigued them, and to the trained professionals who carry out that work.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences. My post in 2016 was not only a case study, but an appeal to encourage more archivists to “Assert the Archivist” in their outreach efforts, and to share favorite examples of archivists and archival work as a featured component in social media outreach, either directly from the archives or as part of social media presence of the organizations/companies/etc for which archivists work.

To keep this dialogue going, I will be sharing some of my favorite examples of Asserting the Archivist, and encourage you to share yours in the comments to my posts, or on Twitter with the hashtags #ArchivesAWARE and #AssertingtheArchivist.

To kick this new blog series off, I’d like to share an excellent example of how an archivist can contribute significantly to their organization’s social media presence and, conversely, how the institutions at which we work can get the message out about our profession to their established audiences. In this scenario, truly everyone benefits!

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard – Archivist Carol Quinn

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard is a business that clearly values their corporate history and the history of their industry, and they regularly convey that through outreach that features their archivist, Carol Quinn. Looking through some of their past posts on Twitter, you will find a number of short videos that show Quinn working in and with their archives, announcements for talks that she has given on various aspects of the corporation and industry history, a blog post Quinn wrote (“Walk a Mile in My Shoes” ) about her role at Irish Distillers, and an article for which she was interviewed about “The Importance of Archiving“–particularly for businesses. The variety in both formats and content of the Irish Distillers’ outreach that features Quinn demonstrates the importance they place on the role that their professional archivist plays within their corporation.

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!