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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!