This is the latest post in our series Responses and Retrospectives, which features archivists’ personal responses and perspectives concerning current or historical events/subjects with significant implications for the archives profession. Interested in contributing to Responses and Retrospectives? Please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas!
American Archives Month is an annual reminder of why we do what we do. Archivists across the country mobilize to promote collections, articulate what archives are, define what archivists do, and advocate for the value of our work. Articulating the value of archives and ourselves as archivists is hard to do. Speaking for myself, the value of archives and archivists is so evident that I have a hard time trying to explain our value proposition. The difficulty is often compounded when I realize I also need to explain why history is important, why liberal arts education is vital, and why critical thinking and the evaluation of historical resources are imperative for a healthy democracy. These are big concepts to convey and we as archivists need to continue our work on breaking them down so that they’re consumable for the public.
To get us started, I’ve compiled a list of resources to help use identify and articulate the value of archives.
Resources to Help you Talk About Archives and Their Value
- What is an Archives?
- ArchivesInfo’s Why Value Archives?
- CLIR’s description on The Societal Role of Archives
- The National Coalition for History Advocacy Archive
- History Relevance promotes a shared language and other tools and strategies to mobilize history organizations in the United States around the relevance and value of history. Check out their History Relevance Toolkit to craft your “Value of History” statement.
Books on Advocating for the Value of Archives
- Kathleen Roe’s Advocacy and Awareness for Archivists
- Michael Moss and David Thomas’ book Do Archives Have Value? (new this Fall 2019)
Craft an Elevator Speech on Why We Value Archives
SAA’s Role in Advocating for Archival Value
SAA’s advocacy efforts are directed to three principal audiences:
- We target policymakers for important messages on archives- and records-related public policy.
- We work to raise general public awareness of the importance of archives–and the important work of archivists.
- And we provide resources for members to enhance advocacy within their own organizations with key decision makers, colleagues, and others.
SAA Groups Specific to Advocacy and the Value of Archives
- SAA’s Issues & Advocacy Section is committed to outreach and advocacy efforts to support archivists and archives.
- SAA’s Committee on Public Policy advocates for and demonstrate the value of archives and archivists in public policy.
- SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness provides strategic information and advice to the SAA Council to enhance SAA’s capacity to promote the value of archives and archivists to institutions, communities, and society.
SAA Resources for Advocacy and the Value of Archives
- Archives, Public Policy & You: Advocacy Guide for speaking to members of Congress.
- Stories That Demonstrate the Value of Archives
- How to Use Prized Items in Your Collection to Tell a Story
- I Found it in the Archives! winners 2012 and 2013.
SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness – ArchivesAWARE! Blog
COPA’s ArchivesAWARE! Blog hosts several series to help to promote the value of archives and archivists.
- There’s an Archivist for That! features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.
- Keeping ArchivesAware is a recurring roundup of some of the latest archives-related news stories, features, commentaries, announcements, and projects that have caught our eye, with links to the original sources.
- Asserting the Archivist is focused on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.
- Archives + Audiences features the perspectives of archival audiences – scholars, journalists, filmmakers, artists, activists, and more – for whom archives have been an important part of their life and work.
- Archival Innovators aims to raise awareness of the individuals, institutions, and collaborations that are helping to boldly chart the future of the archives profession and set new precedents for the role of the archivist in society.
- Responses & Retrospectives features archivists’ personal responses and perspectives concerning current or historical events/subjects with significant implications for the archives profession.
Interested in Contributing to ArchivesAWARE!?
If you’re interested in contributing a piece to ArchivesAWARE! lease email the editor at email@example.com with your ideas!
We still have work to do when it comes to distilling for a general audience the complex issues that surround the importance of archives and our role as archivists. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how to communicate the value of archives and/or archivists. Please share them in the comments of this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was written by Rachael Cristine Woody, a member of The Society of American Archivists’ Committee on Public Awareness (COPA). The opinions and assertions stated within this piece are the author’s alone, and do not represent the official stance of the Society of American Archivists. COPA publishes response posts with the sole aim of providing additional perspectives, context, and information on current events and subjects that directly impact archives and archivists.