Responses & Retrospectives: Toward Collective Change, A Response to Precarious Labor Practices and a Roadmap to Creating Ethical Grant-Funded Positions

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 with your ideas!

Sandy Rodriguez is an archives administrator with a background in audiovisual archives, digital repositories, and digital preservation. Her experiences as a contingent worker of color have shaped her views on labor ethics, identity, and power. She imagines a world where we can each show up as our full selves to build connections and shape perspectives that work toward collective justice.

Ruth Kitchin Tillman writes, quilts, and spends her workdays stitching together technical systems. Her research and service agendas focus on improving the working experiences of new professionals, from her EADiva website to technical onboarding to labor conditions. She envisions a world where human flourishing always comes before the bottom line.

If you started working in archives or libraries in the last 10 years (or even before that) you know the drill:

  • See a promising job post come by on a listserv;
  • Notice that it’s term-limited and possibly grant-funded;
  • Wonder about the salary, which is almost never posted, and whether it has health insurance;
  • Perform a mental cost-benefit analysis based on location, how badly you need work, and whether you can pull off a move with no reimbursement;
  • Choose whether or not to apply;
  • Repeat.

Some of us have taken the jobs. At times it’s a great stepping stone toward secure work. More often, it leads to years of moving and churn, forcing. For others, family responsibilities and stable employment elsewhere have delayed or even ended our preferred careers because we simply can’t afford the risk.

We want to change these norms and expectations. By publishing “Do Better” -Love(,) Us:  Guidelines for Developing and Supporting Grant-Funded Positions in Digital Libraries, Archives, and Museums, we provide principles, guidelines, and conversation that we hope will guide that shift.

Ask for What You Need

Our group came together in early 2017, inspired by Stacie Williams’ DLF Forum 2016 keynote “All Labor is Local” and our own experiences as workers, as grant reviewers, and as people who wanted the best for our peers. We identified grants as an early focus, not because they’re the only source of precarious labor, but because funders set requirements which applicants and recipients must follow.

We guided our work by the principle “ask for what you need.” Is it better for a funder to support 5 jobs which create poor working conditions or 3 which ensure workers have equitable salaries and critical benefits such as health insurance? Instead of encouraging a climate of lowballing in an attempt to get funded and destructive positions for more workers, we want funders and institutions to focus on what’s actually necessary to make a good position.

Treat Colleagues with Respect

It’s not just about the money/benefits. Within the profession, we all have responsibilities to each other. Building on the Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights, we made sure to address ways in which these positions should treat the workers in them as our colleagues in creating the outcome of the grant. These range from crediting workers to ensuring that they receive orientation about institutional knowledge on the project’s history and adequate supplies.

Respecting colleagues also looks like treating each other as people with a past and future. The excellent open letter from the UCLA archivists spells out ways in which precarious working conditions affect the whole life of the worker, as well as the ways in which it harms the operations of the institution. Although the letter came out well after our initial draft and first revision, we took inspiration from it in our final revisions.

Our Process

The principle “ask for what you need,” shaped the group’s process as well. We would determine what the next step should be, figure out how to make it manageable, and ask everyone to share in the process. For example, we first knew we needed to track down all the existing best practices for labor in LAM and adjacent fields. Even if they were dated, we might find inspiration on what to do… or what not to do. Next, everyone in the group committed to read one (most were 2-5 pages) and report on highlights at the next call. The momentum moved us forward quickly, so that our first draft was done in about 6 months.

The work was somewhat interrupted as we first sought feedback at the 2017 DLF Forum and determined that an IMLS National Forum grant could be an opportunity to get comments on this work but expand it much further. The draft provided a starting point for our Collective Responsibility Labor Forum. After the second meeting of the forum, which has separate outcomes, we regrouped with the original writers and sought feedback from the forum participants: how have our perspectives changed? What new voices have we heard?

What Comes Next?

Releasing a document doesn’t make the change happen. Endorsing a document doesn’t put it into practice. The situation won’t change unless all of us are willing to work together on it. We want this to be a roadmap. We want it to be something you can point to when defending a choice. We want funders to take these factors into consideration.

Change starts with normalizing conversations and challenges about labor. Let’s talk about the things we tacitly accept at work and their impact on workers. Let’s put ourselves on the path to a more equitable future by building connections we’ll need for the collective pressure that’ll get us there.

This post was written by Sandy Rodriguez and Ruth Kitchin Tillman. 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.


Live Action Clue: How Professor Plum and Senator Scarlet Help the Wilson Library at UNC, Chapel Hill Solve the Mystery of Student Engagement

The Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has presented Clue, a live action mystery event twice a year since the fall of 2012. Clue is designed to bring people into the Wilson Library and demystify both the building and the special collections and archives housed within.


Emily Jack is the Community Engagement and Outreach Librarian at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and has been involved with the Clue team since its inception in 2012. In the following interview with COPA member Chris Burns, Jack describes the work the UNC team puts into this innovative and fun outreach activity and the enthusiastic reception it has received.

Burns: The Wilson Library has produced a live action Clue event every semester since the Fall of 2012, how did you come up with the idea?

Jack: Wilson Library is a beautiful building that looks classically academic. Because of its appearance, many undergraduate students have reported feeling intimidated by the library – or avoiding it altogether.


Wilson Library, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, houses the University Library’s special collections and Music Library.

In 2012, a (now retired) employee named Becky Garrett monitored the Fearrington Reading Room as a part-time job. Her professional background was in recreation therapy, a field that uses recreation to achieve therapeutic goals. In other words, her professional orientation was to solve problems with games, and she brought that lens to the problem of students feeling intimidated by the library. So, Becky suggested a live game of Clue for students, and we formed a committee to make it happen.

That first game in 2012 bore almost no resemblance to today’s game. It was more like an elaborate scavenger hunt. Now it’s an immersive narrative game, played on a custom web app, with a three-part mystery to solve, during which players interact with costumed characters and have up-close experiences with collection materials. But we couldn’t have the current version without building from the original version, sparked by Becky’s great idea.

Burns: Why Clue?

Jack: Students perceived Wilson Library as mysterious and old-fashioned, which is also the atmosphere of Clue. Using Clue as the narrative basis for the game gave it a familiar cognitive hook for students to attach themselves to. In essence, it served as a safe and easy bridge between two entities that share aesthetic similarities: one familiar and beloved (the board game Clue) and one intriguing but intimidating (Wilson Library).

It also made our marketing efforts much easier than if we had built a narrative game from scratch.

Burns: How does the event work and how does it make use of the collections and staff at the Wilson?

Jack: Our version of Clue aligns with the original in some ways – for example, its three-part solution, consisting of a who, a what, and a where. But, notably, ours is not a murder mystery. It’s a supernatural narrative with a ghost-related mystery.


Clue players use a historic map to identify a mystery location in the library.

Using a mobile app, teams complete three activities, each aligning with one part of the solution.

Those activities include:

  • Interrogating six suspects, who are held for questioning around the library. To earn access to interrogate, players answer questions about exhibitions and other details in the library.
  • Using historic (reproduction) maps and wooden overlays made in our makerspace to find a code word, and then a hidden location, and finally a map of the library itself.
  • Interpreting communications from the ghost, and using logic (and student TV clips from the 1980s!) to determine which of a set of collection items is the correct one.

The game is fairly complex; this is just an overview. Collection materials, exhibitions, and staff interactions are woven throughout gameplay. Afterward, while they’re waiting for their scores, players watch a video purporting to tell the ghost’s origin story, but which also serves as a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the closed stacks.

One important aspect of the game is that it’s immersive – both narratively and spatially. Because the narrative is immersive, the players don’t feel like it’s a learning game or an elevated tour of the library. And because of its spatial immersion, they leave feeling completely confident in navigating the library.


Players interrogate a suspect.

Burns: What’s the reception been like among students, staff, and faculty at UNC?

Jack: Reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Students tell us – and their peers – how much they love the game. Most importantly for our purposes, it has been universally successful in meeting its intended goal of lowering the intimidation barrier to visiting Wilson Library.

In post-game surveys, students report feeling surprised by how cool Wilson is and excited to return. They also say things like “I used to be afraid to go in the building. Now I feel way more comfortable walking around.”

We offer the program twice a year and it fills up with a long waitlist every time.


Players answer questions about an exhibition to earn access to interrogate a suspect.

Burns: I imagine it takes a fair amount of work to pull this off, how have you managed to keep it going and keep it fresh each semester?

Jack: It is labor-intensive. But we have a great committee of staff who feel invested in the program and excited about working on a fun and creative project.

At this point, the planning process runs like a well-oiled machine. Hat tip to Alison Barnett and Katelyn Ander, the committee’s current co-chairs, who are remarkably organized. But we also make regular updates to the game’s structure and content, which keeps the planning interesting.

For game night, we recruit library staff from across the libraries to play all the roles. With a staff as large as ours, there are always new people who are eager to participate.


Planning committee members and game night staff monitor check-in status on game night. Left to right, Luke Aeschleman, Rebecca McCall, Katelyn Ander, Dayna Durbin.

Burns: Is this an idea you would encourage other libraries and archives to try?

Jack: Using games is a great way to bring new people into libraries and archives. Clue is a fun structure to use, although I always encourage other institutions to make any game their own. Our design is very location-specific. For instance, our structure takes advantage of the fact that we have six public areas, and there are six suspects in Clue. In a smaller setting, you could do something just as successful; you would just have to take the scale into account.

I also encourage people to start small. Our game is successful because we started with something manageable and built it up over time.

ACRL will publish a book this year called Games and Gamification in Academic Libraries, edited by Eva Sclippa and Stephanie Crowe, which will include a chapter about Wilson’s Clue program for anyone curious to know more.

Burns: What other games do you think might work?

Jack: I love the idea of doing something with classic video games like Super Mario Brothers. It would also be fun to take other cultural phenomena like movies and turn them into games.

Burns: What’s next for the Clue team at the Wilson Library?

Jack: We’ve been talking for years about building in some sort of AR or VR component, but we haven’t yet hit on the right way to fit it into the narrative.

Fortunately, former staffer Luke Aeschleman designed the web app to be very flexible and user-friendly, and capable of accommodating just about anything.

Archival Innovators: Dr. Meral Ekincioglu

This is the latest post in our new series Archival Innovators, which aims to raise awareness of the individuals, institutions, and collaborations that are helping to boldly chart the future of the the archives profession and set new precedents for the role of the archivist in society.

1. Dr Meral Ekincioglu

Dr Meral Ekincioglu (courtesy of Dr Meral Ekincioglu).

In this installation of Archival Innovators, SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) member Rachel Seale interviews Dr. Meral Ekincioglu on her research project and its findings in regards to diversity and underrepresented architecture communities in archives at pioneering schools of architecture in the United States.

Please describe your innovative project.

As a scholar with Ph.D. degree in postwar architecture history and a member of Society of American Archivists (2019-2020), my current research project aims to investigate diversity and inclusion in current historical documentation practice at archives and collections established by pioneering schools of architecture in the country. As participants of my research project (archivists, curators and librarians in architecture) have indicated in their written responses, they don’t know such research study information so far. With the rising tension on  women, politics of gender and other identity-based issues happening in schools of architecture in recent times, such as “Convergence” organized by Harvard University-Graduate School of Design-Women in Design Group where I was one of the panelists,1 my purpose with this research project is to stimulate a critical awareness of current strategies, policies and methods of historical documentation practice in architecture education with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and to establish a dialogue between the field of archive and architecture to make progress together on this subject.

With this research problem and concern, I contacted leading schools of architecture whose graduate programs were ranked the top ten (2018-2019) according to survey conducted by Design Intelligence 2 and published by Architectural Record. 3 In particular, my focal point has been “schools of architecture” because education is the core of all other dimensions of architecture, such as academic career, teaching, the construction of (critical) architecture history-historiography, professional (design) practice, etc. Architecture record archivist at the Yale University-School of Architecture; special collection archivist at the Harvard University-Graduate School of Design; librarian at the Princeton University- School of Architecture; 4 curator at the architecture and design collections at the MIT Museum; architecture, urban planning, and visual resources librarian at University of Michigan; art, architecture & engineering library; head of special collections at University of Rice; and library manager at the Kappe Library-SCI-Arch have kindly participated to my research project. In addition, the director at Archives & Records at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in Washington D.C., has shared how the AIA has advocated for some research and archiving to document women in architecture and underrepresented groups of architects to increase diversity in the profession, and the AIA’s organizational records within this context.

Where did you get your idea and what inspired you?

The starting point of my scholarly and architectural concern about lack of diversity and inclusion in historical documentation of multicultural United States architecture has been my advanced academic research project on immigrant, foreign-born women architects and politics of gender that I conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years. Secondly, following sentences (2016) by Professor Kenneth Frampton, architecture historian and critics at Columbia University have given a very significant impetus for my current research project: “….in trying to expand modern architectural critical history, the big issue is, what you include, and what you exclude…” 5 Thirdly, statements by Elizabeth Chu Richter (FAIA 2015 AIA President) has another motivation for me: “….There is plenty of anecdotal information that suggests there has been progress in building a more diverse and inclusive profession. Yet, the information is just that- anecdotal…..We need data, not anecdote…” 6 As the American Institute of Architecture-Diversity in the Profession of Architecture, Executive Summary (2016) also underlines, there is more work to be done to support and promote equity, diversity and inclusion in architecture, 7 and diverse and inclusive historical documentation in architecture is not an exception with this critical context.8 Finally, my architectural and personal roots come from Istanbul located in-between West and East cultures with its multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious history; and I worked as publishing coordinator and journalist in architecture. In other words, it is a natural desire for me to promote diversity in my expertise field due to my own roots, and effective communication among people, disciplines, fields and cultures has been always one of the important missions for me throughout my career in architecture.

What worked? What didn’t work? Were you surprised by the outcome or any part of your experience? 

First of all, I would like to say that most of archivists, librarians and curators with whom I have contacted for this research project responded to me in a positive and supportive way. I think that they are deeply aware of critical issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s multicultural U.S. architecture. When I had the opportunity to meet some of them at their programs, they were very open to establishing communication, to know my own scholarly research experience on immigrant women architects & politics of gender, to discuss recent critical issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion in architecture. Their supportive approach and openness in communication have been very motivating for me to continue this research.

2. Jessica Quagliaroli -Meral Ekincioglu-Yale University

Dr. Meral Ekincioglu and Jessica Quagliaroli, Architecture Record Archivist at Yale University, School of Architecture (courtesy of Dr. Meral Ekincioglu).

In terms of surprising facts and outcomes of this research experience, the systematic documenting and collecting of historical documents at the schools of architecture who have participated to my research project did not seem to have a long history, according to participants’ written responses: The end of the 1960s – 1970s seem to be a threshold to establish their architectural archive programs or collections. More surprisingly, one of the architectural archives programs at a leading school of architecture began around 2000.  If we remember, the historical background of the early architecture programs at major universities as first courses taught goes back in the country to the 1800s, and one of its characteristics is the role of immigrants from various cultures in its progress. With this historical background and characteristics, architecture education has been undergoing several challenging transformations in the early 21st century, like globalization. 9 Within this picture, the most well-known collections (including models, photographs, and architectural drawings, etc.) now in existence began to be developed since the 18th century in order to support teaching of architecture in the country as Alfred Willis points out in his essay. 10

In this respect, there seems to be a highly critical big gap in diverse and inclusive historical documentation practice at leading schools of architecture in the country, such as historical materials on pioneering profiles of foreign-born, underrepresented, minority students and professional -design- practitioners in their own history. Secondly, in spite of this critical picture, most of participants could not share a mission statement in effect to uncover, support and promote diversity in the content of archives and collections at their schools of architecture. Thirdly, although the architectural world has been using digital tools and apps extensively, and digital archives and collections enable everyone to search historical information and materials easier and faster, most of participants pointed out that their programs don’t have a digital archival project; one of them has a digitization project “underway”; one of them has “piloted” digital initiatives by scanning significant amounts of materials from their collections, etc.

Needless to say, increased access to historical materials for everyone has a remarkable potential to support and promote new findings and scholarly discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion in (multicultural US) architecture, its (critical) history and historiography. Among participants, the SCI-Arch library has a noteworthy project: Digitization SCI-Arch videotapes of public lectures which were approaching the end of their 40-year lifespan. Finally, we have been witnessing the appointments of women deans and head of departments in the US architecture in recent times, such as at MIT (J. Meejin Yoon as the head of the department of architecture, 2014-2018); Columbia (Amale Andraos as the dean of Columbia GSAPP, 2014-present); Yale (Deborah Berke as the dean of school of architecture, 2016-present); Princeton (Mónica Ponce de León as the dean of school of architecture, 2016-present); and Cornell (J. Meejin Yoon as the dean of Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning, 2019-present).  They have remarkable contributions to architecture in various ways. On the other hand, in terms of my research problem, one of the crucial questions is what those successful women’s academic leaders have brought to support and promote more diverse, inclusive and equal historical documentation practice at their programs and institutions in architecture so far; and what is their near future vision for this endeavor?

What’s next? Either for this project or a new development?

For this project, I plan to contact and to ask the same research questions to the next ten archival programs and collections at schools of architecture according to the same survey; and it would be great to bring together relevant archivists and architects to discuss together how to take steps for new developments on this subject. I completely agree with a participant’s comment: “there is a certain degree of inter-disciplinarity that needs to understood.” Needless to say, development in more diverse and inclusive collective memory in architecture might have a very positive impact on from pedagogical agenda to hiring practices, more diverse and inclusive workforce and leadership profiles for economic productivity in the field, more inclusive built environment and architectural spaces for everyone in the society regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, etc. For this, I think that we (research community and practitioners in historical documentation in architecture) should collaborate with each other in a more effective way.

4. With Rafael Reif the MIT President

Dr. Ekincioglu with Professor Reif, the MIT President, after their conversation about her advanced academic research project on immigrant women architects, diversity and inclusion in –the US- architecture and historical documentation in the field (courtesy of Dr. Meral Ekincioglu).

What barriers or challenges did you face?

If I could reach out to some archivists and organizations relevant to my research topic, it would be great to comprehend this issue and to discuss what we can do together. 11 Open communication channels among various people and organizations, effective and long-term dialogue are very important to better understand the current problems, challenges and struggles for diverse, equal and inclusive architecture, and what can be done for historical documentation practice in light of these issues. In addition, according to the e-mail by Cornell University (on February 5, 2019), they did not have an archivist or a curator specifically attached to architectural and visual documents; so it was another challenge to find out their methods, strategy, policy etc. on diverse historical documentation for their own history. Finally, I could not find information if there is any recent data, survey etc. on the diversity in archivists and curators’ profile in architecture collections in the US.

How did you use archives /this project as a catalyst for getting different groups to talk to each other (cross-generational, cross-cultural, etc.)?

As a catalyst in-between archives and (critical) architecture history, in the coming months, I am very glad that my conference abstract has been accepted by “Midwest Archivists Conference (MAC) 2020 Annual Meeting” and hope to establish a productive bridge between two fields. In addition, two organizations have kindly invited me to present my project and discuss its findings with my concerns on diversity and inclusion. (Under current health issues, we have decided to re-schedule those presentations ). In addition, I have also contacted Boston Society of Architects, New England Society of Architecture Historians and the Archivist Round Table of Metropolitan New York Inc. to share my research studies on this topic. With those connections, I would like to bring into focus some questions and issues in-between two fields and professions; such as how can we raise awareness of each other’s work and research studies by considering recent critical discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion in (the US) architecture; what can we can do together (archivists and architects) to stimulate new architectural research on diversity, equity and inclusion, and for diversification of the archival records in architecture; what are long-held traditional practices, methods and policies in historical documentation of (multicultural US) architecture and how we can break down these traditions for more inclusive, diverse practice in this field; what are the changing role and responsibilities of archival programs and  their practitioners as a response to rising influence of globalization, migration and gender-based political arguments in today’s (US) architecture; what are the expectations by archivists from scholars, professors, students and practitioners in architecture for more effective collaboration to support diverse and inclusive historical documentation.

What was your institution/archives like before you started developing this project?  Does your institution have a history of supporting innovation in archives?

During my research studies at MIT, I have also created and developed a collection on pioneering Turkish women architects from the first (1930s-1960s) and second generations (1960s-present) for the Archnet that is  partnership between the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Aga Khan Documentation Center, MIT Libraries. (AKDC@MIT). This collection also includes a few significant (immigrant) Turkish and Turkish-American women architects with their contributions to postwar American and Turkish architecture. Archnet is is an open access on architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, visual culture, and conservation issues as related to Muslim and Muslim-majority societies, their past and present. I think that there was a big gap in their sources on leading women profiles and documentation practice from those architecture cultures and geographic locations. As one of the significant feminist cases from modern, secular and Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, women architects in modern and contemporary Turkish architecture have been a timely step to get attention to diversity in women architects (It is in-progress to upload the entire collection and its editing). In addition, following my appointment with the curator at the MIT Museum (Architecture and Design Collections) for my current research project (April 2019), I am so glad to learn that it was organized “Women of MIT Wikipedia Hackathon as a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Department of Architecture” on August 6, 2019. 12 When I began my advanced academic research project on immigrant women architects in postwar US at MIT in 2014, one of my essential concerns was the lack of historical documentation on (diverse) women architects, and today, I am happy to witness such efforts at the Institute related to the history of its architecture program, one of the oldest one in its field.

3. Dr. Meral Ekincioglu presentation at the 71st Society of Architecture Historians International Conference April 2018

Academic presentation by Dr. Meral Ekincioglu based on her archival research on  pionnering Turkish and TurkishAmerican women architects in postwar US at the 71st Society of Architectural Historians, International Conference, St. Paul, MN, 2018 (courtesy of Dr. Meral Ekincioglu).

Thank you for this opportunity to reach out to your readers in archive and relevant fields to raise an awareness of diverse and inclusive architectural memory in today’s US.

Trained as an architect, Dr. Ekincioglu is a scholar in postwar architecture history and the subjects of her current academic study are politics of gender, multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion in her expertise field. Following her Ph.D. degree in Architecture, she conducted her advanced academic research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture Program for two years.  Her scholarly endeavor brings into focus a critical insight into the politics of gender in institutional policies, academia, the profession, education, history and history-writing, and examines cross-cultural relations and transnational (design) practice in postwar architecture.

In her expertise field, she presented her research projects at the MIT-HTC Program, the International Women in Architecture Symposium at Virginia Tech., the MIT-Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the Women’s Studies Speaker Series at the CUNY-Graduate Center, Harvard University, the 71st Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) – Annual International Conference where she was awarded by a SAH fellowship. In addition, she was a panelist at “A Convergence at the Confluence of Power, Identity and Design” organized by the Women in Design Group at the Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, at “A Square and Half – The Colors, A Tribute by Ivaana Muse” at the MIT Museum, a speaker 51st NeMLA, Northeast Modern Language Association, Annual Convention at Boston University (Convention title: Shaping and Sharing Identities: Spaces, Places, Languages and Cultures), at WikiConference North America on reliability / credibility information at MIT, and “Media in Transition 5 and 6”, two international conferences organized by the MIT-Comparative Media Studies.

Her recent conference abstract, “Tracing Diversity in Historical Documentation of Architecture Education in the US” has been accepted by Midwest Archives Conference, 2020 Annual Meeting. Dr. Ekincioglu is also an author and a contributor of two international publication projects on women architects (forthcoming 2021).

Prior to MIT, she was a research fellow at the Harvard University, Aga Khan History of Art and Architecture, Ph.D. Program, and  research scholar at the Columbia University, Graduate School of Planning and Preservation, Ph.D. Program for her Ph.D. dissertation research. She created and developed the collection, “Women in Modern and Contemporary Territories of Turkish Architecture” at MIT to contribute to documentation of diverse women architects profiles, conducted short documentary film projects on immigrant and underrepresented figures in architecture, and has a certificate by Consortium for Graduate Studies, Gender, Culture, Women & Sexuality (GCWS) at MIT. Dr. Ekincioglu was a member of Society of American Archivists (2019-2020).

Notes and references:

  1. See,, last accessed on 1.20.2020.
  2. See for its survey,, last access on 1.18.2020; for research methodology of this survey, see,, the last accessed on 1.9.2020.
  3. See for its publication, Gilmore, D., 2018, Top Architecture Schools of 2019, Architectural Record, September 4;; the last accessed on 12.10.2019.
  4. Based on their e-mail on February 22, 2019, the Princeton University, School of Architecture was without an archivist at that time.
  5. See for Kenneth Frampton conversation at the Harvard University, GSD, ChinaGSD Distinguished Lecture: Professor Kenneth Frampton, “Chinese Architecture”,, (1:01:06), 10.29.2019.
  6. See for its reference, Diversity in the Profession of Architecture Executive Summary 2016, the American Institute of Architects,, p. 2, accessed on 10.15.2019.
  7. See, Equity, Diversity, And Inclusion Commission Executive Summary January 25, 2017,, accessed on 10.15.2019.
  8. At that point, I would like to underline a recent data project related to architecture history: The Society of Architectural Historians has just launched the SAH Data Project to collect information on the status of architectural history in higher education in the US. As it is indicated on their official link, their surveys aim to determine where and in what ways the field of architectural history is expanding, receding, holding steady, and to consider the structural or cultural factors behind such trends. See, “Society of Architectural Historians Launches Surveys for Study of Architectural History in Higher Education” by SAH News | Feb 21, 2020,, last accessed on 3.15.2020.
  9. For a well-detailed and in-depth discussion on the history of architecture education in the US, see Ockman, J. (ed.), Williams, R. (research editor), 2012, Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America, published on the Centennial Anniversary of the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture, 1912-2012, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  10. See, Willis, A., 1996, “The Place of Archives in the Universe of Architectural Documentation”, The American Archivist, Vol. 59, No. 2, Spring, pp. 192-196; its link:, last accessed on 1.20.2020.
  11. Such as the current curator of Drawings and Archives at Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, the New England Archivists (NEA) and AIA New York’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
  12. See cwJeSc0_AkiJYKzswYsZUw#.XgvjvUdKiM,;, (In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Department of Architecture), last accessed on 1.15.2020.

Do you know an Archival Innovator who should be featured on ArchivesAWARE?  Send us your suggestions at!

Archives + Audiences: Cecelia “Cece” Otto Performs Historical Concerts with Vintage Music

CeceOttoSuffrageChair01_hr-819x1024This is the latest entry in our Archives + Audiences series, which 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.  In this post, we feature COPA member Rachael Woody’s conversation with Cece Otto and her experiences using historical materials to create her concert programs featuring vintage music.

Cecelia “Cece” Otto is a classically trained singer, composer, international best-selling author and historian who has performed in venues all over the world both as a soloist and in ensemble. In 2013, she completed her cross-country musical journey An American Songline, performing 30 concerts of historic vintage music on venues along the Lincoln Highway. Cece then went on to create other historical programs such as The Songs of World War I, and is currently touring with a program about the women’s suffrage movement and developing a concert program about Prohibition. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has written books and recorded albums based on her research.

RW: First, tell us a little more about American Songline. What led you to create it and what is its purpose?

CO: An American Songline® is an ongoing project dedicated to preserving and sharing the story of America through unique, experiential musical performances — some have called it “Hamilton in reverse.” I combine music and history to talk about important points in American history in a concert program, and people of all ages not only enjoy the music, but are also educated as well.

As a classically trained singer and composer, I was doing auditions for opera companies all over the US. But when the economic crisis of 2008 arrived, many artists like myself found funding was cut, ensembles greatly reduced in size. I thought about what I really wanted to do (sing, write music, travel), and the words “singing travelogue” popped into my head. I then thought about all of the amazing roads that network this country and the history that lies underneath them. Many of our roads and highways from the early 20th century had been in use long before that, and there was so much history there. I then saw that one of the earliest cross-country highways, the Lincoln Highway, was turning 100 years old. With the heydays of the highway being from the 1910s-1930s, I knew there were many great songs about the road that told stories, and also that there was more there that I could find with more research.

RW: What inspired you to use historical materials to create your programs?

CO: When I was in the preliminary stages of doing research for my inaugural Lincoln Highway program, I was living in Chicago. I first looked at used bookstores and sheet music stores in the Fine Arts Building where I often met with my voice coach. One afternoon I went through stacks of sheet music looking through all of the songs, and I have this vivid memory of touching this music and wondering how many times people had gathered around the piano to sing this song together before it showed up in this store.

cece2_Shirleah-Kelly_3kx2k-1-682x1024There’s such a wealth of music from the Tin Pan Alley era (c. 1880-1940), and it’s often overlooked. Even when I was teaching music history to undergraduate students, we didn’t touch much on American popular music from this period. We don’t have accurate sales counts, but we know billions of pieces of sheet music were sold in the 1910s. Radio didn’t exist yet at this time, and recordings, vaudeville, and silent films could be expensive, so the main form of entertainment for many people was to sing and play music themselves.

For the Lincoln Highway program, I was able to work with archives in several states to obtain copies of concert programs from venues along the original 1913 route. It was fascinating to see what they were programming at this time. We tend to think of classical music as a static genre, but different songs were performed in recitals than are heard now. I researched some of these songs and found even more history that brought out local communities along the way, and I knew I could give a fun and meaningful concert for people as I traveled along the route.

RW: You’ve created and performed several musical programs based on historical materials. Can you tell us more about your process and what goes into creating these programs?

CO: After a performance in a library, I was talking with their head programmer and she noted this big centennial that had just occurred in their community. I then started to think about big events that would be happening nationally in the next few years, and the next step in the timeline was to then create a World War I program. Suggestions from other venues came in, and it was easy to create custom programs to fit important themes as well as what was in a place’s collection.

Creating these programs is a combination of research and audience feedback. Once people heard what I was doing, they would reach out to me with song ideas and suggestions. People were even sending me sing-along booklets and sheet music! They knew that even if I didn’t perform the music, I’d give it a good home and/or get it to a place where it would be preserved.

RW: How do you choose which songs to form your program?

SLG_4720-3Kx2K-683x1024CO: It can be tough to choose songs sometimes depending on the theme of the program. Suffrage music is documented in writing – we have the lyric books they would sing from at meetings and protests, but sheet music for songs (both traditional and popular) has been a little more elusive. Meanwhile, there were over 14,000 songs written about World War I alone!

There are few things I think about when creating a program: 1) Vocal range and meter – Is this something I can physically sing, and is it the same tempo as all of the other songs I’ve chosen so far? If the songs sound too much like each other (i.e., all slow or fast songs), it sounds the “same” to most people’s ears and the audience will lose interest quickly. 2) Relatability – Will modern audiences be able to relate to this song? Before each song is sung I usually do a brief explanation and share some history about the song so listeners can hear it as it was intended all of those years ago, but if it requires too much explanation and/or talks about things people won’t understand, I’m not likely to perform it live. 3) A story arc – Songs that tell a good story and/or offer a different perspective on the topic of the show are crucial. While each song tells its own story, I look at the bigger picture to see how the song will fit in an entire program. I find there’s a flow that appears with these songs that makes sense, and it’s like putting a puzzle together.

RW: Please share a story of one of your great archival finds or a fond memory of an archives visit.

CO: I had the opportunity to explore all of the sheet music and music concert programs in the archive of Yellowstone National Park, and it was fascinating. There was a whole subgenre of American popular music that I didn’t even know about until I was looking through their collection! The oldest park in the United States has an amazing musical heritage; so many lodges entertained people when they came to the park on vacation over the decades, it’s a revered place in our culture and I loved learning about it through those songs and stories. I could have spent days listening to the cassette tapes alone!

RW: How have archives helped to inform your work?

CO: The archives I’ve worked with have been an invaluable tool to my research and process for bringing this history back to life. Because of the sheer quantity of music that existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I always keep finding “new” songs that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time and/or have no existing recordings. Recordings (when available) are also an important tool in regard to seeing lyric variations as well as hearing how a singer originally sang the song. Even if I’m not able to perform them, the poetry gives a window back in time that helps me think about how to perform and talk about these songs.

RW: Is there something you’re still searching for and haven’t found it in the archives yet? (We know people ;))

CO: Ha! I like hearing this. 🙂 When I was putting together the women’s suffrage program, I stumbled upon a poem called “One Hundred Years Hence” which was put to music and first performed in 1875. The poem speaks of what the world would look like 100 years after women got the right to vote, and after I read it I felt a mixture of emotions because so much of the poem had not come true. It made me think about what a 21st century audience would think; would they laugh, cry, or both? I tried locating the original sheet music to this song and had no luck finding it, so I actually had a female composer who was a friend of mine write new music to the poem. It gives it a new interpretation, but I’d love to find the sheet music and see what the original musicians performed.

RW: Were there any barriers to using or accessing the collections? If so, please tell us about it.

CO: Yes, I sadly have run into problems with collections before. There are of course certain issues when it comes to public domain materials and copyrights, but there’s so much music that is in the public domain from this era it can and should be accessible for everyone. I have run into incomplete digital scans and/or sheet music copies, where the front and back covers are there, but the inner pages have been omitted, flipped around, or they are sometimes in other pieces of music. I’ve also seen digital scans of songs where they only scanned the chorus of the song and not the verses (i.e. usually the catchy part that everyone remembers), which is frustrating as it’s omitting a part of the song that should be included for future records. Even if it’s culturally insensitive words, disclaimers can be included to note that the materials contain words and ideas which were appropriate for the time, but are inappropriate now.

RW: What’s one thing you wish the general public knew about archives?

CO: I wish they knew how much has been amassed and painstakingly preserved in our culture by archivists and librarians. (And lovingly preserved at that!) As Americans, we grew up learning that modern ideals are more favored in our culture, and that the past should stay hidden. That what’s in an archive are just dusty books, photographs, and some important documents to big points in history. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There so many everyday items, depending on the collection, and those letters and scrapbooks I read and looked through were more meaningful than the big stuff. It shows how much alike we all really are, no matter what century it is. This concert program in a scrapbook may look like a list of songs to most people, but to the person who saved that piece of paper it was an important event for them. It’s like us saving a ticket stub from a concert.

RW: What are some of the reactions you’ve received by performing these history-based programs?

CO: The reactions to the programs have been extremely positive nationwide — people of all ages love the songs and the stories and they love being immersed in an experience that “takes them back in time.” The programs have been an excellent vehicle for talking about more sensitive subjects like war and human rights, and after the show people have shared with me how a song in the program made them think differently about history, American culture, and their own life experiences. Older folks adore hearing these songs being sung again, as it brings back good memories, and I have even found kids and teenagers like this music. We all yearn for a good melody, and when many of the children hear these songs for the first time they are often singing along to the chorus by the end of the song.

Many people I think are also genuinely surprised at the variety of music and the sense of humor the songs have from this era. The sentimental love songs tend to get more airplay in movies and television today, while the funny songs full of jokes and innuendo might be forgotten. Audiences think that people from 100 years ago were very prim and proper, but they had all of the same thoughts about life and were just as informal as we are today. I think that’s what really bonds the audience with the material in the end: the knowledge that people in the distant past felt and thought pretty much the same as we do, and that we have a lot more in common with our forebears than we realize. There’s something about hearing that conveyed in a song that makes it so meaningful. Music brings people together, and so does their shared past, and to combine those things into one fun, memorable and educational experience is such a privilege. I look forward to continuing my work for years to come, and to uncovering more great stories to tell and more great songs to sing from our country’s history.

Cece Otto is currently touring the United States with her Centennial of Suffrage program. To view up to date program offerings please visit An American Songline®. You may also find more videos of her performances via her YouTube Channel.

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Rebecca Cline, the Director of the Walt Disney Archives


Photograph of Rebecca Cline. Courtesy of Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

This is the newest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Rebecca Cline, the Director of the Walt Disney Archives.

Becky Cline joined The Walt Disney Company in 1989, and became a member of the staff of the Walt Disney Archives in 1993.  Today, as Director of the Archives, Becky is charged with collecting and preserving all aspects of Disney history and making the material available to researchers from all areas of the Walt Disney Company — as well as to historians, writers, documentarians, and fans around the world. Her many responsibilities include maintaining and conserving the Archives’ collections of historical documents, artwork, character merchandise, costumes, props and memorabilia.   In the years since the Archives was established at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, it has grown from a one-person department to its current staff of twelve, and has come to be recognized as a model among corporate archives in the country.

In her position with the Archives, Becky has also enjoyed participating in the research and development of many new and exciting programs and fan-based initiatives for the Walt Disney Company including the development and operations team for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.

Born in Glendale, California, and raised in Los Angeles, Becky attended Glendale College and California State University Los Angeles, majoring in Theater Arts.  After college, she worked for two years in the Rare Books Department of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where she received her first taste of library/archives work.

As an author, Becky has co-authored the books Disney Insider Yearbook, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember ­(Sept., 2019), The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains and Spaces Between (Aug., 2019) and the upcoming Holiday Magic at Disney Parks (Summer 2020), and has written numerous articles on Disney history for magazines such as Disney’s twenty-three, Disney Magazine, The Disney Channel Magazine, Persistence of Vision, and The E-Ticket, as well as many other Disney internal publications and websites. She is also a frequent speaker on behalf of The Walt Disney Company, giving talks and presenting seminars on Disney history.


Cover: The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark and Becky Cline, Disney Editions 2019. Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

How did you get your gig?

I started out in the Walt Disney Archives as a (Semi-Senior) Secretary.  After college I planned to work in live technical theater which was my major, but couldn’t find steady work, so I took a job as a Library Assistant in the Rare Books Department at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.  I had always loved libraries and reading, but after two years there I discovered a passion for rare books and materials and had a great desire to work in that field instead.  In 1989, I heard from a friend that they were hiring a file clerk at the Walt Disney Archives and so I jumped at it.  They had already filled the role, so I took a job at Disney Home Video for four years and then finally got a secretarial job in the Archives in 1993.  Then, I learned everything I could about Disney and began writing and researching on my own.  Eventually I was made an Assistant Archivist, and then moved on to build out our Collections department as the Manager of Collections, focusing on working with the department’s dimensional assets.  When our Chief Archivist and Founder, Dave Smith, retired in 2010,  I was made Director­ – a role I’ve held ever since.  I just celebrated my 30th anniversary with Disney and 26th with the Archives.  Oddly enough – I have no institutional library training, but my theatrical background has been of inestimable value in an entertainment archive setting – working with props, costumes, sets, art, curating exhibitions, budgets, and scheduling, assisting historical researchers and being a spokesperson, and acting as a presenter and on-camera interview subject – I wear lots of hats!


Becky Cline (Director, Walt Disney Archives) speaking at D23’s Destination D event – 2014, Walt Disney World, Orlando FL. Courtesy of Walt Disney Archives Photo Library.

Tell us about your organization.

We were founded in 1970 as the first studio archives in the film/entertainment industry – and we are the largest of our kind.  We now have a staff of 30 and work as teams in multiple areas – Research, Collections, Exhibitions, Operations, and a Photo Library and Digital Lab.  The staff is comprised of employees from various backgrounds with various experience – some have traditional library and archival training, museum training, academic and film studies training, some even have business management training.  They are all fantastic historians as well and are very passionate about The Walt Disney Company and its history.

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Describe your collections.

The collections of the Walt Disney Archives cover all aspects of The Walt Disney Company.  We keep all historical documentation from Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney as co-founders of the Company, to motion pictures, television, theme parks, consumer products, publicity, publications, media collections (physical and digital), and corporate history.  As the Corporate archive of the entire Disney enterprise, we cover the history of all areas and brands under the Disney umbrella – including ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and now 21st Century Fox.  Last year the Fox Archives merged with our department, and we are now one.  Our collections are extensive and rather amazing in scope – from almost the beginning of Hollywood history, to today.

Research Collections

A significant portion of our research collection centers on Walt Disney, the man.  Books, articles, speeches, interviews and more than 8,500 photographs just of Walt, himself.  We also chronicle the history and genealogy of the Disney family. There is also a complete set of Company annual reports from 1940 to the present along with Company phone directories, employee periodicals, stockholder materials, and corporate officer materials.

Although the Company’s film collection is housed elsewhere, the Archives collects many films on various formats for reference, including all home entertainment releases, television programs, interviews, special events, and employee training films.  We have scripts for Disney live-action films and television programs along with dialogue cutting continuities for animated films, costume breakdown and continuity books, shooting call sheets and other production information.  Feature animation art is held in a special library that is part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, but the Archives contains the live-action film, television, publicity and commercial art of the Company.  We also keep documentation about the animated films, including shooting drafts, original story concepts, and transcriptions of story meetings – which are quite enlightening.  Walt Disney first arranged a clipping service in 1924 and ever since the Company has been the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles.  These are generally arranged by year and subject.

Press releases, press books and movie posters help tell the story of the studios and filmed product the Company has released over the years, too.  We also maintain biographical material – including audio interviews and oral histories with many key Disney Cast Members, Employees, and Imagineers through the decades.  Typed transcripts of significant interviews and speeches are available in both text and digital formats, for reference.  Disney publications have been published in the U.S. since 1930 and we have a complete collection of more than 10,000 titles catalogued.  There are also thousands of international Disney books, published in more than 40 languages.  The Archives also maintains a complete file of domestic comics strips, books and magazines, along with most international titles, dating back to 1932.  We also have preserved a practically complete collection of Disney recorded music – CDs, phonograph records and cassettes as well as digital files.  We also have printed sheet music, production cue sheets, and song folios to round out our musical documentation.

The Archives also houses a vast collection that traces the history of all twelve Disney Parks, from Disneyland in Anaheim to Shanghai Disneyland in China.  The research collections for those parks and resorts include correspondence, films, ticket media, employee publications, menus, Guest collateral and ephemera, and special event project files.

Dimensional Collections

Since the late 1920s, tens of thousands of merchandise items have featured the likeness of Mickey Mouse, and millions of items have featured our film, television and park properties.  While we have never attempted to collect every item ever produced, we do maintain an excellent sample collection, catalogues, correspondence files, licensee materials and photographs that tell the story of our merchandise endeavors since the 20s.

Dimensional assets from our films, television and streaming properties, as well as theme park attractions, are one of our most interesting collections.  Some of our thousands of props and costumes include the ornate prop storybooks that open Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Annette Funicello’s Mickey Mouse Club sweater and mouse ear hat, the 11-foot long Nautilus shooting model from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Davy Crockett’s ‘coonskin cap’, Mary Poppins’ carpet bag and the 20 foot -long “miniature” model of the Black Pearl from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Our dimensional collections also include awards, animation models, live-action film models and maquettes, artwork, blueprints and drawings, park attraction vehicles, set pieces and much more – it’s a true treasure trove!

Our exhibition program was conceived with the intention of sharing these fabulous pieces of dimensional Company history with the world.  To that end, we have been creating and presenting exhibitions for Disney fan events across the U.S. for the last decade, and even expanded to Japan and Hong Kong in recent years. This year we are launching a new traveling exhibition program that will let us share some of our favorite assets and stories with new audiences around the globe.

Photography Collections

With the addition of the incredible photo library collection of the Fox Studios in 2019, our Photo Library collection of physical and digital media now numbers over 20 million items.  The various types of negatives and color transparencies preserved in these collections cover all aspects of Disney history, from its beginnings to the present day.  We have built and are constantly adding to a new online digital asset management system which is available to Disney employees (and outside researchers with approval from the Disney Legal Department.) This is a continually growing digitization program that uses state-of-the-art equipment and processes to capture all parts of our collection – some even in 3-D!  It is one of our major initiatives and an accomplishment we are very proud of.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

As with any Archive, our main challenges are always space and staffing!  Even with what seems to be a large staff, when you look at the magnitude and various types of materials in our collections and the scale of our outreach programs – exhibitions, fan events, publications, historical lectures, training, internal orientations – it doesn’t seem like nearly enough staff.   We also have to create and maintain proper storage facilities for everything from paper documents, original art, and fragile negatives to ride vehicles, automobiles, sailing ships, Audio-Animatronics® dinosaurs, and even Cinderella’s ornate coach!  Our other main challenge is one that just about every other archival collection faces today, too, and that is the collecting and processing digital history.  What used to come through the doors as paper is now digital and that requires a whole new set of skills to find, process, store and share.  In our case, it is massive amounts of digital imagery and audio material.  We are working through these issues with our new digitization programs and are seeking to implement a new and upcoming internal collections management system to not only help keep track of catalogued materials, but also to help with our knowledge management – with half a century of institutional knowledge at our fingertips, we want to make sure we’re doing all we can capture why and how we work the way we do here at Disney, for future generations, and archivists!

What is your favorite part of your job?

I must say I have a fantastic job that I love dearly – I get to work with wonderful, iconic historical assets, but my favorite part has to be working alongside the amazingly talented people here at Disney.  I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to meet and share our history with the best and brightest filmmakers, artists, actors, musicians, animators, authors and creatives in the entertainment industry.  I also get to share what I love so much with the millions of Disney fans out there in some pretty great ways – through our exhibits, events produced by our official fan club, D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, historical presentations at theaters, parks and cruise ships, and even on film and television.

Upcoming celebrations

We open our new traveling exhibit, “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA on March 7, 2020.   With lots more to follow, be sure to keep up with us on social media – we have some exciting plans in the works!