Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19)

Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19) was delivered on April 7, 2020 by Margot Note (founder and principal of Margot Note Consulting), Chris Cummings (Founder and CEO of Pass it Down), and Rachael Cristine Woody (owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting).

The webinar was sponsored by the Society of American Archivists’ Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) and is recorded on SAA’s Resources & Toolkits page.


Join Margot Note, Chris Cummings, and Rachael Cristine Woody in “Deriving Value from Collections in a Time of Corona,” a webinar brought to you by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness. The webinar is a call to action for enhancing museum and archives collection programs online through adaption and repurposing of content, reviewing digital usership and digital collection best practices, and capturing the value of your online collections work to broadcast to administrative stakeholders. By combining traditional archival administration with innovative uses of digital collections, archivists can advocate for their collections, enriching their value in a period of uncertainty. The aim of the webinar is to help archivists and museum professionals cultivate their skills to become better promoters of themselves, their repositories, and their profession.

Q&A Section

So much great content and resources were shared during the Q&A that we decided to capture it here for easy reference. Thank you for asking thoughtful questions and for helping us find resources to point people to for some of the questions we couldn’t address fully.

Q. Do you know about 508 accessibility for Pinterest? I’m sure I can look this up too and you might get to it anyway but I want to emphasize to anyone and everyone the importance of accessibility for disabled users.

A. From Bureau of Internet Accessibility:

Q. What tools do you recommend to crowdsource or capture COVID-19 materials?

Submitted by the group:

COPA has also just put out a press release documenting some of these efforts.

Q. Do you have any webinars or archives webinar platforms that you would recommend [specific to collection content adaptation and advocating for the value of our collection work]?

A. Rachael Woody just provided an expansion of her topic in her webinar Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work (discussed more below). Additionally, there are a lot of good webinars being offered by peer organizations and companies, such as: Cuseum, CultureConnect, and The National Preservation Leadership Forum. Please let us know in the comments if there are webinars we can add to this list for easy reference.

Q. Who (which organization) created the puzzle? 

A. The Cooper Gallery.

Q. How do you strike a balance between wanting to lift people’s spirits with light-hearted content and coming off as too silly and inappropriate during such a scary time?

A. Evaluate what your current tone and mission is for your organization’s social media presence as consistency in messaging is important. Even if your social tone is on the lighter side, it is important to still be aware of current events and sensitive the hardships people are facing. Be intentional with what item, story, or exhibit you’re sharing and provide context–offer an explanation on why you’re sharing what you’re sharing. Evaluate your tone to ensure it’s in keeping with your intent. Additionally, with the heaviness of current events, people are going to social media for relief and it’s OK to be a provide of relief and enjoyment during this time. In fact, it’s a very valuable thing to offer people. And it’s OK to experiment during this time to find what’s valuable to your audience.

Q. Some people have expressed an understandable sensitivity to posting archival images that don’t display proper social distancing during this time, instead of posting on events (now cancelled) from the past that show crowds of people. Any thoughts on this?

A. Context is key. It’s OK to post these images as long as you provide a thoughtful comment as to why you’re sharing it. For example, a historical photo of a annual parade with a note that says something like: “We’ll sure miss seeing you at the annual parade this year, but we look forward to seeing everyone next year–happy and healthy!”

Comment: Thank you for offering this very useful and informative webinar. Our whole staff in the NMSU Archives & Special Collections is viewing this. Useful to us, as we have just started a blog.

Q. I love all of the fun ideas for engagement with the public! As an academic institution, we also need to emphasize our academic value to our students and our impact on teaching and learning. Any suggestions in this area? Thank you!

A. Yes! Knowing the stress that students and faculty have been under to move everything online–and the access disparities that have been present–think of ways you can help supplement, support, or help adapt collection teaching content for online. Suggestions from the panelists:

  • Proactively reach out with resources that are ready to go.
  • Offer office hours for students and faculty to receive help around using collections for the teaching and learning work.
  • Look at digital content that’s already available that could be repurposed or repackaged into something to help support students and faculty.
  • Take the opportunity to craft lessons plans that can accompany online collections. Consider including lesson plan creation as part of your workflow to coincide with new exhibits and newly online collections.

Q. How are you adapting to the online environment with your online classes with special collections. Can you give examples?

The Rockefeller Archive Center offers resources for crafting primary source-based education. Check out their resource page for primary source unites, workshops, ad projects. The American Alliance of Museums also offers programs and resources in their Repository of Distance Learning.

Submitted by the group:

Q. What are your opinions on posts about working from home? Is there a sensitive way to share about archivists commitment to their work while being cognizant that many people are not able to work right now? Side note, thank you! This has so far been fabulous.

A. Similar to some of the questions fielded already, we encourage you to be honest, provide context as to why you’re sharing, and acknowledge that the current situation has left many unemployed, furloughed, or in precarious work positions; and offer a note of support. Also, keep in mind that for many in our audience the work that we do is often mysterious and interesting, and they’ll appreciate you offering a peek behind the curtain.

Q. How do you recommend getting past internal roadblocks to posting content?

A. Approach it as an experiment and track your efforts to demonstrate the engagement that occurs. As discussed in the webinar, it’s so important to track engagement numbers in order to show the value of the work happening. Also, consider how this might tie into supporting the organization’s income stream and mission. It may also be helpful to point to peers in the field who are on social media as competition among peers is often helpful in inspiring a “Yes” so that your organization isn’t left out. And sometimes it’s easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission. As long as one person in power is supportive, take the opportunity to explore how you can serve your audience in this new way or even add a new audience members.

Q. What advice would you give institutions on how to technically preserve social media posts?

It’s tricky to find a tool that helps to consistent and legally capture digital content and has the technical wherewithal to follow digital preservation best practices. Some digital preservationists still recommend to print it out, taking a screenshot, or converting to a PDF for easier preservation and digital migration. While it seems archaic, paper is still the preferred medium for saving information of value as the digital media landscape is still evolving and therefore very volatile for future duration. Rachael Woody wrote a post on this in 2019: Responses & Retrospectives: Rachael Woody on Myspace and the Precarity of User Content on Social Media Platforms.

Submitted by the group:

Q. I am a lone arranger at a local county archive. During this time many people are taking the opportunity to cleaning out closets, attics, basements and garages. How do we get the message out that our archives is still taking records donations but can’t receive them until after this “Great Pause”!

A. Put out a call to action with instructions. Acknowledge that this is a great time for people to clean out their closets and provide guidelines for what you’re looking for per your collection policy. Then give them a direction. Maybe it’s a form to fill out, a box with a label to send, etc.

Q. What advice do you have for use of images and content that might be otherwise be copyrighted by others?

A. It’s very important to discern if the archives have a Deed of Gift for collections that grant rights and permissions to the organization. There are cases where past practices of archives mean there isn’t a Deed of Gift. To the best of your ability attempt to determine if materials are created by others and seek their permission before you use it. Many archives offer a mechanism for people to contact them if there are items online that they believe they own copyright of.

Q. You mentioned reaching out to engaged community members on platforms like Facebook groups. Can you go into more detail about how you do that? I sometimes struggle with knowing where or when to join in when I see our collections show up on those platforms.

A. Sure. In almost every community, there will be groups set up that showcase historic photos and stories from that community. The best way to begin would be to do an audit of both Facebook and Instagram for any groups that would be relevant to your community. Next, become an active participant and start to chime in with helpful comments and content. We would also recommend that you reach out to the administrator of the group to introduce yourself and your institution and ways you might collaborate.

Margot Note shares: I usually first start out as a “lurker.” I see what interests the group, what they’re talking about, and who are the frequent posters. When you’re comfortable and feel like you have something to share, you can write a short post about your collection, how to access it, and how you think you might help them. Then see what the reaction is. As long as you’re sharing information that would generally help people and not overly promoting something, the responses are almost always positive.

Q. I find posting historic images and videos onto Instagram painfully difficult. Am I just not downloading some key “extra” app that would make it way less frustrating? Maybe even easy?

A. The trick is sending photos, videos, and captions in an email, and accessing them on your phone. You then can post images and cut and paste text. To learn more, check out this chapter written by Margot Note, “#CulturalHeritage: Connecting to Audiences through Instagram” in Engagement and Access: Innovative Approaches for Museums, edited by Juilee Decker, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Although Instagram has changed a lot since the book was published, the chapter still offers valuable information on how to curate an account with archival images.

Chris Cummings shares: Anyone that’s done social media for long has felt the frustration of having to post to instagram directly from a mobile device. There are a few great tools that will let you schedule and post to instagram directly from the web. Check out or Later for tools that should make your social media life a lot easier!

Q. What platform do you think would be best to start off with, if our institution doesn’t have much of an online presence?

A. Start out with the one you believe would best fit your needs and that you are technically comfortable with. The better suited the platform is to your purposes the more you will use it, and the more effective it will be. That said, we recommend you start by reviewing what the purpose of each social platform is. Instagram is for visual presentation, YouTube is for videos, and Facebook is a hybrid of both, etc. You can also get insight into what a good platform match would be by reviewing what your peer organizations are using and how they are using it.

Connect with the Presenters

Connect with the webinar presenters (and sign up for their newsletters so you don’t miss their content and resource drops!):

Margot Note, Founder and Principal of Margot Note Consulting. Photo courtesy of Margot Note Consulting.

Margot Note, Founder and Principal of Margot Note Consulting. Photo courtesy of Margot Note Consulting.

Margot Note Website:

Margot Note, CA, CRM, IGP, PMP. Note is the principal and founder of Margot Note Consulting, LLC, an archives and records management consulting business in New York. She’s a professor in the graduate Women’s History program at Sarah Lawrence College and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Library and Information Science program at St. John’s University. She’s the author of five books, including her newest Creating Family Archives: A Step‐by‐Step Guide for Saving Your Memories for Future Generations published by the Society of American Archivists.

Chris Cummings, Founder & CEO of Pass it Down. Photo courtesy of Pass it Down.

Chris Cummings, Founder & CEO of Pass it Down. Photo courtesy of Pass it Down.

Chris Cummings Website:

Chris is the founder and CEO of Pass It Down Inc., a digital exhibit builder platform that’s been recognized globally for transforming how cultural institutions and brands engage their visitors. From Cairo to San Francisco, Chris has been invited to speak around the world on the Future of Museums and archives, and is a global pioneer in the field of digital storytelling.  Pass It Down’s been recognized as a leader in experiential marketing and digital exhibits by Coca-Cola, the Consumer Technology Association and Established, Techstars, and is the winner of the 2019 BREW Pitch Contest and $100,000 prize.

Chris is a 3-time CEO, two-time founder, and attorney and a former Collegiate National Champion in Public Speaking. Chris received his JD from the Paul M. Hebert LSU Law Center and has clerked for numerous judges, including the honorable Chief Justice Johnson of the Louisiana Supreme Court. He received a double BA In Political Science and International Relations from Louisiana State University.

Rachael Cristine Woody, Owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting. Photo courtesy of Rachael Cristine Consulting.

Rachael Cristine Woody, Owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting. Photo courtesy of Rachael Cristine Consulting.

Rachael Cristine Woody Website:

Rachael Woody is the owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC. After a successful tenure at the Smithsonian Institution and the Oregon Wine History Archive, Woody established her consultancy to teach archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations how to take care of their collections and advocate for their value. Woody has experienced precariously funded positions first-hand and has proven tactical strategies to demonstrate the value of collection work. As a result of her experience, Woody has dedicated herself to advocating for the value of collection work. She serves on SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, established the Archivist-in-Residence (paid internship) program at Northwest Archivists, and serves on several salary advocacy committees.

Rachael Woody developed a companion piece to this webinar: Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work. Please see her blog post for more information, a link to download the slide deck, links to resources, and a summary of the Q&A. The webinar is also provided below for ease of access.


Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the world are struggling with the impact of COVID-19.  As public spaces remain closed, archives and museums are challenged with fulfilling their mission while seeking economic relief. Many archives and museum professionals are facing precarious employment as they struggle to prove the value of their work. This webinar is a follow up to the Society of American Archivists’ “Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19)” (view:  Please join me for a deeper dive into strategies for how to capture and communicate the value of collection work. The webinar will offer a framework to define the value of your work, discuss mechanisms for capturing value, and offer strategies for communicating the value of your work to your boss, your board, your fellow staff, and your community stakeholders.

Responses and Retrospectives: But I thought I was an Archivist?


Photo provided by Rachel Thomas.

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!

Rachel Thomas, MA, is the University Archivist at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She is passionate about the archival profession and opening the field to new professionals from all walks. Thomas is a member of Society of American Archivists and Northwest Archivists and recently served on the inaugural Northwest Archivists Archivist-in-Residence committee which is dedicated to working on the problem of unpaid internships in the archival profession. Linkedin profile:

Six year ago I walked into my first professional gathering of archivists. As a lone arranger, I was excited to meet some of my colleagues. It was an unconference, inviting members of our profession to gather and discuss some of the issues surrounding our work. As the evening began, talk quickly turned to archives certification and qualifications. What makes an archivist and archivist? We gathered into groups to discuss this. I was excited to share my background and how I came to the field and hear how others entered this field I love.

However, as soon as we sat down, one of the members of my group said, “If you don’t have an MLIS, you are not an archivist. We have to have some standards!”

I was floored. I didn’t have an MLIS. I had just been hired by a university I respected, I had completed a MA in Early American and United States History, I had apprenticed in a large, well known, respected archive under a leader in the profession, I had worked for four years as an archive assistant at another university. I knew DACS, processing, other archival ethics and standards. I was a member of SAA and my regional association. I didn’t have my MLIS, but I was an archivist, wasn’t I?

As the discussion continued I found my voice. I expressed that I believed that being an archivist is about following the ethics and practices of the profession, not based on a certain set of letters behind a name. I shared examples of devoted archivists who had come to the field with no professional training. Some agreed with me, others held the position that the MLIS should always be required. The original speaker did not back down, she told me that she was sorry, but I didn’t belong in the field. According to her there were too many “non-professionals” calling themselves archivists and taking jobs from real archivists.

Eventually the night moved onto other topics. I learned a lot from colleagues in the room. I was able to network and build some contacts, learn about opportunities to serve in my regional professional organization. It was a successful evening by all accounts, however, I left doubting myself, hit hard with imposter syndrome.

A few years later and a few years wiser, I know that I am an archivist. I know I belong to the profession, and I know I bring value to my work. I have learned to appreciate my ability to think outside of the box, and largely credit it to the alternate route I took into the field. However, I still generally advise interns and students desiring to enter the field to pursue an MLIS. I know that it will prepare them well for the workplace, and I know that it has become a requirement for most positions in the field. I want them to be able to find work.


Photograph provided by Rachel Thomas.

At the same time, I want to challenge our profession to broaden their understanding of how one can become an archivist. I think we need to lean into the value of divergent perspectives brought by alternate education and career paths. We need to come to an understanding that the MLIS is not the only way to enter into our field. Other education and career paths can help us approach problems differently, they can help us develop new solutions, creative ideas, and the ability to diversify our collections and practices to fit a broader cross section of society. Employers must reconsider whether or not requiring the MLIS is unnecessarily limiting their applicant panel, disqualifying candidates who could bring new strengths and experience to the position. Archivists must check their assumptions about their colleagues. We must seek to be inclusive, not only in our collections, but among our colleagues.

This story does have a happy ending. At a recent conference I had a chance to have a heart to heart with one of the archival leaders in our region. He had been working as an archivist for decades and had received recognition at regional and national levels for his contributions. Everyone knew his name. I mentioned that sometimes I thought we were too focused on degrees in our field. That much of the work could be learned in other ways. That I had struggles with imposter syndrome because of my MA. He laughed, and said, “Guess I don’t belong in the field then! I only have a bachelor’s degree!”

This post was written by Rachel Thomas, MA. 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.

There’s An Archivist for That! Interview with Kat Siddle, Librarian for lululemon athletica

Portrait of Kat Siddle.

Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

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 Kat Siddle, the Sample  Librarian for the Historical Garment Archive at lululemon athletica.

As a self-described “clothes librarian”, Kat Siddle manages the historical garment archive at lululemon athletica’s headquarters in Vancouver, BC. During her 12 year career, Kat has worked in public, academic, and special libraries, with a short stint in copywriting.

How did you get your gig?

It’s a long story!

I’m technically a librarian, not an archivist. And I got this job because I left libraries for copywriting.

After I graduated, my first full-time position was at a public law library. I liked my job, but after a few years, I started feeling like it was time to move on. I didn’t quite know what to do next. Library jobs were scarce and public law libraries are pretty unusual institutions. I didn’t have an obvious next step. I went back to the drawing board and started applying for non-library jobs. I got a job as a junior a copywriter at lululemon athletica, the company that invented yoga pants. I didn’t have any experience, but I was interested in the apparel industry and I was a good writer. I didn’t know if I would ever end up in libraries again. I did copywriting and content management at lululemon for 2.5 years – and then a role in the archives opened up.

Now I’m librarian running an archive. And instead of books or documents, my archive is filled with clothes. It’s a hybrid library-archive space, because employees can check items in and out, and they’re able to self-serve if I’m not available.

Tell us about your organization.

lululemon is company that makes yoga and fitness clothing, plus accessories and clothes for everyday. It’s known for having an intense culture. It’s very outgoing, sporty and goal-driven—which was a big change for me!

View o f hoodies in pastel and gray shades hanging on a rack.

Garment racks are absolutely essential. They’re my bookcarts. They’re the best way to organize and transport clothing in a workspace. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

lululemon is a vertical company, which means that we create everything in-house. We develop our own special fabrics and design our own garments, and sell them in our own stores. This means there’s lots of opportunities for information professionals. Right now, there are three librarians/archivists working here.

Describe your collections.

Right now, my collections all contain clothing and accessories. I have a few other products, like bottles of skincare and cans of lululemon-branded beer that we created for our annual half-marathon.  We keep the lululemon products that come out globally every season, plus products made by our Lab line and our little-sister company, Ivivva. Ivivva made clothing for girls. The Ivivva brand will be closing soon, so right now I’m working on transitioning that collection from a “working collection” that needs to be referenced by merchants and designers to a historical collection. I want to capture the aesthetic character of the brand and really honor all the hard work that went into it.

Some day, I would love to keep designer’s sketches and other artifacts from the design process, because I find that fascinating.

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

One challenge is that our accessions are driven by the company’s productivity. The company has been growing, so the amount of archival garments that I’m keeping is increases every quarter—but my space remains the same. So I’m always on the verge of a space crisis.

Another challenge is defining what makes up a meaningful or useful collection. I don’t always know how or why people are using my collections, which can make planning and weeding a challenge.

View of women's mannequins in storage.

Behind the scenes at a clothing company. Piles of mannequins are pretty common, and I almost don’t find them creepy anymore. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love that I have the chance to apply my skills in a design-driven environment. I always wanted to be a special librarian, but many of those positions deal with dry subject matter that doesn’t inspire me the way clothing does. I love working with colours and fabrics. It’s just inherently interesting to me. And I’m always learning — there’s so much I still want to learn from the fields of archives and museum sciences.

9 scrunchies on display, various colors, w/ exhibit tags.

I keep collections of all kinds of clothing and accessories. For some reason, the scrunchie collection is one of my favourites. Courtesy of Kat Siddle.

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 to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!