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.

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