Keeping ArchivesAWARE: News and Highlights

This is the latest entry in our series Keeping ArchivesAWARE: News and Highlights, a recurring roundup of some of the latest archives-related news stories, features, commentaries, announcements, and projects that have caught our eye, with links to the original sources.

On Al Jazeera, Patrick Gathara argues that the path to colonial reckoning in Africa lies in the return of colonial archives – the “thousands of official records and documents that trace the history of subjugation, oppression and looting of the continent by the European powers” – to the continent.

In late March, St. Louis firefighters’ rescued the majority of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum’s collection while subduing a major fire that damaged the museum building.

Cornell University’s Department of History and the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research recently launched Freedom on the Move, a crowdsourcing project compiling a database of “runaway ads” documenting fugitives from North American slavery.

The Council of State Archivists has issued its Statement on Texas Legislative Records to express concern on House Bill 1962,  which would change “existing statutes governing archival records of the Texas legislature” and place those records at risk.

The Verge reports on the Internet Archive’s efforts to preserve Google+ posts before the service is permanently shuttered this month, a move Google announced in October 2018 after a major security breach exposed user data.

Ernie Smith writes in Associations Now about how the Arms Control Association tapped into its institutional archives to mark the fortieth anniversary of an influential 1979 article co-written by its then-executive director, William Kincade, describing the effects of a potential nuclear attack on St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on Housing Our Story: Towards Archival Justice for Black Baltimore, a project launched by scholars and students at Johns Hopkins University to correct “systemic archival neglect.”

William J. Maher, representing the Society of American Archivists, recently presented a statement to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights at its meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, stating that WIPO “must step forward to establish broad standards for exceptions that recognize the non-commercial work of archives to preserve and make available the world’s cultural heritage.”

In March, it was reported that the social media site Myspace permanently lost all data that had been uploaded to the site prior to 2016, the result of an apparent faulty server migration.

The Library of Congress recently acquired a collection of artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s letters.  The collection had been discovered by a couple while cleaning out their new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which had previously belonged to the widow of O’Keeffe’s friend and documentary filmmaker Henwar Rodakiewicz.

The Catholic News Agency reports that the Vatican will be be opening the secret archives of Pope Pius XII in March 2020, making the records of the leader of the Catholic Church during World War II – totaling approximately 16 million documents – available for research.


Have some interesting archival news items or highlights you’d like us to share?  Email us at archivesaware@archivists.org and we may include it in our next Keeping ArchivesAWARE roundup!

Keeping ArchivesAWARE: News and Highlights

The news cycle moves at such a rapid pace these days that it can be easy to miss the media’s increasing coverage of archives and archivists.  That’s why we’re launching our new series Keeping ArchivesAWARE: News and Highlights, a recurring roundup summarizing the latest archives-related news stories, features, commentaries, announcements, and projects that have caught our eye, with links to the original sources.  Such media coverage can be an invaluable tool with which to communicate the power of archives and archivists’ vital role in society to a wider public audience.  We hope you enjoy this first entry in the series, and that you’ll share your favorite stories widely!

A team at the University of Oregon recently launched The March, a digital exhibition about the making of filmmaker James Blue’s documentary of the same name chronicling the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The exhibition is a collaboration among Professor of Rhetoric David A. Frank, the University of Oregon Libraries, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Conflict studies professor Stephen Badsey writes in the Washington Post about director Peter Jackson’s new documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, which features digitally restored film footage and audio recordings from the Imperial War Museum documenting the British army on the Western Front during World War I.  Badsey notes that “the Jackson project’s implications for the future of historical documentaries are immense.”

Nora Caplan-Bricker writes in Harper’s Magazine about the Documenting the Now project, the Internet Archive, and the immense complexities and challenges of preserving social media movements and other documentation of our contemporary moment when such content lives solely on the internet.

Bethany Anderson, University Archivist at the University of Virginia, writes in The Conversation about the recent crop of articles on the “discovery” of a “lost” Sylvia Plath story at Indiana University’s Lilly Library.  Anderson notes how the media frequently overlook the fact that such gems can only be “discovered” by researchers because archivists have painstakingly worked to preserve and make them available in the first place – as was the case with Plath’s “new” story, which had in fact been publicly accessible for years thanks to archivists at the Lilly.

Biographer Robert Caro writes in The New Yorker on “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives,” about his early experiences conducting archival research at the LBJ Presidential Library for his now-seminal multivolume biography of the 36th U.S. President, with plenty of references to how archivists were an integral part of his research process.

SAA has launched Archives In Context, a new podcast that highlights “archival literature and technologies, and most importantly, the people behind them.”  The first season, which includes seven episodes, can be listened to on the Archives In Context website, Google Play, Spotify, and iTunes.  We’re excited to dive in!

The International Council on Archives’ Section of Professional Associations will be hosting the second annual Film Festival on Archives and Records Management at the ICA 2019 Annual Conference (October 21-25, Adelaide, South Australia), focusing on the theme of advocacy.  Have you or your institution produced a film that communicates the value of records and archives?  Be sure to submit it for entry to the festival!

Archivist and historian Alyssa Ballard was profiled in the Ukiah Daily Journal on her work at the Mendocino County Historical Society in California.

File this one under “things we find utterly delightful”: The City of Greater Sudbury Archives has created an interactive educational game called Grandma’s Attic to help “teach students of all ages the difference between libraries, museums, and archives.”

Have some interesting archival news items or highlights you’d like us to share?  Email us at archivesaware@archivists.org and we may include it in our next Keeping ArchivesAWARE roundup!

Recap of American Archives Month 2018

American Archives Month, held each October since 2006, gives archivists an opportunity to find creative ways to educate the public about the importance of archives. Many institutions kicked off the month by participating in #AskanArchivist Day on October 3. (Check out the ArchivesAWARE! recap of #AskanArchivist Day 2018 here). Throughout the remainder of the month, events, tours, exhibits, and other programs were held across the country with the goal of highlighting archival collections and their connections to local communities. In this post, we are featuring some of the American Archives Month activities to inspire and inform your plans for next October!

Archives Crawls and Bazaars

Archives Crawls are multi-repository tours that allow participants to visit several institutions throughout a day or month and become acquainted with the range of resources held by local cultural heritage institutions. Similarly, Archives Bazaars or Fairs bring together several institutions into a single space, allowing attendees to learn more about local archival resources.

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Now in it’s third year, the Austin Archives Bazaar was held on October 28 and featured 26 area repositories. The event included a full slate of speakers (podcast hosts, PBS series creators, a PhD candidate, and a community organizer) who discussed how they had used archives in their work. An oral history booth, archival film screening, and a preservation station (where attendees could talk to professionals about the best way to preserve their photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials) were also included in the Bazaar.

The Border Regional Archives Group hosted their second annual Bazaar featuring 22 repositories from southern New Mexico, west Texas, and northern Mexico. Archivists, librarians, and curators were on hand to answer questions, short talks about regional history and genealogy were presented in English and Spanish, and scan stations were provided for digitization of family photographs and documents.

The 13th annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar was held at the University of Southern California and included a full day of workshops and presentations including “Researching L.A. 101” which provided advice on getting started with archival research and a panel discussion with archivists and researchers on how archives can reveal hidden dimensions of California’s past. Archivists were on hand throughout the event to answer questions and talk to attendees about their collections.

Elsewhere in the Golden State, the 8th Annual Sacramento Archives Crawl invited participants to collect stamps on their passport by visiting four host locations (California State Archives, California State Library, Center for Sacramento History, and the Sacramento Public Library). Participants who visited at least three of the stops received a set of limited edition commemorative coasters featuring archival images. Other city or countywide Archives Crawls were held in Portland, San Francisco, and Orange County. In Monmouth County, New Jersey, 63 history-related organizations (including archives, libraries, historical societies, and government agencies) came together for the 23rd annual Archives and History Day.

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 6.39.54 PMChicago Area Archivists presented Chicago Open Archives, a month-long opportunity for the public to visit repositories in the Chicago area. This year, the event was held in conjunction with the Illinois Bicentennial and highlighted items and collections focused on Illinois history. The Newberry Library, Chicago Public Library, the National Association of Realtors Archives, Chicago Film Archives, International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago History Museum, and several area colleges and universities were among the participating institutions.

Lectures and Presentations

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SAA President Meredith Evans with Petrina Jackson, Head of Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University

During American Archives Month, SAA President Meredith Evans spoke at the Ames Rotary and Iowa State University Library for the opening of Congressman Edward Mezvinsky’s Papers. Evans discussed each individual’s social responsibility and participation in the preservation of materials that reflect one’s life and heritage and the complexities and challenges of working with born-digital content.

The Western New York Library Resources Council focused on food throughout the month for their “Harvest of History” themed American Archives Month celebration. Presentations were held at different repositories and discussed how to preserve family recipes and how ingredients and cooking utensils have changed over time. The Council also gathered recipes for their Online Regional Cookbook.

Other Engagement Activities

American Samoa Street Wave

Archivists participate in the 3rd Annual American Samoa Archives Street Wave

On October 19, 50 staff members from the Office of Archives and Records in American Samoa’s Department of Administration Services participated in the 3rd annual Street Wave. Wearing bright Archives Month t-shirts and carrying signs saying “We are Made by History,” “Masina O Fa’amaumauga,” “Celebrate Our Archives Month,” and “Puipui Teuga Pepa,” participants were joined by local politicians in greeting morning commuters in Tafuna. Archivists in American Samoa also sponsored a poster contest for 6th-12th graders on the theme “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” and held a “Night in the Archives” event on October 31.

The South Dakota State Archives hosted a Facebook photo scavenger hunt encouraging people to join in the conversation about local history. The Archives also held a History Trivia Night and an Escape the Archives event.

The Virginia Caucus of MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference) sponsored the REMIX Archival Oddities contest asking participants to use archival images from Virginia institutions in new an interesting ways.

How did your institution participate in American Archives Month? Tell us about it in the comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #ArchivesAWARE!

Archival Ghosts: Spooky Stories from “A Finding Aid to My Soul”

The Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) presented “A Finding Aid To My Soul,” an open-mic storytelling session on August 18 at the COSA/NAGARA/SAA joint meeting. The event was a smashing success, with twelve archivists sharing stories to a packed room that were sad, funny, profound, and even a little scary at times.

SAA and COPA will be sharing recorded audio from a number of the storytellers over the coming months. To kick things off, and in the spirit of the Halloween season, here are a couple of ghost stories shared that evening by Jennifer Overstreet and Terry Baxter.

They are a little spooky and do contain some graphic content, so listener beware.

Jennifer Overstreet, Graduate Student, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives

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October 3rd is Ask An Archivist Day!

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The members of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) get excited when #AskAnArchivist Day comes around. This year’s #AskAnArchivist Day will be Weds, Oct 3. On that day, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist, letting us engage directly with the public about what we do, why it’s important, and of course, to share our “most interesting/bizarre/touching etc., records” stories.

Between now and October 3, we encourage you to promote #AskAnArchivist Day among your users and constituents via your institution’s website, Twitter account, blog, newsletter, and any other mediums available to you. View SAA’s public #AskAnArchivist Day announcement  and feel free to pick up language from it for your own promotions.

COPA’s members have found memes to be a great way to drum up excitement. They’re fun and are easily created through an online meme generator. This is a meme from COPA’s own vault that’s been “repurposed” for this year.

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Starting October 1, follow the official hashtag #AskAnArchivist, on Twitter–we’ll keep sharing our memes up until the big day. We hope to see yours as well.

COPA members are also thinking of questions we can ask throughout the big day, so that we can join the conversation and hear your archival stories.

  • Who’s the most interesting or famous person who’s entered your archives?
  • What was the most difficult item to preserve in your Archives and why?

…so get your answers ready, and be prepared for more questions coming from COPA! We’ll be using an added hashtag, #ArchivesAWARE, to make it easy to follow our questions.

If you plan to participate, please email SAA Editorial and Production Coordinator Abigail Christian with your Twitter handle so we can add you to the 2018 list of participants.

Advocacy and Outreach at the Annual Meeting

Gearing up for the SAA Annual Meeting next week in DC? If you’re looking for opportunities to raise awareness about and advocate for archives, or to learn about innovative outreach initiatives to spark your own outreach efforts, then the annual meeting is definitely the place to be. For the second year, SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) has put together a custom schedule to highlight the wide variety of sessions, meetings, and events that feature outreach- and advocacy-related content. View the schedule here, and be sure to add some of these offerings to your custom schedule! Some highlights include…

Carpe Media! Communications and Media Training for Archivists
This limited-enrollment, full-day workshop during ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 is tailored to archivists and record managers with a goal of instilling in participants the confidence to be better communicators. Workshop leader Jason Steinhauer, who is well-grounded in the unique elements of the archival profession, provides attendees with tips and tools to bolster public outreach; stimulate public interest in archives, history, and the humanities; and implement strategies to reach STEM-driven media and audiences by applying the principles of the emerging field of history communication to your own work. Though enrollment for this workshop is closed, you can look forward to hearing from SAA, COPA, and workshop attendees about the results of the workshop–including a recap post to be published on ArchivesAWARE!

Archives on the Hill Event
Archivists take on Capitol Hill in this advocacy event that begins with orientation and training in the morning and culminates in Hill visits that pair experienced advocates with those who want to learn. Speak up in support of federal funding for archives! For more information on this event, read this post by the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) Chair, Dennis Riley, on the Off the Record blog.

Information Tables
COPA will be joining other SAA appointed groups and related archival organizations at the informational tables on the Mezzanine Level of the conference hotel. Stop by the COPA table to learn about a variety of outreach-related initiatives including the ArchivesAWARE blog, #AskAnArchivst Day (OCTOBER 3, 2018), Federal Funding Impact Stories, and plans for a SAA Speakers’ Bureau, among others.

A Finding Aid to My Soul…
COPA presents “A Finding Aid To My Soul,” an open-mic storytelling session celebrating the diversity and commonality of the archivist experience. Storytellers will have five minutes to share true stories about their unique, moving, serendipitous, mysterious, special, and often humorous encounters in the archives (no props, please). Sign up in advance or during the conference for a chance to share your story, or simply sit back and enjoy the tales of your colleagues in what promises to be an engaging and entertaining event. There will even be a few special guests. A panel of judges selected from the audience will determine the top storytellers and prizes will be awarded. For more information about this new and unique annual meeting event, read last week’s ArchivesAWARE blog post by COPA Chair, Chris Burns.

Know of other outreach- and advocacy-related sessions, events, and general happenings taking place next week that didn’t make our schedule? Tell us in the comments below, or let us know which of these and other annual meeting events you are most looking forward to!