Federal Funding Impact Story #4

Project: Detroit Institute of Arts Archives Assessment

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Detroit Museum of Art exhibition catalog, 1886.

 

Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Institution: Detroit Institute of Arts
State: Michigan
Congressional District: 13th Michigan Congressional District
Grant Period: June 20, 2016-July 31, 2017
Award Amount: $40,000
Institutional Match Amount: $40,000

Jobs Created:
– 1 PTE 28 hr/wk position for 12 months
– 3 graduate students earning 3 credits each for 5 months of experience

Project Description
Assess and establish intellectual control over a collection of 11,000 linear feet of the museum’s administrative records, dating back to its founding, including 30 years of unprocessed artists’ correspondence, acquisition records, director’s files and curators’ exhibition papers.

What was the need for the grant?
Documents within the DIA’s Research Library and Archives detail pivotal moments in the City of Detroit’s history. Most recently, they described the DIA’s role in the resolution of the City of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. It was the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history both by debt, estimated at $18 billion, and by population, over 700,000 residents. At the time, the DIA was owned by the City of Detroit. It was also the city’s most valuable asset. Following the bankruptcy filing, creditors asked for the sale of DIA art. News agencies predicted the museum would close.

During bankruptcy proceedings, the DIA’s archival records helped save the museum. During the trial, over 180,000 DIA records were digitized for court proceedings. The documents showed that most of the museum’s most important works came from non-City of Detroit support. They were used extensively during the approval of a financial agreement that would come to be known as the “Grand Bargain.”

Unfortunately, like most of the DIA’s archival records, very few of the bankruptcy documents had previously been appraised, accessioned or processed. All such activities stopped thirty years ago, following severe museum-wide budget cuts and the dissolution of the DIA’s archival team. Therefore thirty years of records, including artist correspondence, directors and curators’ papers, and acquisition documents, have not received archival treatment. Many of the museum’s earlier documents, dating back to the late 19th century, have not been processed either.

Following Detroit’s bankruptcy and its resolution, the museum has better financial stability than at any other time in its modern history. With financial stability and a bankruptcy behind it, the DIA has resumed its commitment to its archival activities.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
The holdings survey was the key to understanding the unknowns of the materials currently held in RL&A. The museum is fully committed to making its archives more available and better organized for researchers. The Project Director and DIA Archivist are now able to better strategize future use of the DIA archives upon discovering its full contents. An immediate outcome of the holdings survey is improved access to collection, in particular, those that have been “hidden.” The collections-based reports can subsequently be translated into finding aids and catalog records for better access to the local, national, and international community.

The Project Team synthesized the results of the holdings survey with the input of the Advisory Team. The combined intelligence has been used to strengthen physical and intellectual control over the collection. The holdings survey provided the evidence needed to move forward with making sound decisions for improvements in description and access, prioritizing preservation needs, informing workflows, identifying issues we were not aware of, and plan for future projects (such as a future digitizing project).
Impact 3: To date, 164 collections (approximately 8,000 cases and 4,700 cubic feet) have been identified within the Library Stacks (the library’s book storage area) Archives Stacks, the DIA’s offsite Warehouse, and various other departments within the museum including AV offices and the Photography Department. Materials in each of these locations were inventoried and compiled into a single database for ready reference with rankings to reflect housing quality, physical quality, physical access, intellectual access, and intellectual value. These rankings are to inform and prioritize for future digitization efforts.

Submission by: Danae Dracht, Project Archivist, Detroit Institute of Arts
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Federal Funding Impact Story #3

Project: Documenting Modern Living

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Alexander Girard textile design floor plan, ca. 1956, on the IMA Archives Digital Archives Portal landing page (archive.imamuseum.org)

Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities
Grant Program: Preservation and Access: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
Institution: Indianapolis Museum of Art
State: Indiana
Congressional District: Indiana US District 7
Grant Period: April 2012 – May 2015
Award Amount: $190,000
Institutional Match Amount: $221,000

Jobs Created:
The largest portion of the award received from NEH went to the hiring of two full time employees–one for 18 months, and the other for 24 months.

Project Description
Digitization of the Miller House and Garden Collection, and creation of a Digital Archives Portal for delivery of content.

What was the need for the grant?
The Miller House and Garden Collection documents the design, construction, decoration, and maintenance of the iconic mid-century modern property for over 50 years. When the house and garden were gifted to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, this important archival collection also came to the museum. To assist the IMA in successfully stewarding the home and the many collections materials that came along with it, increased access and better preservation of the archival collection were key. Digitization would solve both needs, and a grant would allow for the purchase of digitization equipment and the hiring of staff to undertake the years-long process.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
This project has allowed for unprecedented access to an important mid-century design collection that documents the legacies of Daniel Urban Kiley, Eero Saarinen, and Alexander Girard. The easy availability of this material has made it possible for the Indianapolis Museum of Art to present the story of the home to the Columbus and broader Indiana  and national communities at a level of detail and accuracy that would not have been possible without the grant award. Perhaps the greatest impact that this project has had is on the country’s future architects, as architecture students from around the country have requested the high-resolution images of the home and landscape architectural drawings to further their studies. Students of interior design have similarly benefited, and will continue to do so for many decades to come.

This grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities has also had a direct impact on the lives of the two full time, temporary employees hired with the grant funds. One has gone on to further the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives as their archivist, and the other was offered a job at a high-profile design company immediately following the grant period as a result of their work on the Documenting Modern Living project.

Submission by: Samantha Norling, Archivist, Indianapolis Museum of Art
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Federal Funding Impact Story #2

Project: Preservation at the Charleston County Records Center

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Granting Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Grant Program: Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions
Institution: Charleston County Government
State: South Carolina
Congressional District: SC 1st Congressional District
Grant Period: January 2016 – June 2017
Award Amount: $6,000

Jobs Created:
1 contract consultant job created

Project Description
Preservation needs assessment conducted by a Lyrasis consultant, along with the purchase of preservation materials to rehouse archival collections.

What was the need for the grant?
Many of the oldest, most valuable records held at the Charleston County Records Center (CCRC) were in need of preservation. Federal grant funds from the NEH aided in beginning the process of developing a preservation program through the preservation needs assessment and provided funds for rehousing materials needed to adequately preserve archival records.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
The project impacted the local citizens of Charleston County by developing a plan to ensure their records and their ancestor’s records are in good condition and accessible in the future. At the national level, this project looked at how to ensure that historical records of research interest will be preserved for future research purposes. The grant also made it possible for CCRC to purchase 150 archival boxes to rehouse historic Clerk of Court records that date pre-1950.

Submission by: Haley Doty Vaden, Records Manager, Charleston County Government

Federal Funding Impact Story #1

Project: Archives, Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance

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Celebration (1934), Copyright, Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Douglas and Bruce Fraser.

Granting Agency: NHPRC (National Historical Publications & Records Commission)
Grant Program: Archives and Records Projects
Institution: Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance
State: New York
Congressional District: NYS 10th Congressional District
Grant Period: Numerous
Award Amount: Various
Institutional Match Amount: 30-50%

Jobs Created:
– Training for recent college graduates in US History, Political Science, Culture, and Literature;
– Full-time positions for Master’s degree recipients in archives management and services.

Project Description
Identification, processing, cataloging of archival records documenting great American choreographers and dancers.

What was the need for the grant?
The work of Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, and Merce Cunningham, several of America’s greatest and iconic choreographers, has been preserved in various archives-related initiatives funded by federal grants from NHPRC, NEH, and NEA. These projects have ensured that generations of American dancers will have the opportunity to learn the works that reflect our culture at its creative best and American citizens of all walks of life will have the opportunity to study how our artistic endeavors reflect what our democracy has nurtured. The archival resources that preserve the fundamentals of our culture continue to   a)fuel employment for dancers, musicians, costume and set designers, teachers of dance; b)ensure shared opportunities for audiences to see and gain knowledge about expressions of American creativity; and c) make it possible for us to show our cultural accomplishments to and build bridges to those from other cultures. All of the foregoing are meaningful, useful, and long-lasting.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
Preservation of and access to documentation and information; enrichment of education of American culture and history; increased opportunities to reach beyond our own cultural borders. The choreography of all three of these great American choreographers now is seen and being taught nationwide (including all 50 states in the United States) and in many communities large and small. In numerous countries worldwide dance, along with music, are recognized as both inspiring and effective ambassadors.  (While the dance company managers have access to specific metrics related to use, educational impact, etc., I do not. Full-time positions were necessary to achieving preservation of these archival assets and access to the information and resources for the duration of the grants.  Subsequently, archivists continue to be employed to manage the archives and help others use them.

Submission by: Linda Edgerly, Director, Information & Archival Services, The Winthrop Group
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Share Your Federal Funding Impact Story!

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On Thursday, March 16, 2017, President Trump sent an outline of his proposed FY 2018 budget to Congress, to be followed by a more detailed proposal in the spring. The budget, known as “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” proposes a $54 billion increase in defense and public safety spending that is offset by equivalent cuts in discretionary non-defense programs. Included in those cuts are reductions in, or the total elimination of, funding for federal agencies with a history of supporting cultural heritage organizations and projects.

Share Your Story!

The proposed budget eliminates funding for the following agencies with a history of supporting archival and other cultural heritage projects:

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

The proposed budgets for other agencies with archives-related programs have not yet been released. These include:

  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
  • Library of Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution

Although this budget originating from the Oval Office is only a proposal, with Congress ultimately controlling appropriations, this proposal serves as a reminder to cultural heritage professionals in archives, libraries, and museums that it is always important to advocate for our institutions and those sources of funding that are so crucial to the work that we do.

During the lengthy appropriations process to come in the House and Senate, we should focus our advocacy efforts on the appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the programs that affect SAA members and the institutions that employ them. By sharing examples of the positive impact of federal funding for the arts and humanities with representatives in both the House and Senate, we as a profession can hope to affect the decisions made regarding these federal funding agencies.

As archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, we know how our collections, institutions, and local communities have benefited from grant funding from these federal agencies. We collect statistics about the work we accomplish under these grants, but we also know that the impact goes far beyond numbers alone.

Consider: Did your federal grant-funded project empower K–12 educators to teach with primary sources, connect family members through genealogical records, or inspire a community art project?  Did a federal grant enable your institution to create jobs, contract with an external vendor, or carry out a project that had a fiscal impact on your institution? It is these stories of direct impact, whether personal or fiscal, and at all levels–within your institution, your local community, or even on a national scale–that speak to the true value of federal grant funding for the arts and humanities.

Personal impact is powerful. Please share the details of your federally funded project and the story of its impact. Access the online submission form at the following link:

Share Your Story!

Submitted stories will be published online by the SAA Committee on Public Awareness, and promoted by the Society of American Archivists through their website and social media channels. We hope to gather stories representing all types of archival repositories, and in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, so please consider sharing your story–no impact is too small when it comes to advocating for federal support for the arts and humanities! Please check back regularly to ArchivesAWARE and the main landing page for the Federal Funding Impact Story initiative on the SAA website to read and share stories of impact.

NEH        NHPRC

IMLS

NEA

Header image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An Interview with the lead authors of “Recommendations on Federal Archives and Records Management Issues” for the Trump Transition Team

 

In December, a document outlining Recommendations on Federal Archives and Records Management Issues was submitted to the Trump Presidential Transition Team by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The document was authored by the CoSA/NAGARA/SAA/RAAC Joint Working Group on Issues and Awareness. Chris Burns, SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) representative to the Joint Working Group, interviewed three of the primary authors of this document, Jim Corridan (Indiana Archives & Records Administration), Dennis Riley (New York State Archives), and Barbara Teague (Kentucky State Archives, retired), to talk about the document and its importance as a policy, advocacy, education, and awareness tool.

 

Where did the idea of this document come from? Have there been similar efforts in the past?

Barbara Teague: – There was a jointly authored transition document in 2008, that was primarily focused on criteria for a new Archivist of the United States but also addressed other issues of importance. Back then there was a  meeting of  CoSA, NAGARA, SAA representatives with two people from the Obama transition team. This year, Dennis Riley and Kathleen Roe did an initial draft , starting from that 2008 document. However, some of the issues in the 2008 document were focused on issues in the Bush  administration.

Dennis Riley: We started with the 2008 position paper and tried to reframe it and make it more applicable to 2016. We looked at SAA issue briefs and joint statements from the Joint Working Group that had been released and picked out issues that might fit here. We put a lot into the first draft, and then the group edited it down. Funding issues are perennial issues, so those were easy to put into the draft. We took a broad approach in the initial draft.

Jim Corridan: NARA has caught up on declassification in a big way since 2008. Great strides were made in many ways in the last 8 years. Records management compliance and statutory responsibility continue to show improvement, so we didn’t have to talk about this as much as in 2008.

Dennis: The 2008 document focused on specific problems. The 2016 one is a broader approach, addressing common issues that any administration should be aware of: adequate funding, adequate resources for NARA/NHPRC, etc., the necessity of good record keeping by public officials. It is less about legacy issues from the previous administration.

Jim: A new issue was the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). SAA has opposed the copyright provision in the TPP, so  we included that, as well as the importance of government officials using government email to do government business.

 

Why was it important to write this and pass it on to the Trump transition team?

Barbara: It wasn’t requested, because transition teams look at the big agencies, they don’t necessarily look at archives issues. It is always a good idea to take the chance to emphasize the importance of archives and records management in government.  With this administration, there are going to be a lot of people who hadn’t been in government before. The goal was to make ourselves and our expertise available.

Jim: It is an education piece as well as policy, to assist those new to office in understanding the role of government records

Dennis: No one else is going to speak on behalf of these issues if archivists do not. As a government archivist, I believe the foundation of good government begins with good records and archival practice. How many officials at all levels keep getting tripped up by poor email habits? This is an opportunity to educate those in government or coming into government  about their responsibilities. We, as representatives of archival agencies, have a responsibility to say something, and to say it often. Other lobbying groups are pushing their agendas, we need to push ours.

Barbara: It is an advocacy and awareness tool. It has been published on all our websites,  as well as passed along to the transition team. We are also planning to share it widely, as  part of a greater conversation about how government  record keeping is central to our democracy.

 

What is the value of having the document come from all four organizations?

Dennis: The more consensus we have as professional representatives, the better. Agreement that these are the core issues that are important and important to our members adds weight to the final product.

Barbara: It comes out of our joint working group, having more statements come through that group helps gets all of the organizations on the same page, thinking about common issues. The group is only three years old, and we are still learning our role as a group, when to do a joint statement and when to do a statement  from an individual organization.

 

How did you make decisions about what to include in the document?

Jim: Dennis did a great job of starting with that 2008 version that we sent to the Obama Transition Team. We added current issues and other things that were missing, and deleted information that was no longer relevant, as we refined the the document. We benefited from input from our Joint Working Group, as well as the CoSA and NAGARA boards, SAA Council, and the RAAC Steering Committee.

Dennis: There was some difficulty discovering relevant background information that was available online, whether it has to do with funding (what are the challenges), or declassification (what is the status).

Jim: At one point, there were two sections that were extraordinarily long. We had to think about  the audience, not as archivists. A transition team member or transition staffer who may not make it through the first page is the likely audience.

Barbara: The Joint Working Group group is fairly new, and we learn a little more with each new document. We will come out of this most recent joint statement with a more clearly defined process for working more quickly on completing joint statements.

Dennis: This was an opportunity for the organizations to figure out how to communicate in a cooperative way.

Barbara: RAAC (Regional Archival Associations Consortium) brought a new perspective, as a recent addition to the Joint Working Group

 

What are a few of the highlights?

Dennis: The Executive Summary was more of a CoSA product. The original draft of the Executive Summary had a couple of bullet points but came back from CoSA in a less rough state.

Jim: In it, we succinctly say what we’re hoping to accomplish. Set the premise for each of the things we think are important.

Barbara: If something did pique their interest, there is a table of contents, so they could quickly get to that section.

 

What do you think a document like this can accomplish?

Jim: Educating the transition team and advisers. Maybe more importantly, we intend to send this to the Congressional committees that have oversight over NARA. It might prompt some support for particular issues. It will be more broadly utilized.

Dennis: This is just the beginning of making use of  this document. It’s a public policy agenda for the next four years. These are the important issues. We should exercise the voice that we have. If we don’t speak up, we definitely won’t have an impact.

Jim: It is important to try to set a positive and proactive agenda with the administration.

Barbara: We always need to educate any President that’s coming in. Not all of our members are familiar with these issues, so this is a good education tool showing concerns and positions to all members of these organizations that they can use as needed. Any archivist around the country can use this in discussing public policy issues

Dennis: We started the drafting process a month before the election.

Jim: The only substantive change was that it was addressed to Trump and not Clinton. We see this as a constructive engagement with the administration.

 

Since this blog is focused on raising the awareness of archives, how do you think this document does that and could it serve as a model for communicating about archival priorities in other settings?

Barbara: It is a really good model for state government, I doubt most state archivists  use a written transition briefing when a new governor is elected. We generally have meetings, and focus more on face to face, as opposed to sending something written, since we have access to state officials. State and local governments could use this as a model, to get important government issues before newly elected officials.

Dennis: This sets a tradition, since we have done this formally for two transitions now, in 2008 and 2016. It lay groundwork and expectation that this is what we as professional organizations need to do. It is an opportunity to engage with elected officials and to ensure that archival and records management issues don’t get lost in the transition. It is also an example of what our group members could be doing with elections at every level. How are we, as individual members, engaging our elected officials? Do I as an individual member feel empowered to send this to my newly elected representative? We are organizations of members. As such, members need to feel empowered to use this product to engage with their representatives.

Barbara: We didn’t do much with the 2008 document. We could use this as a tracking document to see how things are progressing, to follow the archives and records management agenda

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Barbara: Nancy Beaumont is the one who pulled the document together at the end. She never lets us compliment her (don’t let her edit out a compliment again!), but she does a great job keeping everyone on track, while helping us keep the big picture in mind.