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

OverstreetJennifer.jpg large

Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives

BaxterTerry

Recap of “Carpe Media! Communications and Media Training for Archivists” Workshop at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018

In this post, authors Vince Lee and Rachel Seale, members of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA), share their impressions from attending the COPA-sponsored “Carpe Media! Communications and Media Training for Archivists” workshop at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018.

Workshop facilitator Jason Steinhauer role-playing with an attendee. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Carpe Media! Communications and Media Training for Archivists” was a day long workshop put together by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) and facilitated by Jason Steinhauer at Archives*Records 2018. This workshop offered archivists the necessary tools and confidence to be better communicators on their profession and organization to a wide variety of audiences. Many of us were forced out of our comfort zones to participate in activities that helped focus our message about archives, in general, and specific messages to our respective stakeholders and users, in particular.

COPA worked with SAA Executive Director, Nancy Beaumont, and Director of Publishing, Teresa Brinati, to bring this professional development opportunity to SAA members. Communicating effectively to the media or on social media is something most archivists have learned on the job and many of us would still like to develop these skills.  Reasons for attending the training and what they hoped to get out of it were articulated at the beginning of the session during introductions between Jason and the attendees:

  • Tools to raise awareness of what they do and the collections they have to the general public
  • Make communications more interesting and impactful to targeted audience
  • Communicate more strategically
  • Awareness and advocacy targeted to grass roots audience on why archivists and their organizations need additional resources/facilities to house and process their collections
  • Donor communications and bridging perceptions on archivists and our roles
  • Awareness and community outreach to potential donors
  • Get “buy-in” from organizational leadership for additional resources
  • Communicating history and heritage to internal stakeholders

    Leadership slide from workshop. Photo courtesy of Teresa Brinati.

Takeaways

  • Be concise and consistent.
  • Social media slide from workshop. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

    Be repetitive, don’t assume people are going to see your one Tweet amidst the 500 million other Tweets that day.

  • You have customers and users. Tailor your message to each group.
  • Your brand is a promise to deliver something to your customers and also how you are perceived.
  • Resist the temptation to be clever.
  • Stick to the message, don’t be cute or snarky or that’s what the journalist may cut out of context and use in their piece.
  • Choose the platform/s that is most used by your customers and users. Don’t know which platform? Survey!
  • Always be connected (ABC)-think about who you are connecting to and with and what message your audience wants/expects to receive.

List of “our words” that we can use to communicate what an archives is to an external audience. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Jason pointing to our “words” to describe what an Archives means to each of us. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Attendees from the workshop came away with a newfound appreciation that words matter and time is short. The words we use to tell our stories about ourselves, our profession, and the organizations we work for must come from us in order to be authentic and resonate to those we are trying to communicate to. We all have a limited amount of time and space to get our point across. We need to think of the essence of the thing without the whole thing. What is the essence of archives? It’s important to strip and distill what an archives is down for our audience in digestible chunks. The essence of archives is about the words we choose to describe ourselves and our profession. It’s important that we incorporate and use our words in conversations with donors, media, and our customers on a consistent basis.

At the end attendees had the opportunity to practice what they have learned in a one-on-one role-play exercise with Jason on various scenarios and situations they may find themselves in- whether it is interviewing in front of a camera, requesting more funding from an administrator or donor, or requesting additional resources in support of a project. Attendees would then receive feedback on their performance from both Jason and their peers.

Group photo of attendees. Photo courtesy of Teresa Brinati.

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!

A Finding Aid to My Soul: An Archivist Storytelling Event

The Committee on Public Awareness (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).

Featured Storytellers

  • Terry Baxter, Multnomah County Archives – Encountering ghosts in the archives.
  • Krista Ferrante, MITRE – Job interviews are tough but interviewing while 9 months pregnant is torture.
  • Virginia Hunt, Harvard University Archives – The ten things they don’t teach you in graduate school all learned in one particularly strange donor experience.
  • Petrina Jackson, Iowa State Special Collections and University Archives – My encounter with a burnt cross, and how this item had a personal, visceral impact on me.
  • Elizabeth Myers, Smith College Special Collections – A tragic love story set amongst the Communist Party and World War II.

A Chance to Tell Your Story:

Five additional storytellers will be selected at the performance. Contact Chris Burns at chris.burns@uvm.edu in advance or sign up at the event for a chance to share your story.

Serve as a Judge:

Three teams of judges will be selected from volunteers in the audience to determine the top storytellers. Prizes will be awarded. Contestants will be judged on sticking to the five-minute time frame, making the archivist central to the story, and having a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Sit Back and Enjoy the Show:

Come hear the tales of your colleagues in what promises to be an engaging and entertaining event.

Friday August 17, 2018 8:00pm – 10:00pm
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Virginia AB
Cash Bar

You won’t want to miss “A Finding Aid To My Soul”!

As a teaser, here are a few stories from The Moth (featuring respectively a library card, thoughts on memory, and a letter from Iggy Pop) to give you a flavor of what this format looks and sounds like and some examples to aspire to.

Marvin Gelfand: Liberty Card

 

Wendy Suzuki: Saying ‘I Love You’

 

Ameera Chowdhury: School Night

 

A COPA Guide to SAA 2017

Capture

Just one month to go until the annual conference in Portland!  As you plan your conference schedule, take a look at the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA)’s guide to all things public awareness-related at SAA 2017: https://archives2017.sched.com/committeeonpublicawareness.

To make it even more digestible, we’ve broken down the Sched list into the top 5 things you should check out.

1.) Be sure to catch our 2nd annual Advocacy Forum on Thursday at noon!  Our timely topic is “Archival Advocacy and Awareness Amid Social/Political Upheaval.”  This talk will be moderated by COPA chair Sami Norling and the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) chair Dennis Riley.

2.) Chat with us during our COPA office hours in the Exhibit Hall on Friday.  We’ll be there from 8 – 8:30 am and 12:30 – 1:30 pm.  We’ll be collecting your Federal Funding Impact Stories, ideas for Ask An Archivist Day 2017 (October 4, 2017), nominations for inspirational archives speakers and stellar collections, and soliciting contributions to this very blog!

3.) Still not sure what COPA does?  If you arrive early, join us for our meeting on Wednesday at 2:00 pm.

4.) Staying late?  Take advantage of all of The Liberated Archive sessions, happening throughout the day on Saturday.

5.) Finally, look at all of that green in the middle of our schedule.  There are so many great sessions highlighting archival outreach to the community this year.  You’re sure to find one which fits your particular public outreach interest.

See you in Portland!

Live Blogging from RAO Marketplace of Ideas, Group 3

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we are not only encouraging attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but are also experimenting in LIVE BLOGGING–RIGHT NOW.

Group 3

Group 3

We are asking groups of Marketplace shoppers some outreach-related questions to get discussions going, and below are some of the responses we are getting LIVE:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

    • Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. Outreach resides with the Museum. Tumblr blog for Library. Has 13,000 followers to date. Have a big following among tattoo artists, who like illustrations. Interact with them through Tumblr. Also have a First Friday program with pop-up exhibits.

      Othermalia

      Othermalia

    • Temple University. Cookbooks, do a potluck with older recipes. People come in and find recipes from a selection of cookbooks.
    • Stanford. History of Information class. Students had to make recipes.
    • Go to. Tufts – Alumni events around commencement..Bring a button maker featuring Jumbo the elephant. Flooded with activity. New series of Tufts traditions.
Tufts button maker and buttons.

Tufts button maker and buttons.

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

3. That being said, what have been some of your outreach fails?

4. Who do you consider an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

Live Blogging from RAO Marketplace of Ideas, Group 2

The SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is excited to be joining this year’s purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section Marketplace of Ideas at the 2016 Annual Meeting. In the spirit of trying new avenues for outreach, we are not only encouraging attendees to live tweet with #ArchivesAWARE, but are also experimenting in LIVE BLOGGING–RIGHT NOW.

Group2

We are asking groups of Marketplace shoppers some outreach-related questions to get discussions going, and below are some of the responses we are getting LIVE:

1. What was the best new outreach initiative you’ve tried? If not new, what is your go-to for archival outreach?

  • Chicago. Open Archives Day. Did a tour on a day when enrollment management was doing tours. Got middle school children in to see archives.
  • MIT. Centennial of move from Boston to Cambridge. Made a coloring book and had crayon packets. Hands out at cookouts on campus with children, hands them out at commencement.
  • Arlington, Virginia. Lobby displays in the public library. Took a colorful business postcard and turned it into a puzzle. Have now made five of them. 48-piece puzzle. Adults and children both like it, serves as a conversation starter. About $60 to make one.
  • Library of Virginia. 2 year anniversary of transcribe program. Have programs once a month to have people come in to transcribe. Get a diverse audience of transcribers. Just did a Facebook post on two-year anniversary.
  • Go-to and a fail – inexpensive banners. Picture and a paragraph. Can bring them to different events. Have brought them to County Fairs with someone there to talk about posters, but people didn’t really engage. Over-reliance on go-to activity.
  • Go-to. Behind the scenes tour at the Corning Glass Library. Can be a lot of traffic. Looking at a virtual tour option.
  • Library of Congress. Have users tweet. Give them hashtags.
  • Social Media is a go to.
  • Exhibits and public programs are go tos.
  • Meet-ups at the Library of Congress have been successful, in-person and online.
  • Flicker feed has gotten a lot of people talking about collections and providing information

2. How do you measure success for outreach activities? What are your benchmarks?

  • Statistics. Best performing posts, traffic and interactions.
  • In the case of the puzzle, people continue to use it.
  • Very little setting of benchmarks before events.
  • Measuring the impact by gathering feedback through conversations.

3. That being said, what have been some of your outreach fails?

4. Who do you consider an outreach superstar (not just archives!)

  • Corning Glass Museum.
  • University of Iowa Special Collections social media, especially Tumblr and YouTube.
  • Austin Archives Bazaar.