Asserting the Archivist, no. 3

This post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This is the third post in our “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences–“Asserting the Archivist” in outreach for our institutions.

Last week this this tweet from Susie Cummings, a member of NPR’s Research, Archives & Data Strategy team (RAD) caught my attention:

Assuming that NPR RAD’s #TechTuesday Instagram initiative would be an exciting new example of Asserting the Archivist, I went straight over to IG to check out the story–and I was not disappointed! While the main goal of these posts is to share the technologies that make preservation of audio collections possible, the stories make it clear that the staff are integral to this process, bringing essential professional expertise to the table.

Apart from these #TechTuesday postings, the @npr_rad IG account features their staff on a regular basis, sharing interesting details about their work while associating the real people (including their faces, personalities, and background stories) behind job titles such as “Deputy RAD Chief” and “audio reformatting intern.”

We #nprRADsters spend our time researching and reformatting the stories of others, but we also have our own stories to tell! In honor of #AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth we’re sharing a bit about our family, food, language, and identity. 👉 Hi! My name is Susie Cummings. Here at #nprRAD my key areas of work are research, training, and audio reformatting. I was born in South Korea and lived there in a foster home until the stork picked me up and delivered me 🐣to my adopted family in Washington State! Despite what most people think when they see me, I was raised with Norwegian traditions and carry on my grandma’s recipe for #lefse – one of the only people in my family that can make it 🇳🇴. In my early years, my parents explained to me that I was adopted from South Korea. I appreciated that they wanted to make me aware, but I had no idea what that meant until I went to kindergarten and was told that I looked different. It was the first time that I really understood that I was asian. I call this period of my life, the enlightenment💡! Throughout the years, I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful Korean people who have introduced me to my South Korean heritage. Most importantly, they taught me about the FOOD! Japchae-4-Life! 🇰🇷🇺🇸 #nprlife #radAPAHMstories #APAHM #koreanpride #norwegianpride #asianamerican #koreanadoptees #japchae #APAHMstories

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NPR RAD’s enthusiasm for sharing their work and the people who make up their team has helped to gain them broader attention, both within the larger NPR organization and outside. Coverage has included an Inside NPR post titled “Preserving the Past,” and an article in Current, “How NPR’s Research, Archives & Data Strategy team is saving sounds of the past for the future.”

If I haven’t convinced you yet, I strongly encourage you to check out and follow the NPR RAD Instagram and Twitter accounts–not just for the #TechTuesday stories, but for all of their great archives- and, more importantly, archivists-related content!

Did I mention that they are active participants in #AskAnArchivist Day?

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Asserting the Archivist, No. 2

This post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This the second post in our “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences–“Asserting the Archivist” in outreach for our institutions.

In 2014, The Huntington Library created a series of 5 videos–published on Vimeo and shared on their social platforms—that took viewers behind-the-scenes to learn about the work of five staff members who filled different roles in the library. Included in these videos was the archivist, Li Wei.

In less than 3 minutes, Wei communicates multiple key points about what makes archivists unique from librarians and curators, emphasizing the complexity of archival collections and the skills needed to not just organize and catalog large archival collections, but to do so with the aim of facilitating access and discovery.

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Asserting the Archivist, No. 1

Square HeadshotThis post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This is the first post in our new “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

In January 2016, I authored a post for ArchivesAWARE titled “Asserting the Archivist in Archival Outreach: A Case Study and Appeal.” In that post, I described the process by which the Indianapolis Museum of Art Archives staff evolved our approach to social media outreach and took purposeful steps to include–and often, feature–archivists and archival work in posts on a regular basis. In doing so, we introduced our audience of primarily design- and architecture-enthusiasts to the work that goes into preserving the collections that intrigued them, and to the trained professionals who carry out that work.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences. My post in 2016 was not only a case study, but an appeal to encourage more archivists to “Assert the Archivist” in their outreach efforts, and to share favorite examples of archivists and archival work as a featured component in social media outreach, either directly from the archives or as part of social media presence of the organizations/companies/etc for which archivists work.

To keep this dialogue going, I will be sharing some of my favorite examples of Asserting the Archivist, and encourage you to share yours in the comments to my posts, or on Twitter with the hashtags #ArchivesAWARE and #AssertingtheArchivist.

To kick this new blog series off, I’d like to share an excellent example of how an archivist can contribute significantly to their organization’s social media presence and, conversely, how the institutions at which we work can get the message out about our profession to their established audiences. In this scenario, truly everyone benefits!

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard – Archivist Carol Quinn

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard is a business that clearly values their corporate history and the history of their industry, and they regularly convey that through outreach that features their archivist, Carol Quinn. Looking through some of their past posts on Twitter, you will find a number of short videos that show Quinn working in and with their archives, announcements for talks that she has given on various aspects of the corporation and industry history, a blog post Quinn wrote (“Walk a Mile in My Shoes” ) about her role at Irish Distillers, and an article for which she was interviewed about “The Importance of Archiving“–particularly for businesses. The variety in both formats and content of the Irish Distillers’ outreach that features Quinn demonstrates the importance they place on the role that their professional archivist plays within their corporation.

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Asserting the Archivist in Archival Outreach: A Case Study and Appeal

Square Headshot

This post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling,
Archivist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Case Study

In January of 2014 I began my current position as Archivist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. At the time, the IMA Archives was nearly two years into a three-year-long NEH grant to digitize the Miller House and Garden Collection, which documents the design, construction, decoration, and maintenance of the iconic mid-century modern property in Columbus, Indiana. Outreach was built into the project from the beginning, with promotion throughout the life of the grant planned in the narrative. Not only would consistent promotion help to build an audience and keep interest high during the years-long digitization process, but social media outreach would also serve to bolster our fair use claim for sharing archival material created by dozens of third party copyright holders. According to the Association of Research Libraries’ Code of Best Practices and Fair Use:

“The Fair Use case will be stronger when the availability of the material is appropriately publicized to scholars in the field and other persons likely to be especially interested.”

The Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House and Garden Collection Tumblr went live in September 2012 as digitization began. With a highly-visual format embraced by the design, architecture, and special collections communities, Tumblr was the natural choice of social media platforms for Documenting. It is also worth noting here that Tumblr staff fully embrace the GLAM community and promote special collections content and blogs regularly!

By the time that I came in as the IMA’s new Archivist (and Project Manager for the NEH grant), the Tumblr was well-established with a dedicated following that included design, architecture, mid-century modern, and archives/special collections professionals and enthusiasts. As Tumblr had been built into the digitization workflows, there were dozens of draft posts already created and ready to be posted at any time—each featuring at least one digitized item from the Miller House and Garden Collection.

DML Archives Screenshot 1

Screenshot of the Documenting Modern Living Tumblr archive, before “asserting the archivist”

While browsing through the hundreds of draft and published posts to familiarize myself with the Tumblr’s content and established editorial style, I saw rich textile samples, detailed architectural drawings, photographs of the property spanning decades, and correspondence between all parties who worked on and lived in the house and gardens. Though this content had proven to be popular with our audiences for more than a year’s worth of posts, it struck me that there was something conspicuously missing from this project-based Tumblr: archivists and professional archives work.

With many followers from the GLAM community, sharing our set-ups and workflows could make our project an example for the field and help other archivists avoid reinventing the wheel. But more important than this, we were missing an opportunity to introduce our non-GLAM followers to archivists as individuals and as the professionals who preserve and make available the unique collections and items that have captured their attention. It was clear to me that it was time to assert the role of the archivist in our collection-centered outreach.

My pitch at our next departmental meeting emphasized my intent to expand the scope of Documenting Modern Living—to stay true to the main purpose of the blog as a place to share items as digitization progressed, maintaining its editorial style, while adding additional content that would complement THE STUFF.  The first step would be to bring the archivists out of hiding, introducing project staff as people and as professionals in a “Meet the Team” series. The IMA had no security or privacy concerns about featuring staff and their work on social media, so there was no reason to continue obscuring/ignoring the role of the archivists. After all, the collection wasn’t digitizing and creating digital object records for itself.

The initial plan for the expanded scope included posts that shared project workflows and equipment, our professional presentations about the project, and the occasional post exploring archival concepts such as original order and preservation. Within this basic framework, there was room for fluidity and spontaneity, allowing us to take advantage of scheduled happenings (such as Preservation Week and Ask An Archivist Day) and share daily life in the IMA Archives (like the time that a new Miller House-related accession came in or when a curator used the archives to create a Lego Miller House)—all content which brought the archivists and/or professional archives work to the forefront.

DML Archives Screenshot 2

Screenshot of the Documenting Modern Living Tumblr archive, after “asserting the archivist”

The Documenting Modern Living: Digitizing the Miller House and Garden grant was completed in May of 2015, bringing a close to the active life of the project Tumblr. The Documenting Tumblr archive is still available online, and we occasionally post new links and re-blog relevant posts from the general IMA Library & Archives Tumblr. Out of 176 posts created between February 2014 (when we expanded the scope) and May 2015, 23 posts explicitly mentioned or featured archivists and/or archival work (approximately 13% of the Tumblr’s content). While none of these posts went “viral” (used as a relative term here based on our normal level of notes), these posts were much more consistently liked and reblogged by our audience than the item-centric posts, of which multiple received few-to-no notes. Even if our followers came for THE STUFF, it became clear that they were responding positively and interacting consistently when we shared more about ourselves and our work.

The Appeal

What we did by expanding the scope of Documenting Modern Living was not revolutionary (and at 13% of our total content, the new scope was not disruptive of existing Tumblr workflows or editorial style). Many repositories have featured archivists and archival work in their social media outreach, and many more are doing so today than there were a year ago, some on a regular basis. That being said, there is much more room for improvement in how purposeful we are about asserting the role of the archivists and professional archives work into future and existing outreach in all its forms.

It is all too easy to get caught up in featuring the items unique to our repositories in our outreach, especially when our audiences tend to react so enthusiastically to THE STUFF. It is those positive reactions that give us the perfect opportunity to introduce our audiences to archivists and the professional-level work that goes into preserving those collections and making them available. The very existence or creation of an archival outreach program, platform, page, etc. opens up the possibility of raising awareness of our profession, not just of our collections. It is exciting to imagine the collective reach and potential impact if all archivists recognize this possibility and become more purposeful about incorporating archivists and archival work into their repository’s outreach efforts. Dedicating 13% of the Documenting Modern Living Tumblr content to the archival profession may not have had much of an impact outside of the IMA Archives, but a dedicated 13% of outreach from all types of archives, representing every imaginable research interest (and therefore target audiences) has the potential to raise public awareness of archives and archivists in very significant ways.

Stay tuned for future posts on this blog which will feature successful examples of “asserting the archivist” in archival outreach. If you have a favorite example, or want to share your case study of incorporating the profession into your outreach, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!