Houston Archives Bazaar 2019

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Vince Lee

This post was authored by guest contributor Vince Lee, Archivist at the University of Houston, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

The second biennial Houston Archives Bazaar was hosted at the White Oak Music Hall on November 14, 2019. Over 22 organizations representing local, regional, and state institutions participated in the Bazaar: 

 

Sandwich sign with graphic on top three quarters of sign than text below that says "It's Free! Sunday, Nov. 17, 201- - 10 a.m. – 2.pm. Houston Archives Bazaar"

Houston Archives Bazaar Poster directing visitors to the event (Photo Courtesy of Vince Lee)

Exterior view of building on street corner, partial text of building name shown.

White Oak Music Hall-site of the Houston Archives Bazaar (Photo courtesy of Vince Lee)

Visitors and attendees to the Bazaar were greeted at the door where they would sign in, fill out a name tag, and get their passports from the registration table. From there visitors were encouraged to visit as many tables within the Bazaar and take part in activities. They would present their passports at each table where they would be stamped. At the end of touring the Bazaar visitors take their stamped passports to get free swag such as a Houston Archives Bazaar (HAB) tote bags, pencils, pins, and other ephemera.  No self respecting visitor or archivist attending a Bazaar would want to leave empty handed, and as archivists we all love free stuff!

Person with hair in bun with glasses standing behind table with purple table cloth with name tags, folders, booklets, and next to sign that says "Claim Prizes & HAB Swag Here!" Adjacent table with purple table cloth and 4 people standing behind it on right.

Registration Table for the Houston Archives Bazaar (photo courtesy of Vince Lee)

What sorts of visitors can you expect to find at an Archives Bazaar? From my own personal experience of visitors at our table (University of Houston Special Collections), I ran across genealogists looking for additional resources to track down family history, students at area colleges and universities looking for potential research projects,  high school teachers and administrators seeking potential topics and primary source materials for research for their students as well as seeking potential collaborations with area repositories for field trips and tours. There were heavy users of archives such as researchers looking for news-clippings and audio-visual clips to bolster their research, advocates of archives from the Houston community such as artists, historians, and donors looking to find a home for their materials.

In short there were a wide variety of folks that came out to visit the Houston Archives Bazaar for a variety of reasons and interests. The Houston Archives Bazaar truly was a gathering place of activity that reflected the different constituencies that archives and archivists serve each and every day. As if that wasn’t enough it was a free event  and open to the public!

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Display materials representing the various collecting areas of the University of Houston Libraries-Special Collection (Photo Courtesy of Vince Lee)

In addition to the tables which showcased collection materials of each of the participating repositories, attendees had an opportunity to contribute to a time capsule-they could write a short note or letter to themselves in the future, deposit an item or artifact, and doodle or draw something to someone in the future. There was also an oral history booth that did short 15-minute recordings for attendees wishing  to contribute their memories and stories of Houston — whether it was growing up in Houston, going to school here, or a memory of a neighborhood or area and how Houston has changed.

People standing around sign that says "Oral History Storytelling" and table with clipboards on it.

Oral History Storytelling Booth (Photo courtesy of Vince Lee)

Close up of brown box with sticky note with "Time Capsule" written on it, sitting on table with purple table cloth.

Time Capsule for deposited materials (Photo courtesy of Vince Lee)

Two people sitting behind table with purple table cloth with standing sign that says "Houston Time Capsule" standing to the left, person in front of table sitting and engaging.

Houston Time Capsule Booth (Photo Courtesy of Vince Lee)

The 2019 Houston Archives Bazaar for me represented a unique opportunity in which archives and archivists come together not only in engaging with the public with our material holdings and explain what we do as archivists, but it is also an opportunity to take stock of the existing relationships we have with one another as institutions and fellow archivists, not to mention the potential new relationships forged through  the community we serve. That’s something we all can be thankful for this holiday season. 

Have some interesting archival or special collections outreach event or highlights you’d like us to share?  Email us at archivesaware@archivists.org !

Escape the Room… With Archives!

Solve the puzzles and celebrate your victory! Stay locked in and seethe (you were this close)!

If you’ve ever tried your luck at an escape room, you know the thrill of working to make sense of clues that will let you unlock the door and make your escape. But the one thing that might have made your escape experience even better? Archives! What if you could bring this special thrill to your archives’ patrons,  while introducing them to your collections and resources?  How would you go about it?

Laura Weakly

Laura Weakly, Metadata and Encoding Specialist at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, combined archives and escape rooms by organizing an event for students in Fall 2017 using clues rooted in Nebraska history. In the following interview with COPA member Caryn Radick, Digital Archivist at Rutgers University Libraries, Weakly discusses how the event was organized and offers tips for would-be room designers.

CR: Why did you decide to do an escape room?

LW: The escape room was part of a campus wide welcome event for new and returning students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for Fall semester 2017. The room was located in C. Y. Thompson Library on UNL’s East Campus. The idea was to draw students into the library and familiarize them with library resources in a fun way. The escape room was the brainchild of librarians Jennifer Thoegersen and Erica DeFrain. In 2015, Jenny and her husband Rasmus Thoegersen, who was then director of libraries in Nebraska City, had created an escape room as a children’s event at the Morton-James Public Library.

CR: Who was involved and how did it work?

LW: Besides Erica and Jenny, the project team consisted of 10 employees of the UNL Libraries who created games and set up the room. The team split into groups to create a storyline, come up with the puzzles, develop graphics, and devise the rules for gameplay. Thirteen others tested the room once it was set up to ensure that the puzzles were set up properly, explained well, and solvable. After testing, some of the games were modified to make them easier and to give more detailed instructions before the students began playing. The game consisted of three puzzles which had to be solved in the allotted 20 minute time period. The answers to the puzzles led to a code that then needed to be entered into a “Time Machine” — a skinned Raspberry Pi computer.

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CR: How did you choose which stories you wanted to feature?

Newspaper column featuring cattle brands

LW: The storyline we created was a time machine that would take the players back in the history of the campus to events that did or could have occurred on the campus. Players would then need to use library resources strategically placed in the room to help them solve the puzzles and return to the present time. UNL’s East Campus is home to the International Quilt Study Center and so one puzzle focused on using print resources to solve a quilt-based riddle. Another puzzle centered on the Larsen Tractor Test Museum and photographs of historic tractors found in our Image and Multimedia Collections. The puzzle that my group created was focused on historic Nebraska newspapers digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program and found on Chronicling America and Nebraska Newspapers. I remembered from when we were performing collation that one of the papers, the Valentine Democrat, featured pages and pages of cattle brands. Our puzzle then centered on a supposed  escape of cattle on East Campus, which is home to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. We planted some “Fake News” about the escape in an edition of our campus newspaper The Daily Nebraskan. Players then had to read the story,  find the relevant brands in the Valentine Democrat, and then find the brands on tiny plastic toy cows. The toy cows had the brand on one side and a number on the other. The numbers were the answer to the puzzle.

Toy cows help solve the puzzle

CR: What was the response (how many students and what were their reactions)? Also, what was the fastest time the mystery was solved in?

LW: Ten teams of 3-6 students played the room. Six teams successfully escaped. The fastest time, recorded by the only team with just 3 players, escaped in the time of 11:33. Even the teams that didn’t escape said that is was really fun and that they enjoyed playing it.

CR:  What advice would you give to others thinking about setting up an escape room? Will you do another one?

LW: Having a good storyline and creating puzzles that go along with the story make a really great escape room. Testing and leaving enough time between groups to reset the room are also important. But mostly the room was about giving students an opportunity to go to the library just to have fun. We have already been talking about another escape room or rooms for the upcoming academic year, including possibly one in our new Learning Commons.

A Bazaar by any other name is still…(an event)?

This post was authored by guest contributor Vince Lee, Archivist at the University of Houston, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

As we wrapped up our inaugural Houston Archives Bazaar in September of this year, I was curious to see what others were doing all around the country and in their region. What did they call their events? The Houston Archives Bazaar took inspiration, and if we’re honest, help from the Austin Archives Bazaar and the folks who helped create and run it. They were very generous in sharing their time, knowledge, and experience of the planning and logistics that went into hosting the event.

Image Credit: Austin Archives Bazaar Org

The Austin Archives Bazaar was started by Archivists of Central Texas in 2014. “We were initially inspired by the LA Archives Bazaar and the Portland Archives Crawl, but have since learned of other institution-independent collaborative outreach events which also predate the Austin Bazaar,” said Jennifer Hecker, one of the cofounders. Jennifer is joined by Daniel Alonzo, Madeline Moya, Molly Hults, and Kristy Sorenson as the other cofounders of the group. To date the Austin Archives Bazaar has hosted two events in 2014 and 2016 and are currently in the planning for their third in 2018.

Image Credit: Oklahoma Archivists Association

Looking around the Southwest region, another newcomer to the scene is the Oklahoma Archives Bazaar. In partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society, they just held their inaugural Bazaar back on October 28 during American Archives Month. Not unlike our Houston Bazaar, they also featured door prizes, an oral history booth, self-archiving workshops, and presentations by archivists as well as historians.  The Bazaar was organized by the Oklahoma Archivists Association (OAA), a group of local professional archivists dedicated to providing education and networking for archives professionals, record-keepers, and students in the area.

Poster of the 2016 Oregon Archives Crawl (Image Credit: Kylie Thalhofer)

The Oregon Archives Crawl was established in 2008 and has been hosted every other year by a group of volunteers in the month of October. As the name suggests, rather than having all activities and events at one venue or under one roof, attendees are encouraged to visit and “crawl” between the Portland Archives and Records Center, the Multnomah County Central Library, and Oregon Historical Society. Much like a pub crawl, the benefits are that it allows visitors to sample and get a flavor for each of the venues in their natural settings, while at the same time they can pick and choose activities offered at each site, and also they can get a sneak peek or tour behind the scenes at each repository.

Perhaps the Granddaddy of all Archives Bazaars goes to? Survey says…. Los Angeles (LA) Archives Bazaar! Established in 2006, the LA Archives Bazaar has often been the genesis and inspiration for other Archival Bazaars that have sprung up around the country. Hosted annually by USC Libraries and LA as Subject (an alliance of libraries, museums, and other archival and cultural institutions), the event has been at the Doheny Memorial Library on the campus of the University of Southern California. Their motto to visitors has simply been, “All Day. All in One Place”. The goal is to share the rich and diverse histories that make up Southern California. Participants at the event have included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles Public Library to private collectors. Visitors will also get to meet with exhibitors, attend programs, and workshops throughout the day.  (Bonus: check out this time-lapse video of the LA Archives Bazaar!)

LA Archives Bazaar at the Doheny Memorial Library (Photo Credit: Rich Schmitt)

2016 Vermont History Expo (Image Credit: Daryl Storrs)

But wait just a minute here. Although not technically a Bazaar and according to their website it is now defunct, the Vermont History Expo was started in 2000 as a result of expanding upon the success of the Vermont Heritage Weekend that was hosted in 1999. Throughout the next 16 years, thirteen expos would be hosted at the Vermont Historical Society until 2016. During that time expos would feature heritage exhibits, children’s activities, historical reenactments, performers, authors, and historical presentations that focused on different themes throughout Vermont’s history. There was literally something for everyone and every interest.

It seems up for debate as to when the concept of the Archives Bazaar, Crawl, or Expo started, and which one is the oldest, depending on the criteria one uses.  What isn’t debatable is that each of these events, regardless of their names, serves to promote the importance of documenting local/state/regional history and raising awareness of the various repositories that exist, whether they be archives, libraries, museums, or cultural institutions, in preserving that history. It also raises awareness of the ongoing and important work that we as archival professionals do within our regions and locales.

We would love to hear from others on the creative lexicon of terms you’ve encountered to title an archival event!

The National Women’s Conference: Taking 1977 into the 21st Century

This post was authored by guest contributor Vince Lee, Archivist at the University of Houston, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

 

The National Women’s Conference: Taking 1977 into the 21st Century, November 6-7, 2017

Although the  conference marking the 40th Anniversary of the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference has come and gone, many of its memories, the impact of the sessions, and the camaraderie and interactions of the attendees, who for some was a reunion of sorts, are something all will take back with them from their two days at the University of Houston. The event marked a collaborative partnership between UH’s Center for Public History, the Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, UH Libraries and Special Collections, Houston Public Media, and other partners and donors across campus. Many of the volunteers present over the past two days at registration and the information tables were UH students, staff, and faculty who generously volunteered their time to answer questions, provide direction, record oral histories, and troubleshoot problems to ensure a successful conference experience for attendees.

Conference signage. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Conference registration table. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Oral History Commons

One of the highlights of the two-day conference was the oral history commons that was setup in Special Collections.  Interested participants could drop in or schedule in advance a short ten-minute StoryCorp style interview recorded by a team of graduate students from the Center for Public History. Interviewees were encouraged to talk about their experiences of the 1977 National Women’s Conference. As a result we were able to capture conversations from attendees and original delegates that were there at the 1977 conference.  Once all the footage is compiled we will provide access to the oral histories on the UH Digital Library site.

Oral History Commons at the conference. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Student-Curated Exhibit

The conference provided a venue and an opportunity to unveil the opening of the student-curated exhibit for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, entitled Spirit of Houston: A Retrospective 40 Years in the Making. As part of a class project this past spring, students from the course, Issues in Feminist Research selected materials from the Marjorie Randal National Women’s Conference Collection. Materials selected would relate to the five themes each student group were working on for each of the five exhibit cases, namely: Origins, Preparing for the Conference, 4 Days at the Conference, Controversies and Challenges, and Impact of the National Women’s Conference. Students were recognized for their contributions to the exhibit at a reception given by the library on the final day of the event. As an added bonus, I was able to have my picture taken in front of the exhibit with Peggy Kokernot Kaplan, one of the original runners and torch bearers to the 1977 National Women’s Conference.

Students with their professor in front of the student-curated exhibit. Photo courtesy of Regina Vitolo.

 

Peggy Kokernot Kaplan with Vince Lee in front of the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Collaboration and Partnership

In collaboration and partnership with the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI), TAMI and UH Special Collections offered a free film and video digitization program to attendees who brought in footage they had on the 1977 National Women’s Conference. Formats that we could accept included VHS, Betamax, Umatics, and mini DV tapes as well as 8 or 16 mm film. Owners of the footage would complete a loan/use agreement form with the deposit of the media.  In exchange TAMI and UH Libraries would inventory the film and videotape, provide minor cleaning and repairs if necessary, and digitize the materials. Originals would then be returned to the owners, along with the digitized files- transferred to an external hard drive provided by the owner or, for smaller collections, onto DVDs or a 2GB thumb drive provided by UH Libraries.

Texas Archive of the Moving Image station at the Conference. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon and Tours

A full day (9-5) Wikipedia edit-a-thon was offered where interested participants could drop into one of the computer classrooms, learn how to contribute entries to Wikipedia, and start working on entries to help raise awareness and representation of women and feminist topics through the addition of their articles and entries. Other attendees took advantage of tours offered of the Carey Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection to learn more about the collections that are housed there in addition to a tour of the exhibit given by student curators.

Student-curated exhibit.
Photo courtesy of Regina Vitolo.

Sissy and Sarah

Throughout the two-day conference there were panels and sessions offered on a wide range of topics touching on “Feminism and Conservatism”, Mixed Outcomes of the 77 Conference, to “Art, Activism, and Artists” and “Invisible Minority Women”. The culmination of the conference was a Roundtable Discussion given by Frances “Sissy” Farenthold and Sarah Weddington and moderated by Dr. Nancy Young. Their discussion for the evening would focus on the topic of Women, Politics, and the Law. They provided their recollections of the 1977 conference and what they have learned, the political ramifications both in front of and behind the scenes, and taking stock of the current political climate for women and where we go from here with the next generation of women.

L-R: Sarah Weddington, Dr. Nancy Young (moderator), and Sissy Farenthold at the UH Law Center Roundtable Discussion on Women, Politics, and Law. Photo courtesy of Vince Lee.

The two-day conference was a partnership and demonstration of collaboration among the different departments across the UH Campus in raising awareness of what we each could contribute to an historic and singular event. The conference itself was available and open to the general public. For more information on the conference and the various partners involved please visit: http://www.uh.edu/class/mcgovern/national-women-conference/index

To listen to the exhibit podcast: https://soundcloud.com/user-839796282

The Houston Archives Bazaar: An Interview with Emily Vinson, President of Archivists of the Houston Area

HABlogoIn this post, ArchivesAWARE! chats with Emily Vinson, President of Archivists of the Houston Area (AHA!) and Audiovisual Archivist at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, about the recent Houston Archives Bazaar.  Emily shares tips and lessons learned from the experience, stresses the importance of collaboration and communication in mounting outreach events, and shares AHA!’s strategies for attracting media attention to the Bazaar, which, despite the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey just two weeks before, was still a resounding success.
 

AA: Can you describe the idea behind this archival outreach program?

EV: Archivists of the Houston Area (AHA!) is a local archival professionals organization that aims to “promote archival repositories and activities in the greater Houston, Texas area.” In the fall of 2017, we mounted our first Houston Archives Bazaar. The event boasted over 20 local archival organizations. Over 200 members of the public attended. In addition to the organization tables, we also boasted Preservation and Digitization Stations, archival film screenings, speakers, and an Oral History booth. Thanks to generous sponsors and donations we were able to offer attendees tote bags and wonderful door prizes.

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Photo credit: Ai-Ha Do

AA: Where did you get the idea and what inspired you?

EV: We were inspired by the incredible work of the Austin Archives Bazaar. Three members of the AAB planning committee, Jennifer Hecker, Madeline Moya, and Daniel Alonzo came to Houston for the AHA! Winter meeting and shared their experience in planning the 2014 and 2016 Austin Archives Bazaars events. They also shared their extensive documentation with us, which was a huge help.

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Photo credit: Ai-Ha Do

AA: What worked? What didn’t work? Were you surprised by the outcome or any part of your experience?

EV: The biggest surprise was Hurricane Harvey! The storm hit Houston just two weeks before our planned date, and it was completely up in the air if we would be able to move forward with the Bazaar or not. In the days immediately after the storm, we had no way of knowing if our participants would be able, or want to have the event, or if the public would be interested in attending. Ultimately, we decided to proceed as planned. Only three repositories weren’t able to participate. We tried to respond to the disaster by inviting members of the Texas Cultural Emergency Response Alliance (TX-CERA) to come and demonstrate water-salvage methods for individuals who had been affected by flooding.

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Photo credit: Ai-Ha Do

AA: What would you do differently?

EV: As part of our planned events, we had several speakers – which was great. However, because we were in a music venue, the speakers didn’t have a dedicated space but instead had to speak over the crowd, which was a bit of a challenge. I think in the future we will brainstorm alternative set-ups to ensure the speakers can be heard. Also, we had a “digitization station” to encourage preservation scanning – I think there is an opportunity to do a lot more promotion in this area to ensure attendees are aware they can bring in materials to scan.

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Photo credit: Ai-Ha Do

AA: What tips do you have for those interested in putting on a similar event?

EV: Give yourself lots of time! Everything was very time consuming, which at times was challenging to balance on top of work and other responsibilities. Also, it is crucial to keep lines of communication open throughout the process.

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AA: Did you get media attention? How did that happen?

EV: Yes – we developed a multi-pronged media approach. We started with a press release that we had translated into Spanish and Vietnamese (both wide-spread languages spoken in Houston). We sent our press release to all news outlets in the region. We also utilized Facebook and Twitter extensively, including paid promotions on Facebook. To contact people who might not be reached through those two methods, we printed postcards and posters that we posted at local coffee shops and mailed to local churches and community centers.

 

 

 

EmilySquareEmily Vinson is Audiovisual Archivist and curator of the KUHT Collection at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections. Prior to UH, Emily worked as an archivist at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; a project archivist preserving unique audio holdings at New York Public Radio; and a fellow in Preservation Administration at New York Public Library. She holds an MS in Information Studies with a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Preservation Administration from the University of Texas, Austin. Emily currently serves as the President of the Houston Area (AHA!), and is co-chair of the Preservation Committee for the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).