Live Action Clue: How Professor Plum and Senator Scarlet Help the Wilson Library at UNC, Chapel Hill Solve the Mystery of Student Engagement

The Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has presented Clue, a live action mystery event twice a year since the fall of 2012. Clue is designed to bring people into the Wilson Library and demystify both the building and the special collections and archives housed within.

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Emily Jack is the Community Engagement and Outreach Librarian at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and has been involved with the Clue team since its inception in 2012. In the following interview with COPA member Chris Burns, Jack describes the work the UNC team puts into this innovative and fun outreach activity and the enthusiastic reception it has received.

Burns: The Wilson Library has produced a live action Clue event every semester since the Fall of 2012, how did you come up with the idea?

Jack: Wilson Library is a beautiful building that looks classically academic. Because of its appearance, many undergraduate students have reported feeling intimidated by the library – or avoiding it altogether.

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Wilson Library, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, houses the University Library’s special collections and Music Library.

In 2012, a (now retired) employee named Becky Garrett monitored the Fearrington Reading Room as a part-time job. Her professional background was in recreation therapy, a field that uses recreation to achieve therapeutic goals. In other words, her professional orientation was to solve problems with games, and she brought that lens to the problem of students feeling intimidated by the library. So, Becky suggested a live game of Clue for students, and we formed a committee to make it happen.

That first game in 2012 bore almost no resemblance to today’s game. It was more like an elaborate scavenger hunt. Now it’s an immersive narrative game, played on a custom web app, with a three-part mystery to solve, during which players interact with costumed characters and have up-close experiences with collection materials. But we couldn’t have the current version without building from the original version, sparked by Becky’s great idea.

Burns: Why Clue?

Jack: Students perceived Wilson Library as mysterious and old-fashioned, which is also the atmosphere of Clue. Using Clue as the narrative basis for the game gave it a familiar cognitive hook for students to attach themselves to. In essence, it served as a safe and easy bridge between two entities that share aesthetic similarities: one familiar and beloved (the board game Clue) and one intriguing but intimidating (Wilson Library).

It also made our marketing efforts much easier than if we had built a narrative game from scratch.

Burns: How does the event work and how does it make use of the collections and staff at the Wilson?

Jack: Our version of Clue aligns with the original in some ways – for example, its three-part solution, consisting of a who, a what, and a where. But, notably, ours is not a murder mystery. It’s a supernatural narrative with a ghost-related mystery.

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Clue players use a historic map to identify a mystery location in the library.

Using a mobile app, teams complete three activities, each aligning with one part of the solution.

Those activities include:

  • Interrogating six suspects, who are held for questioning around the library. To earn access to interrogate, players answer questions about exhibitions and other details in the library.
  • Using historic (reproduction) maps and wooden overlays made in our makerspace to find a code word, and then a hidden location, and finally a map of the library itself.
  • Interpreting communications from the ghost, and using logic (and student TV clips from the 1980s!) to determine which of a set of collection items is the correct one.

The game is fairly complex; this is just an overview. Collection materials, exhibitions, and staff interactions are woven throughout gameplay. Afterward, while they’re waiting for their scores, players watch a video purporting to tell the ghost’s origin story, but which also serves as a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the closed stacks.

One important aspect of the game is that it’s immersive – both narratively and spatially. Because the narrative is immersive, the players don’t feel like it’s a learning game or an elevated tour of the library. And because of its spatial immersion, they leave feeling completely confident in navigating the library.

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Players interrogate a suspect.

Burns: What’s the reception been like among students, staff, and faculty at UNC?

Jack: Reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Students tell us – and their peers – how much they love the game. Most importantly for our purposes, it has been universally successful in meeting its intended goal of lowering the intimidation barrier to visiting Wilson Library.

In post-game surveys, students report feeling surprised by how cool Wilson is and excited to return. They also say things like “I used to be afraid to go in the building. Now I feel way more comfortable walking around.”

We offer the program twice a year and it fills up with a long waitlist every time.

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Players answer questions about an exhibition to earn access to interrogate a suspect.

Burns: I imagine it takes a fair amount of work to pull this off, how have you managed to keep it going and keep it fresh each semester?

Jack: It is labor-intensive. But we have a great committee of staff who feel invested in the program and excited about working on a fun and creative project.

At this point, the planning process runs like a well-oiled machine. Hat tip to Alison Barnett and Katelyn Ander, the committee’s current co-chairs, who are remarkably organized. But we also make regular updates to the game’s structure and content, which keeps the planning interesting.

For game night, we recruit library staff from across the libraries to play all the roles. With a staff as large as ours, there are always new people who are eager to participate.

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Planning committee members and game night staff monitor check-in status on game night. Left to right, Luke Aeschleman, Rebecca McCall, Katelyn Ander, Dayna Durbin.

Burns: Is this an idea you would encourage other libraries and archives to try?

Jack: Using games is a great way to bring new people into libraries and archives. Clue is a fun structure to use, although I always encourage other institutions to make any game their own. Our design is very location-specific. For instance, our structure takes advantage of the fact that we have six public areas, and there are six suspects in Clue. In a smaller setting, you could do something just as successful; you would just have to take the scale into account.

I also encourage people to start small. Our game is successful because we started with something manageable and built it up over time.

ACRL will publish a book this year called Games and Gamification in Academic Libraries, edited by Eva Sclippa and Stephanie Crowe, which will include a chapter about Wilson’s Clue program for anyone curious to know more.

Burns: What other games do you think might work?

Jack: I love the idea of doing something with classic video games like Super Mario Brothers. It would also be fun to take other cultural phenomena like movies and turn them into games.

Burns: What’s next for the Clue team at the Wilson Library?

Jack: We’ve been talking for years about building in some sort of AR or VR component, but we haven’t yet hit on the right way to fit it into the narrative.

Fortunately, former staffer Luke Aeschleman designed the web app to be very flexible and user-friendly, and capable of accommodating just about anything.

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.”

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!

Getting It Together: Launching #WeRateArchives

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This post was authored by guest contributor Jeannine Roe, Electronic Records Specialist, Indiana Archives and Records Administration and Communications Committee Member, Society of Indiana Archivists.

 

For Preservation Week 2018, the Society of Indiana Archivists (SIA) Communications Committee members tested the boundaries of archival humor and good taste with the #WeRateArchives initiative. The committee is made up of six professionals from different institutions around the state, has been working to promote the programs and events of Indiana archives, libraries, and museums via social media. Our inspiration for the hashtag was the success of #rateaspecies, where zoos gave their animals amusing Amazon.com-like ratings, and @TheMERL’s brilliant response after a tweet went viral and launched a major educational win for their museum. We sat back and thought, “Archives can do that.” With limited time to devote to social media throughout the week due to our regular job duties, we had one modest goal in mind – to bring some positive attention to archives and highlight preservation challenges by sharing items from our collections in a new and interesting way.

The process:

There are two inherent barriers for archives when it comes to promotion via social media. Firstly, we aren’t providing a product that the general public would regularly search for on the internet. As such, we need to “sell” archives in a different way. Secondly, we lack the “cute factor” that made it so easy for #rateaspecies and the absolute unit to gain instant fame. There is, sadly, a distinct lack of adorable otters and fluffy sheep in most archives. To help overcome these limitations, our approach involved something archivists are generally good at – finding humor in the objects and circumstances we find ourselves interacting with every day.

An appealing Twitter post can take on many forms, but we have tried to incorporate the following three elements into our tweets:

  1. A recognizable or relatable object and/or situation
  2. An educational component
  3. A “twist”

These components can be combined any number of ways to make a funny tweet. Sometimes a little set-up is needed ahead of time, but the results are worth it:

This tweet from SIA Communications Committee member Julie Motyka is a great example, because the image provides instantaneous recognition – any person familiar with Hungry Hungry Hippos will see the resemblance right away. It also leaves the door wide open for questions regarding the objects in the image (what are they, what are they made of, etc.), or for commenters to share their own images or experiences relating to the objects.

Another way to go is the ever-popular pun, perhaps paired with some other tags and/or mentions:

There are also many opportunities for those who deal with legacy AV and electronic materials to get in a few shots:

In these examples, the “twist” lies in approaching a format that many of us grew up with from the perspective of someone who has never seen or used such a device. The popularity of these jokes is undeniable – this post from @michianamemory is currently one of the top tweets:

 

How we have found success thus far:

  1. Involving a layperson. As the lead on this venture, I cannot emphasize enough the benefits of getting input from my husband, who does not use Twitter, prior to kicking off the hashtag. As someone from outside the archival field, his comments prompted us to reevaluate some of our original ideas and fine-tune the humor for a more polished presentation.
  2. “Seeding” the tag. Several days before the start of Preservation Week, we emailed a small number of Indiana institutions we knew were regularly on Twitter and Facebook with an invitation to join the initiative, including a few example tweets to get the creativity flowing.
  3. Losing the jargon. We purposely chose not to use field-specific words such as “accession” in order to make the hashtag as widely accessible as possible.
  4. Incorporating our personal accounts. This was a simple and obvious way to reach followers who may be less familiar with archives.
  5. Quadruple-checking spelling before publishing any posts. Autocorrect is not your friend, especially in regards to acronyms!

 

How we hope to use this hashtag to promote archives:

As a committee we chose to kick off #WeRateArchives during Preservation Week because strange and sometimes distressingly uncared-for materials pop up in archives everywhere, and it seemed logical to celebrate the event by showcasing these objects alongside our mad archival wit. The hashtag itself has a wider appeal, however. Archives receive unusual materials all the time that can potentially be used to create teaching moments online. Twitter also provides a forum that encourages people to share their archival stories – or just vent a bit – via the tag.

#WeRateArchives can also spark interesting reactions, new conversations, and the sharing of tools and ideas. The tweet below from @enmiller94 did just that:

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One additional benefit to using a common hashtag is that it brings institutional Twitter accounts to the attention of other archives, libraries, and museums. There is a LOT of competition for visibility on any given day, so it takes something extra to stand out and gain people’s awareness. When institutions follow each other and retweet posts, we can reach a significantly wider audience with minimal effort. One image, one quote, one hashtag, one share – it can be just as easy as that!

SIA would like to encourage anyone interested to participate in this initiative, now and going forward. #WeRateArchives encourages dialogue (and hopefully, a few laughs) around archival issues, while providing an opportunity to show off some of the valuable, information, fun, and funky things in our repositories. We’ve been getting some great feedback so far, and we hope it will continue! As a way to engage with your collections and followers on social media, we give it 5 stars out of 5.

Follow us @INarchivist + https://www.facebook.com/INarchivist/

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.

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Teresa Hedgpeth, United States Olympic Committee Archivist & Historical Steward

This is the third post in our new There’s an Archivist for That! series, which will feature examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  To continue this new series, COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Teresa Hedgpeth, archivist and historical steward for the Crawford Family U.S. Olympic Archives.

Teri Hedgpeth

Teresa Hedgpeth (photograph courtesy of U.S. Olympic committee).

Teresa Hedgpeth was named as Archivist and Historical Steward for the Crawford Family U.S. Olympic Archives in July 2012. She is a professionally trained Certified Archivist with experience from the National Archives, the U.S. Naval Historical Center, U.S. Navy History & Heritage Command and the Western History Center.

For years the Olympic archives sat idle, stored in boxes in the basement of the shooting building at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center (CSOTC). Shortly after Teri came to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), a meeting was arranged with donor, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation Board Chair and Olympic artifact collector, Gordon “Gordy” Crawford. Crawford began collecting Olympic memorabilia back in 1984 and is now the proud curator of one of the largest known collections.

As a result of that visit, Crawford pledged the funds to build a state-of-the-art archives to properly preserve and display the Olympic artifacts and archives. $1.5 million and 2 years later – along with thousands of hours of labor and Teri’s passion for preserving the Olympic movement in a way that all could benefit – the archives moved from the CSOTC to its new facility at the USOC headquarters and are available for private tours upon request .

The most common, and most feared, question Teri faces in her position is: What is your favorite artifact? Her emphatic response? “There is no answer to that question!”

Teri earned a Master of Arts degree in U.S. History from American University, Washington, DC; a Bachelor’s degree in History from Auburn University at Montgomery; attended the Civil War Institute; and, is a graduate of The National Archives’ Modern Archives Institute. She is a member of the American Association for State and Local History, the Society of American Archivists, and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

RS: How did you get your gig?

TH: I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympic Games – I mean, who isn’t right?  And, my daughters lived in Colorado Springs, where I was before taking the post as the archivist for the Western History Center in Casper, Wyoming; therefore, in 2012 when I saw the job posting for an archivist for the U.S. Olympic Committee, I jumped at the chance to prove to them I was the best candidate.  It was a multi-step process of application, telephone interview, all-day on site interview and then I had to create a 5-year plan once the field was narrowed down.  I am happy to say that the powers that be chose me to be the first archivist for the USOC.

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RS: Tell us about your organization.

TH: The United States Olympic Committee is one of the most recognized non-profits in the world with a mission to support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes in achieving sustained competitive excellence while demonstrating the values of the Olympic Movement, thereby inspiring all Americans.  Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., the USOC serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. As such, the USOC is responsible for the training, entering and funding of U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, while serving as a steward of the Olympic Movement throughout the country.  In addition to its international Games responsibilities and its work to advance the Olympic Movement, the USOC aids America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes through their National Governing Bodies, providing financial support and jointly working to develop customized, creative and impactful athlete-support and coaching education programs.

The United States Olympic Committee is governed by a 16-member board of directors and a professional staff headed by a CEO. The USOC also has three constituent councils to serve as sources of opinion and advice to the board and USOC staff, including the Athletes’ Advisory Council, National Governing Bodies Council and Multi-Sport Organizations Council.  The mission of the USOC archives is to capture and preserve the history of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the United States.

RS: Describe your collections.

TH: The USOC archives has numerous collections consisting of manuscript, photographic, three-dimensional and a sport library.  Our manuscript records include the official history of the USOC as well as personal collections and records of the Olympic and Paralympic movements.  The photograph collection consists of headshots and action shots of our athletes, coaches, staff and venues of Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and ParaPan Games.  We have not counted the images but we know the collection houses tens of thousands of images.  Our photograph collection is probably the most visible aspect as it is used by our organization and accessed by news media and researchers.

Finally, the coolest part of our collection is the artifact collection.  In this collection, we have Olympic and Paralympic uniforms, medals, and torches as well as additional ephemera associated with the Games such as pins, patches, stamps, tickets, merchandise, coins, cereal boxes, cabbage patch kids … you get the picture.  Think of any company that is an Olympic sponsor and we most likely have a sample of what was created.

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Special Collections (photograph courtesy of U.S. Olympic Committee).

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Close-up view of Special Collections (photograph courtesy of U.S. Olympic Committee).

RS: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

TH: The biggest challenge for me involves completing our collections of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic uniforms, medals, torches, etc.  The USOC did not start collecting artifacts until the 1980s and then it was only to support a  traveling exhibit sponsored by Coca-Cola.  There was no comprehensive collection policy in place.  From that first call-out for memorablia, the collection grew to over 3,700 items when I started in 2012.  Today, we have over 9,000 items and are continuing to fill in the gaps in our collection.

Another challenge is associated with our Olympic marks, the use of them and educating the public on how important it is to safeguard those.  Unlike most National Olympic Committees around the world, the USOC doesn’t receive government funding to support athlete programs. The USOC is responsible for overseeing amateur athletics in the United States and for training, funding and sending Team USA to the Olympic and Paralympic Games every two years. To allow the USOC to fulfill these responsibilities, Congress granted the USOC broad rights to control commercial uses of USOC IP in the United States. Official corporate partners provide critical funding for elite athletes and athlete programs. The USOC allows our official partners to use USOC trademarks in recognition of their support for these athletes.  When others use USOC IP without authorization, it creates a disincentive for our partners to continue funding Team USA in exchange for the right to promote that association with the U.S. Olympic Team.

And finally, I think the biggest challenge I face with our collection is convincing Olympians and Paralympians about the importance of safeguarding their history.  Some athletes get this; but others think that since they did not medal, their history is not important.  I am flabbergasted each time I run into this line of thought.  They are the best of the best, chosen to represent our country in the most iconic world competitions and they think they are not important because they did not win a medal?  When you take into consideration how few athletes win medals at the Games, this reasoning boggles my mind.  In my opinion, yes, winning an Olympic or Paralympic medal is the ultimate achievement for these athletes; but, one cannot ignore the huge sacrifices each athlete, who made the Olympic or Paralympic team, endured just to be on that team.  That’s what I love; all of what transpired before to get them to that point and that’s what I try to relate to them when I have the opportunity to talk to our athletes.

RS: What is the favorite part of your job?

TH:  My favorite part?  Oh man!  I love researching our athletes and the items we receive.  For example, a competition uniform is created for us by designers for use by our athletes.  It is important that we know the designer and I love researching that history.  Then, the uniform issued is worn by a specific athlete and I love finding out all about that athlete; what motivated them, what challenges they faced and how well they did, or did not do in competition.  Sometimes the stories amaze you; they will inspire you and uplift you.  Such as, Wilma Rudolph, who was born premature, contracted polio, wore leg braces until the age of 11; and then, just 5 years later competed in her first Olympic Games, at Melbourne in 1956 winning a bronze medal.  But, four years later, at the age of 20, became the first U.S. female athlete to win 3 gold medals in a single Games.

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Another aspect I love about my job is sharing these stories with others.  We create historic displays and exhibits of our collection for use by our organization at events; we also conduct tours of our archives for different departments in our organization.  Development, Marketing, International Relations all love to give their visitors a tour of the archives.  Since we are not open to the public, this is a very special treat.

I am always asked, what is your favorite item in the archives or what is your favorite Olympic moment?  One of my favorite Olympic moments revolves around the men’s 10,000-meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.  No one thought Billy Mills of the United States had a chance, except him; he knew he could do it.  I love watching the video of that race.  Listen to the announcers, one even stated, “Billy Mills from the United States is in there, a man no one expects to win this particular event.” In the final lap, Ron Clarke of Australia elbows Mills out of the lead.  No sooner is that done when Mohamad Gammoudi of Tunisia pushes through them both and takes over.  Mills is third and it seems out of the race after being jostled by both front runners.  However, in the final 100 yards, Mills comes on the outside of both runners in a blazing burst of speed to win, becoming the first American to win the 10,000-meter race.  Wow!  Chills every time I see that!  That is one athlete I would love to have in our collection.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed on ArchivesAWARE!

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Samantha Bradbeer, Hallmark Archivist

This is the second post in our new “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, which will feature examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  To continue this new series, COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Samantha Bradbeer, archivist and historian at Hallmark Cards, Inc.

SBradbeer Interview Photo 1

Samantha Bradbeer, Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

Samantha Bradbeer has served as the archivist and historian for Hallmark Cards, Inc. since 2011. Prior to Hallmark, she was an assistant librarian at the Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library on Ft. Leavenworth, KS and interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

She is a Certified Archivist (CA), and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology (BA) from the University of Kansas and a Masters in Museum Studies (MA) from Johns Hopkins University.

Samantha is an active member of SAA’s Business Archives Section and ICA’s Section on Business Archives, and serves as the vice-chair of the Kansas City Area Archivists.

RS: How did you get your gig?

SB: I began my career at Hallmark almost seven years ago. At Christmastime 2010, a friend recommended that I apply, as she felt that the job announcement was kismet. We both felt that it was written just for me, as I met all the requirements to a tee and have been a brand supporter for years. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting Hallmark Gold Crown stores for cards and Keepsake Ornaments with my parents, and, as if there was serendipity involved, I even saw some of my first Hallmark purchases stored in the Hallmark Archives during the interview process. As luck would have it, Hallmark hired me on Valentine’s Day 2011.

Since then, I have been responsible for preserving and sharing Hallmark’s corporate and product history with employees, business partners, special guests, media and the greater Kansas City community. I am able to do so by answering research requests, creating exhibitions, providing tours, recording oral history interviews and responding to guest speaker opportunities. I am also responsible for arranging, cataloging and storing the collections.

SBradbeer Interview Photo 2

Samantha prepares several displays for the 2017 Keepsake Ornament Club Convention (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

RS: Tell us about your organization.

SB: The Hallmark Archives is located inside Hallmark’s worldwide headquarters on the southern edge of Kansas City, Missouri.

The significance of our holdings stem from Hallmark founder J.C. Hall’s encouragement for a high level of quality and creativity and a longstanding tradition of support for the arts. Hall began assembling our antique card collection, one of several collections we hold, in the 1950s in the interest of creating an accurate and varied record of the historic development of the greeting card industry, and our company’s major product line.

The Hallmark Archives has since served a dual role in that – in addition to serving the entire corporation and outside organizations as a source for industry history, holiday origins and graphic design trends  – it also serves Hallmark by supporting current product development. Hallmark artists and writers often reimagine past designs based on current marketplace trends or anniversaries. For example, Hallmark is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of gift wrap, and several vintage gift wrap patterns from the Hallmark Archives are currently in stores to mark the occasion.

RS: Describe your collections.

SB:  The collections housed in the Hallmark Archives provide a visual and historical representation of greeting card history, industry and printing technologies, and serves as the repository for materials documenting Hallmark corporate, family and product history.

  • The design collection includes advertising, chromolithographs, folios, original artwork, prints, progressive proof books and rare books from the 17th to 19th centuries.
  • The historical collection includes Victorian-era greeting cards representing holidays and everyday, as well as advertising and trade cards, handmade or folk art, playing cards, postcards, scrapbooks and salesman’s sample books.
  • The corporate collection includes Hallmark advertising, audio visual materials, correspondence, photographs, publications and oral histories from 1910 through today.
  • The product collection includes greeting cards and other products manufactured and sold by Hallmark from 1910 though today.
  • The masterworks collection includes samples of original Hallmark product art dating from the 1950s through today.

Unique items in the Hallmark Archives include medieval manuscripts, two examples of the world’s first printed Christmas card and Victorian-era Valentine puzzle purses.

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Samantha adds original artwork to the masterworks collection (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

RS: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

SB: Hallmark has created millions of products since 1910, and the Hallmark Archives has stored and preserved a sampling from every year and holiday or occasion. It can be challenging at times to select which products to keep, but luckily our complete set of employee newsletters and product catalogs provide insight into the full product line, when needed.

Although our retention schedule automatically sets aside most products, many departments keep their records as working files for years, even decades. We recently started relocating some of these records to the Hallmark Archives, as the departments needed additional working space. Retired employees and fans of the company have also donated other products and records, and, like many archives, we have a backlog of materials to still process and properly store.

As technology has improved, we have also been digitizing our collections gradually. Most of our materials are digitized when our employees and business partners request them, but, as time allows, we have also scanned entire collections, including our masterworks collection of over 40,000 samples of original Hallmark product art dating from the 1950s through today. With that being said, an extremely small portion of our corporate records – including audio visual materials stored on now obsolete formats – has been digitized. I hope to start digitizing more of these records, especially as we are sharing more and more of our company history online and in the media.

RS: What is the favorite part of your job?

SB:  Over the past 100 years, Hallmark has partnered with dozens of well-known and influential artists, writers, celebrities and politicians. Many of whom – including Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell – built personal relationships based on mutual respect and admiration with our founder. I grew up reading about these icons, and having the opportunity to see their original artwork and read their personal letters still gives me goose bumps.

I love to display these materials and other unique items from the Hallmark Archives as often as I can at the Hallmark Visitors Center, so employees, local residents and visitors to Kansas City can see a glimpse into our collections and company history.

SBradbeer Interview Photo 4

Samantha shares the history behind J.C. Hall and Norman Rockwell’s friendship and business partnership with Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family talk show host Ken Wingard (Courtesy of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).

 

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed on ArchivesAWARE!

 

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 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.

HABposter

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).

 

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Anne L. Foster, Yellowstone National Park Archivist

This is the first post in our new “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, which will feature examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  To launch this new series, COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Anne L. Foster, Archivist at Yellowstone National Park.

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Photograph of Anne L. Foster. (Courtesy of Anne L. Foster).

Anne L. Foster has served as Yellowstone National Park’s Archivist since 2010. Prior to that, she was the University Archivist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Traveling Archivist for the Montana Historical Society, NHPRC Fellow in Archival Administration at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, and Assistant Archivist at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Arizona. She is a Certified Archivist (CA), Digital Archives Specialist (DAS), and holds an Masters in Library Science (MLS) from the University of Maryland.

RS: How did you get your gig?

AF: As an undergraduate history student at nearby Montana State University in my hometown of Bozeman, Montana, I used to see flyers advertising an internship in the archives at Yellowstone. While I couldn’t take advantage of the program at the time (I was working three other jobs to pay for school), the fact that archives was a potential career for a history major and that someplace I loved like Yellowstone had one stuck with me. For the next fifteen years, through graduate school and several other archives jobs, I would periodically check and see Yellowstone was hiring. And then, on one random check—they were! I’d just been tenured and promoted at my academic repository, but finally, my dream job was available.  All those other jobs were probably a good thing, though, because they gave the skill set needed to step in as the first professional archivist in Yellowstone and tackle one of the largest backlogs in the National Park Service.

Processing room during our Archives Blitz grant project

Processing room during the Archives Blitz grant project (courtesy of Anne L. Foster).

RS: Tell us about your organization.

AF: The Archives is part of Yellowstone’s Heritage & Research Center (HRC), which also houses the Park’s museum collection, herbarium, and research library.  The HRC is part of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, which is tasked with managing all those things that make Yellowstone so special like the thermal features, wolves and bears, and the scientific research that guides management decisions. While we are part of the National Park Service, we are very fortunate to also have Yellowstone Forever, our philanthropic and educational partner. Yellowstone Forever actually started life in the 1930s as the Yellowstone Museum and Library Association, so our collections have long been a key part of their efforts. Most people think of Yellowstone as the place for geysers and wildlife—and we are–but the Archives is the place where we document those special features and our efforts to preserve them, which to me is something special.

HRC

Entrance to Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center (Courtesy of Anne L. Foster).

RS: Describe your collections.

AF: Like many archives in the U.S., we are both an institutional repository and a collecting institution. Our institutional records are government records and we are subject to federal records laws and guidelines. There are actually two types of records within the government collection: resource management records and administrative/historical records. All national parks keep resource management records. Parks are created to manage a resource or resources and as long as that resource exists, we need to keep records pertaining to those resources to help inform future management decisions (these records are considered “permanently active” as long as the resource is active).  Unlike other national parks, however, we also retain our permanent administrative and historical records like Superintendent’s correspondence, planning documents, partnership agreements and other records that don’t pertain quite so directly to resources. For other parks, those records are sent to the National Archives. Yellowstone is fortunate to be one of the few Affiliated Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This means that the records become part of NARA’s collection, but so long as we meet their standards for preservation, security, and access, we can keep them in our location. This makes it easier for our researchers, both staff and the public, to access our history in one place.

Our third category of collection is our donated or manuscript collections. These materials range from Park visitors’ photo albums, diaries, and scrapbooks through the research of scholars and  scientists who donate their data for future comparative or longevity studies to records of businesses who have operated in the Park over its nearly 150 years. In fact, our Yellowstone Park Company (YPC) records, the main Park concessioner for the first 100 years, is our most accessed collection because it includes payroll records. The YPC hired hundreds of college kids every summer and, apparently, that summer was so memorable that the employees would spend the rest of their lives talking about their summer in Yellowstone. Now, we’re getting those employees’ kids and grandkids coming in to find out what Grandma or Grandpa really did in Yellowstone.

Archives stacks

Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center Archives stacks (courtesy of Anne L. Foster).

RS: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

AF: People love Yellowstone, so much so that there isn’t much about the Park that they aren’t interested in.  This makes archival appraisal a bit challenging—the most routine things truly have the potential for historical value.  Our NARA-approved NPS records schedule, for example, classifies most supply records as temporary. Of course it does—why would one need records for equipment once that item is used up or sold? But, we get queries regularly from people who have purchased former Park vehicles (buses, boats, snowmobiles) and want to know all about their item, down to paint formulas and the names of Rangers who drove them; it’s frustrating not to be able to answer their questions. At the same time, we can’t possibly keep everything.  So, it comes down to a rigorous and often detailed appraisal process.

We can have some unique preservation challenges as well.  Some of our most interesting records are logbooks–bound books used to record eruption data, visitor comments, or deep thoughts about wilderness. But, many of the logbooks are kept in less than optimal locations during creation—backcountry cabins, rock cairns on top of mountains, or next to erupting geysers.  By the time they are filled and transferred to the archives they can be nibbled, rained upon, or even somewhat eaten away by the acidity of geyser spray. During the 1988 fires, the Park’s historian actually flew with a fire crew in a helicopter to several backcountry cabins in order to rescue the logbooks (fortunately, all of the historic cabins were saved). Today, we have a more regular transfer of the logs to help cut down on damage and make use of digital duplication in cases where the damage is significant or potentially harmful to other items.

RS: What is the favorite part of your job?

AF: The location; it is magical to go to work in Wonderland and even more extraordinary to be the keeper of the documentary record for the world’s first national park. That feeling is shared by my coworkers as well as our visitors and researchers—it makes for a lot of enthusiasm and interest in the Park’s history. Every day is different and that makes for interesting and challenging work. There’s a huge amount of variety to my day: the types of records, the archival functions, and the research questions are as varied as Yellowstone’s landscape.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed on ArchivesAWARE!

 

October 4th is Ask An Archivist Day!

AskAnArchivist_GIF_2017What Is #AskAnArchivist Day?

It’s an opportunity to:

  • Break down the barriers that make archivists seem inaccessible.
  • Talk directly to the public—via Twitter—about what you do, why it’s important and, of course, the interesting records with which you work.
  • Join with archivists around the country and the world to make an impact on the public’s understanding of archives while celebrating American Archives Month!
  • Interact with users, supporters, and prospective supporters about the value of archives.
  • Hear directly from the public about what they’re most interested in learning about from archives and archivists.

How Does It Work?

On October 4, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to respond to questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Take this opportunity to engage via your personal and/or institutional Twitter accounts and to respond to questions posed directly to you or more generally to all participants.

Questions will vary widely, from the silly (What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?) to the practical (What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?), but each question will be an opportunity to share more about our work and our profession with the public. Visit SAA’s Storify that summarizes the 2016 #AskAnArchivist Day to get more examples of questions and answers. Last year generated thousands of questions and answers, some of which have been Storified:

Between now and October 4:

PROMOTE #AskAnArchivist Day among your users and constituents via your institution’s website, Twitter account, blog, newsletter, and any other mediums available to you. Click here for the public announcement (and feel free to pick up language from it for your own promotions). Memes are a great way to drum up excitement and are easily created through an online meme generator. Check out examples of last year’s promotional “Philosoraptor” memes here and here.

For additional inspiration on what your promotion of #AskAnArchivist Day might look like, check out what your peers did last year:

And see our Storify of marketing from a previous #AskAnArchivist Day, as well as these great examples of museums’ promotions of #AskACurator Day:

Examples of possible Twitter promotion:

  • Happy #AskAnArchivist Day! Our archivists are waiting for YOUR questions. Tag us at @TWITTERHANDLE and use #AskAnArchivist.
  • Archivists at @TWITTERHANDLE are gearing up for #AskAnArchivist Day on October 4! Literally—documents and photo boxes stacked and waiting!

ENCOURAGE the public to use #AskAnArchivist and your institution’s Twitter handle (e.g., @smithsonian) when asking questions so you won’t miss any that are intended for you and so we will be able to track questions and answers to measure overall participation.

TALK to your staff and colleagues to develop a plan for responding to tweets throughout the day.  Will one person respond to all tweets?  Will you share the task? Will individuals sign up for time slots and let the public know who will be available when?

Here’s one example:

  • During #AskACurator Day, one person at the Indianapolis Museum of Art was selected to monitor both the general hashtag and tweets sent directly to @imamuseum. When direct questions came in or interesting general questions were posed via the hashtag, the designated monitor sent the questions to participating curators via email. The curators (and their archivist!) replied with their answers, and the monitor posted all answers from the @imamuseum Twitter account. (See the Storify of the IMA’s participation in #AskACurator Day for results.)

CREATE an institutional Twitter account if you don’t already have one. #AskAnArchivist Day and American Archives Month are both great opportunities to start one! Click here to get started.

And if an institutional Twitter account is not an option for you, answer questions from your personal Twitter account! If your institutional affiliation and job title are not already listed on your profile, be sure to add that for the duration of #AskAnArchivist Day.

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

TWEET and GREET! Take advantage of this opportunity to join with archivists from around the country to talk to and hear directly from the public on October 4.