The Great Society Congress: A Collaborative Approach to Digital Exhibits and Outreach

Staff members at the Wise Library pose for photographs in front of books January 4th, 2018. Photo Brian Persinger Wyatt Jay

This post was authored by guest contributors Danielle Emerling, Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist, West Virginia University Libraries, and Jay Wyatt, Director of Programs and Research, Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education.

 

Introduction

VRA

Congressional records are held in repositories around the country. Here, records from three repositories document the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 1. Petition for Cloture Motion, May, 21, 1965, “Cloture Petition” folder, Unanimous Consent to Resignations, Box 3, Secretary of the Senate, 89th Congress, Records the U.S. Senate, RG 46, National Archives. 2. Photograph of the Voting Rights Act signing, The Claude Pepper Papers, Florida State University Libraries. 3. Correspondence between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Carl Albert, with enclosure, Carl Albert Congressional Papers, Legislative Series, Box 89, Folder 87, Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives, University of Oklahoma.

The archives that document the United States Congress reside in repositories throughout the country. How to bring them together in a meaningful and thematic way is a question congressional archivists and historians often ponder. About four years ago we started planning a project that would do just that – use materials from several archives to explore the numerous pieces of legislation that make up the “Great Society” and discover the Congress that passed them.

The digital exhibit, “The Great Society Congress,” is a collaborative project of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). The ACSC is an association of organizations that promotes the study of the United States Congress. Many ACSC member organizations maintain archival collections of current and former members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The online exhibit features more than 400 items from 18 member institutions. While our energy initially was focused on creating the exhibit, the exhibit has turned into a great vehicle for new partnerships and outreach.

How We Did the Project

Exhibit

One section of the exhibit focuses on the key legislation passed by the 89th Congress.

Telling the story of Congress is difficult. It’s a large, complex institution with more than 500 members who bring different interests, points of view, and ways of working to a body that needs to make policy for the entire country. Our approach was to focus on the key legislation, the leadership and procedures that shaped this particular Congress, and some of the larger events unfolding at the time, such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.

With so many different components, we chose to develop the exhibit over the course of two years, releasing pieces of it to coincide with different legislative anniversaries. This made the project more manageable for our all-volunteer exhibit task force.

We were unsure at first how many ACSC member institutions would contribute to the project because participation largely depended on what members were able to find in their collections. We were pleasantly surprised by the response, though.  By the time we completed the site build, we had incorporated over 400 primary source documents from almost 20 different ACSC member organizations.

We also received a wider variety of materials focusing on a broader array of topics than we initially anticipated, and so both the size and scope of the exhibit expanded as the project proceeded.  For example, the W.R. Poage Legislative Library at Baylor University and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas submitted materials documenting a Food for Peace delegation trip to India led by then-Congressman Dole and Congressman W.R. “Bob” Poage.  The highlight of this submission was the discovery that silent film footage of the trip held at the Poage Legislative Library matched up with audio held at the Dole Institute, and archivists Debbie Davendonis (Poage) and Sarah D’Antonio Gard (Dole) were able to reconstruct this rare source. The submission encouraged us to consider the additional work that Congress does, and as a result we developed “The Political Environment” section of the exhibit, which eventually grew to include features on civil rights and the war in Vietnam.

We brought all of these materials together in an Omeka exhibit, hosted by the University of Delaware Library. With the assistance of the Web Services and Digital Humanities Librarian, we were able to create a special template for the site that blends contemporary design and easy navigability.

NARA Lesson Plan

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The ACSC exhibit task force partnered with the Center for Legislative Archives at NARA to create the “Congress, the Great Society in the 1960s, and today” lesson plan.

After creating the site’s content, we received some anecdotal evidence that college faculty were using the site for instruction, but we hoped that educators teaching at various levels would use the site in the classroom. We also knew educators have a tremendous workload and would likely want something ready-made and flexible to use.

So, we partnered with the Center for Legislative Archives (CLA) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to create a lesson plan. The CLA is the part of NARA that preserves and makes available the official records of Congress, and as a longtime ACSC member, it had already contributed a great deal of expertise and documents to the exhibit. The CLA has extensive experience developing educational resources, including lesson plans, e-books, and mobile apps, for K-12 educators.   Charles Flanagan, Outreach Supervisor at the CLA, guided us through the lesson plan creation and showed us how to structure a lesson so students build on their knowledge from one day to the next.

The resulting lesson plan, “Congress, the Great Society in the 1960s, and today,” asks students in grades 9-12 to summarize President Lyndon Johnson’s vision for a “Great Society,” place the vision in historical context, and detail the ways in which Congress responded.

Our partnership with the CLA has been invaluable.  Charlie and the CLA’s educational specialists use the “Great Society” lesson plan in many of the outreach activities they conduct with teachers across the country each year, and that has helped make people more aware of the exhibit and encouraged greater interaction with the materials. It has, in many ways, helped keep the exhibit relevant, as we’ve moved on from the 50th anniversary of the Great Society.

National History Day Article

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Our article, “Congress Constructs the Great Society Through Conflict and Compromise,” appeared in the 2018 National History Day theme book.

In addition to instruction, we wanted to entice students to use the site for their research. One of the members of the exhibit team had worked with National History Day (NHD) in the past, and we contacted NHD about writing an article for the 2018 theme book. Each year, the NHD theme book consists of articles relating to the year’s theme, and it is unveiled at the national competition. They print approximately 12,000-15,000 copies, but most people access it online. The theme book usually receives approximately 300,000 page views.

Our article, “Congress Constructs the Great Society Through Conflict and Compromise,” provides an overview of the exhibit. By pulling out specific documents, photographs, and audio files available in the exhibit, we sought to highlight the numerous ways students could connect Congress’ role in passing legislation with the theme of “Conflict and Compromise.” Following the theme book’s publication in fall 2017, we saw a significant increase in traffic to the exhibit website.   Approximately 7,000 new users have tallied near 18,000 page views on the exhibit over the past eight months.  This represents more than a quarter of the 26,000 users who have visited the exhibit since its launch in April 2015. Like the lesson plan, the outreach that we’ve done to promote the exhibit via the NHD theme book has paid major dividends.

Lessons Learned and the Future of the Exhibit

Through collaboration among member institutions to build the site and partnerships to develop instruction and student research resources, “The Great Society Congress” digital exhibit successfully highlighted congressional archives for new audiences. If we did the exhibit over again, we would consider applying for a grant, particularly so we could help member institutions with costs associated with researching topics, digitizing materials, and creating metadata. Although we will not be adding content to the exhibit, we’ll continue to look for outreach opportunities (like this blog!) to help get more people interested in the exhibit.  We believe it will continue to be relevant for instructors teaching the history of the 1960s at various levels and a fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning more about the Great Society.

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.

Sound and Vision: And We’re Live in 5…4…3…2…1

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This post was authored by COPA Chair Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist at the University of Vermont.

This is the second in a series of posts about the use of video as an archival awareness tool. Feel free to contact the editors of this blog at archivesaware@archivists.org if you have a video or topic you would like to see covered, or if you would like to contribute to this series.

In 2016, we kicked off a new series designed to focus on the use of video in archival awareness and outreach efforts. The inaugural post, Sound and Vision: Using Video to Tell the Tales of Archives and Archivists, featured a handful of videos that had been produced by repositories and some general best practice tips. To be perfectly honest, there were not a lot of examples to choose from at that point in time. The use of video by archives was simply not widespread.

However, the use of video has grown significantly since then, driven in large part by livestreaming services, particularly Facebook Live. This type of video production has a lower barrier of entry, ties in easily to existing social media channels, and consequently is becoming an important outreach tool for archives and special collections. Facebook has made a concerted effort to promote and support Facebook Live, so while there are other tools for live streaming content to your audience, Facebook Live has become the major player, in no small part because of the large potential audience that already exists on Facebook.

What is Facebook Live?

Jennifer Koerber, writing in Library Journal, gives a good overview of Facebook Live and its use in libraries. At its most basic, Koerber notes, it is “video streamed over Facebook and archived there afterwards.” Facebook Live events are live videos as opposed to an edited video. They tend to be improvised, and are often filmed on devices as simple as a phone or tablet. The technical barriers for producing and distributing this type of content are quite low, but as with a more traditional edited video, quality can vary significantly. Paying attention to sound quality and lighting, as well as using a tripod and the best available camera and microphone setup can greatly improve the quality of your video and the experience for your audience. Koerber cites two helpful articles with tips for recording video on smartphones.

Facebook Live events are just that, live events, and need to be promoted to ensure you have an audience. Promotion should target your Facebook audience, but not exclusively. Promoting these events through other channels (blog, email, Instagram, etc.) not only draws people to the event, but also lets them know you have a Facebook account that they might want to follow. Because the events take place on a social media platform, they also have the potential to be interactive. People watching can share their enthusiasm by liking, commenting, and sharing the video. The live component allows you to interact with an online audience in interesting ways, such as soliciting questions from online viewers during the stream. Koerber notes how having a staff member monitor the comments during the livestream allows that individual to respond in real-time and add additional information like links to catalog records or digitized versions of the objects being discussed.

How are Special Collections and Archives using Facebook Live?

One way to use this medium is to provide an introduction to your holdings. The video below, from the National Agriculture Library, features an introduction to their seed catalogs (my favorite is the manuscript catalog from the 1830’s featured about 10 minutes in). The 37 minute video features staff members taking turns discussing items in their collection and has been viewed over 4,500 times in the 2 months since it was posted.

Another way institutions have been using Facebook Live to share their collections is by connecting them to another event, either at their institution or externally. In October 2016, the Dibner Library at the Smithsonian used a Facebook Live event featuring their anatomy books to tie into Halloween and Page Frights. The comments section shows how Dibner staff interacted with viewers throughout the video, taking full advantage of the live aspect of the event.

 

The Houghton Library at Harvard University held a Facebook Live event in March 2017 in celebration of their 75th anniversary. During the 48 minute live stream, two Houghton staff members gave a tour of the library, showed off items from the collection, and took questions from viewers. A key aspect of this livestream is that it took place on the main Harvard University account, which allowed the Houghton to reach a much larger potential audience. As a result, the video has been viewed over 67,000 times, and has had 1,900 reactions, 239 shares, and 415 comments. Not all archives will have access to an audience as large as the Harvard community, but it is a good reminder of how partnering with a larger social media account can really boost the signal of your outreach efforts.

The University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center has taken the approach of inviting researchers to talk about items from their collections. In the video below, Dr. Mindy Schwartz talks about an 1887 surgical kit that she uses to teach medical students about the history of medicine. This approach shows viewers not only the cool stuff in the archives, but also how a researcher or instructor uses them.

In a similar way, the US National Archives held a Facebook Live that featured Janet Macreery talking about how she used a range of archival sources to write her novel, A Little Wicked. Archives and special collections libraries have held events like this for many years, but livestreaming them allows institutions to reach beyond audiences who are willing and able to attend these events in person.

 

The Getty Research Institute held a Facebook Live event in March 2017 to talk about how they put together an online exhibition, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra. The live stream shows some of the material used in the exhibit, but is also a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how they put this exhibit together.

An example of an institution doing exciting things with video, on Facebook Live and elsewhere, is the University of Iowa Special Collections. Led by Outreach and Engagement Librarian Colleen Theisen, their video work is aimed at engaging with as broad a community as possible. An excellent overview of their efforts can be found in this article by Scott Smith on the Big Ten Network website. You can view their videos, including their archived live streams, on their YouTube site.

In addition to the live streams they have conducted, such as their annual livestream on Shakespeare’s birthday, their YouTube channel features a few ongoing video series they have created that are both fun and informative. Their Staxpeditions series usually focuses on exploring Library of Congress call numbers, but my favorite installment is Staxpedititions 6: Exploring Mystery Boxes : Manuscripts Edition!

The work being done in the examples above is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what archives and special collections libraries are doing or could be doing with video. If you are doing interesting work in this area and want to be featured in this series, don’t hesitate to contact us at at archivesaware@archivists.org.

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!

Asserting the Archivist, No. 1

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard – Archivist Carol Quinn

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

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

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).

 

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.