Advocacy and Outreach Opportunities at the Archives*Records 2021 Annual Meeting

The SAA Annual meeting begins next week, though on-demand sessions were available starting Monday, July 26, and SAA section meetings have already started earlier in the month. Below is a list of sessions about awareness, advocacy, and outreach.

Please note, there is a mix of live, recorded, and on-demand opportunities. Make sure to visit the schedule for specific times for live sessions and to view session descriptions to see which category a session or meeting falls and whether you need to register for a session. Unless noted, all events are included with your annual meeting registration.

On-demand sessions available now!

S12 – Outreach and Fundraising in the Time of COVID: How to Engage Your Donors and Keep Events Going When You Can’t Meet in Person

Four panelists demonstrate how they managed to reimagine their outreach and programming to keep their donors and funders engaged during the pandemic.

Live Q&A for this session on Thursday August 5th!

S13 – Outreach and Online Access Innovations from Smaller Institutions

Lightning talk speakers discuss innovative project and outreach ideas—from exhibit formats to walking tours—and online access initiatives—from developing important content partnerships to unusual funding opportunities.

Live Q&A for this session on Friday August 6th!

Monday, Aug. 2

Storytelling Workshop Master Class

This is the 3rd year we have had two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei facilitate a storytelling workshop for archivists. Separate registration and fee ($49) for this workshop where you will learn:

  • What makes a story work,
  • The connections among narrative performance, research, and teaching, and
  • How to brainstorm and craft stories of your own.

The workshop is aimed at budding storytellers as well as seasoned bards looking to refresh their skills. It is structured to make the online experience as welcoming and engaging as possible, using a webinar format followed by an optional small-group discussion structure so that you can take part in the workshop at the level that will best serve you.

Stories from the 2019 event, including one from Micaela herself can be found on Season 3 of the Archives in Context podcast. To learn more about Micaela, check out this ArchivesAware! interview from 2019.

Like last year, we will hold our related storytelling event, Finding Aid To My Soul, in October and it will be online. So stay tuned for more information this fall!

Tuesday, Aug. 3

Elevating the Value of Your Archive in an Ever Changing Digital World

This is a meeting for the digital preservation community, hosted by Preservica, and open to all.

Build a Bridge to Stand: Making the Ask Even in Uncertain Times

This 120-minute workshop, led by members of SAA’s committees on Public Awareness (COPA) and Public Policy (COPP) and featuring members of the Issues and Advocacy Section and the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC), explores a process-focused approach to advocacy. Attendees will participate in round-robin-style breakout sessions and walk away with personalized strategies.

Thursday, Aug. 5

Live Q&A: S12 – Outreach and Fundraising in the Time of COVID: How to Engage Your Donors and Keep Events Going When You Can’t Meet in Person

Join presenters from this on-demand session for a 20-minute live chat/Q&A. We recommend that you view the session before joining the live chat.

Friday, Aug. 6

Live Q&A: S13 Outreach and Online Access Innovations from Smaller Institutions

Join presenters from this on-demand session for a 20-minute live chat/Q&A. We recommend that you view the session before joining the live chat.

Conversation Lounge: Archival Advocacy in Challenging Times: What’s an Archivist to Do?

Laura Millar, author of A Matter of Facts: The Value of Evidence in the Age of Information, along with Chris Burns, past chair and current member of the Committee on Public Awareness, and Bryan Whitledge, co-chair of the Committee on Public Policy, will explore the topic of archival advocacy amidst a global pandemic, the equity movement, political and social unrest, and climate change.

Join the conversation to learn what you can do to make the public understand why archives matter and how you can advocate and become an influencer with decision-makers.

Know of other outreach- and advocacy-related sessions, events, and general happenings taking place over the course of ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2021 that didn’t make our schedule? Tell us in the comments below, or let us know which of these and other annual meeting events you are most looking forward to!

Catherine Stiers on Using Reddit as an Archival Outreach Tool

The College of Charleston Special Collections in Charleston, South Carolina has found a new way to connect its archival collections with their audience through a popular internet forum: reddit. Reddit is a forum where communities can form to discuss a person, topic, or event; share cute animal photos, and ask or answer question from the communities that gather there. Committee of Public Awareness member Rachael Woody sits down with Charelston’s research and outreach specialist Catherine Stiers, to learn more about Stier’s outreach work within reddit.

StiersCatherine Stiers is a Research and Outreach Specialist at the College of Charleston Special Collections in Charleston, South Carolina.

RW: How did you land on reddit as a possible outreach and engagement tool?

CS: I decided to propose a Special Collections reddit account (CofCSpecColl) when brainstorming additional ways to engage with our community following the onset of social distancing back in March. Personally, I use reddit as a way of keeping track of what’s going on where I live, from restaurant recommendations to traffic warnings. Unlike most other social media platforms, reddit is broken down into subcategories, or subreddits, which can be based around common interests or geographic locations. I already knew from experience that the local Charleston board includes both an invested group of locals and a rotating array of tourists who would be interested in Charleston history.

From r/archivists to r/askhistorians (which has over a million members), it’s clear that history is being discussed on reddit from both experts and amateurs. R/askhistorians in particular has built a reputation of reliability. They held a virtual conference this year and produce a podcast. While r/askhistorians appeals to those who already consider themselves history enthusiasts, I wanted to reach people who may not be likely to visit subreddits specifically for historical or archival research, but would still be interested in the content.

When I come across a visually engaging item that I think will catch the attention of people scrolling through their feeds, I post it, along with a paragraph or two of background information.

RW: How do you use reddit as an outreach mechanism?

CS: When I come across a visually engaging item that I think will catch the attention of people scrolling through their feeds, I post it, along with a paragraph or two of background information. I tend to stay away from heavily text-based materials because they don’t draw the eye as much as a colorful image does. A postcard of the old Charleston Orphan House and a before-and-after picture of a well-known downtown street have performed the best so far.

Language in the post should include links to other institutional websites or open-access resources for readers to explore if they’re interested in learning more. I also try to tie in information about the College of Charleston Special Collections sources and encourage Redditors to reach out to us for their other local research needs.

A picture of the Charleston, South Carolina Orphan House.Charleston, SC Orphan House,” from the Leah Greenberg Postcard Collection, College of Charleston Libraries

Screenshot from r/Charleston subreddit

Screenshot from r/Charleston subreddit

Although Reddit is not one of our primary outreach tools, I’ve found the level of engagement to be much, much higher than either Twitter or Instagram.

RW: What results have you achieved by using reddit?

CS: Although Reddit is not one of our primary outreach tools, I’ve found the level of engagement to be much, much higher than either Twitter or Instagram. I’m continually surprised by how willing people are to share stories they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to.

I think the most successful result we can hope for is spreading the word that Special Collections exists and that we are here for people’s research needs.

One example of a successful post was this postcard of the Charleston Orphan House, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was established in 1790 as the first public orphanage in the United States and operated until the 1950s. The building was demolished and one of the College of Charleston’s dormitories stands there now. Longtime residents have strong memories associated with the building and commenters wrote about their relatives’ experiences living there. Commenters were open and willing to share their private family stories without being prompted. That’s part of what makes reddit a useful outreach tool- commenters aren’t restricted by a limited number of characters. I think the most successful result we can hope for is spreading the word that Special Collections exists and that we are here for people’s research needs.

RW: What are some of the challenges present in using reddit and have you been able to mitigate or circumvent them?

CS: Like on all social media platforms, copyright and permissions are a challenge. Although I always include a disclaimer, it wouldn’t be difficult for someone to take the image and use it without properly citing Special Collections as its repository of origin. Additionally, other Reddit users often feel the need to jump in and add their own information, which may or may not be accurate. It’s encouraging to see commenters get involved in the dialog, but it can be difficult to fact-check everything and correct mistakes. Readers also sometimes treat posts like an AMA (ask me anything) event and will ask questions that are really best suited for a research consultation or in person visit. It can be time-consuming to answer their obscure questions or redirect them to the proper place.

A historical postcard depicts a beach scene on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.

“On the Beach, Sullivan’s Island, SC,” from the Leah Greenberg Postcard Collection, College of Charleston Libraries.

RW: Do you have any lessons learned you can share with us?

CS: You have to have somewhat of a thick skin! Reddit has a reputation for being harsh, and sometimes it’s true. The first time I posted, a user latched onto my request that anyone wanting to use the image had to DM me first to fill out a publication request form. They questioned how I had the authority to ask for something like that, but were understanding once I explained the situation.

RW: What advice would you give organizations who are interested in trying reddit?

CS: Choose your subreddits carefully. If you are part of a university library and want to reach more students, the university’s subreddit might be a good place to post. Unfortunately for us, r/CofC is inactive. If you want to reach an even broader audience, a state subreddit like r/SouthCarolina is what you’re looking for. It’s best to familiarize yourself with how Reddit works before diving in.

Be sure to stick around and answer questions after submitting your post. Some of the best interactions we’ve had have resulted from follow-up questions and direct messages. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, you have to closely monitor Reddit posts to get the most out of them.

RW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

CS: You can follow the College of Charleston Special Collections on Twitter @CofCSpec_Col and on Instagram at cofcspeccoll!

“A Finding Aid to My Soul” A Storytelling Event Celebrating Archivists on October 1.

Pitch Your Story - COPA (1)

Archives Month Kickoff

Join SAA in celebrating the diversity and commonality of the archivist experience! Five storytellers—Kathy Marquis, Jessica Newell, Micaela Terronez, Melissa Barker, and Ethel Hazard—will share true stories about their unique, moving, serendipitous, mysterious, and often humorous encounters in the archives. This free event, sponsored by the Committee on Public Awareness, will be hosted by two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei.

Time: Oct 1, 2020 07:00 PM CT

Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMqcO2qqTgsE9OW0hRGHT34jFa-iXcEIEFW

If you were at either the 2018 or 2019 editions of A Finding Aid to My Soul, you know what incredible storytellers your archivist colleagues can be. If you weren’t able to attend either of those events and want a preview of what to expect, here’s a story by Joyce Lee Ann Joseph from the 2019 edition of A Finding Aid to My Soul.


Want to hear more archivist stories? Selections from past Finding Aid to My Soul events can be found on the Archives in Context podcast.

PITCH YOUR STORY! Call for Stories for “A Finding Aid to My Soul” Virtual Event on October 1.

1a

Arielle Petrovich at 2019 Storytelling Event.

Submission deadline extended to August 31!

When did you decide that you wanted to be an archivist? What was your first encounter with a particular archives? How did you handle a challenge in your work? What is a unique, serendipitous, moving, mysterious, special, or humorous experience you’ve had as an archivist?

If you would like the chance to share your story, then pitch it to us! In 100 to 200 words, tell us about your archives story. (Please don’t give us a cliff-hanger; you should summarize the whole story.) Great pitches will let us know what happened, what changed for you (or the world!), and what was at stake.

If your story is selected, you will have an opportunity to share your 5-minute, true personal story at the 2020 A Finding Aid to My Soul. This annual storytelling event brings together archivists for an evening of stories that energize and inspire, and celebrate the diversity of the archivist experience. This year’s virtual event—on October 1, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET—will be hosted by award-winning storyteller and educator Micaela Blei (The Moth, Risk). It is sponsored by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness and will kick-off American Archives Month. If you’re unable to join us, the program will be recorded.

We’re looking for a wide range of voices to share their experiences. Absolutely no prior storytelling or performance experience is necessary—Micaela will support and guide you as you practice your story.

You may think that your story is not “dramatic” enough. We beg to differ! We want to hear stories with high stakes as well as small, and intimate stories of the work you do and the personal ways it connects to your life. If it mattered to you, it will matter to us, too.

If you need some inspiration, here’s a story from Travis Williams that closed out the 2019 event.


Want to listen to more? Selections from past Finding Aid to My Soul events can be found on the Archives in Context podcast.

Pitches are due August 31. Selected storytellers will be notified by September 4.

Pitch it here! 

Advocacy and Outreach Opportunities at the Archives*Records 2020 Annual Meeting

Last week was the start of the SAA Annual Meeting with the Teaching Primary Sources Unconference kicking off the Pre-Conference activities. Here is a list of some recommendations for awareness and advocacy sessions and creative outreach.

Please note, there is a mix of live, recorded, and on-demand sessions. Make sure to visit the schedule and view session descriptions to see which category a session or meeting falls and whether you need to register for a session.

Wednesday, July 29

College & University Archives Section

Join the Section to continue discussion on the various topics we’ve had at our weekly “coffee chats”, including collecting COVID stories, working and managing remotely, combating systemic racism at our institutions, and our plans for returning to campus. We’ll split into breakout sessions to explore these topics further. But first (after our business meeting), we’ll hear from Katie Howell, who developed a rapid response collecting initiative to document COVID-19 on the campus of UNC Charlotte.

Students & New Archives Professionals Section

Join SNAP for a brief business meeting as we present updates on section projects and advocacy work from the past year and introduce new steering committee members. 

Friday, July 31

Archives Management Section

Look, I Made a Hat: Agility in the Archives
Archives managers are required to don many hats (as it were) in addressing a range of challenges and moving quickly to implement solutions. After conducting some section business, we will transition to presentations on incredibly timely topics: Budgeting, Personnel, and Advocacy.

Monday, August 3

Storytelling Workshop with Micaela Blei

A powerful story has the potential to connect us to our own experiences, pull a community together, and engage new audiences with our work. In this master class storytelling workshop led by two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei, you’ll learn “what makes a story work” and the connections among narrative performance, research, and teaching, as well as brainstorm and craft stories of your own.

The workshop is structured to make the online experience as engaging and welcoming as possible—using a webinar format and then an optional small-group discussion structure to allow you to take part in the workshop at the level that will best serve you. 

Registration is required and there is an additional fee of $49.00 to attend.

Wednesday, August 5

Keeping Archives Relevant in a Dizzying Digital World

Join Preservica customers and staff as they explore together the evolving impact of digital archives, celebrate user projects and stories, and discuss innovations in archival practice.

Thursday, August 6

Plenary 1

In addition to hearing our current president, Dr. Meredith Evans speak, this session includes Jodie Foley and Tempestt Hazel. Jodie Foley is the Montana State Archivist at the Montana State Historical Society.

Tempestt Hazel was the 2019 recipient of the J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award from the Society of American Archivists. She is a curator, writer, and founder of Sixty Inches From Center, a Chicago-based arts publication and archiving initiative that has promoted and preserved the practices of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists, and artists with disabilities across the Midwest since 2010. Focusing primarily on reframing cultural archives and institutional collections, her exhibitions and projects have been produced with the University of North Texas, South Side Community Art Center, Terrain Exhibitions, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Smart Museum of Art, and the University of Chicago, among others.

2B – Archival Outreach in the New Normal: Using Digital Platforms to Teach Primary Sources

Learn about the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) longstanding partnership with Internet2 and the Presidential Primary Source Project and the teaching series they have done, completely online. They will share tips for presenting in this medium and discuss methods for regaining audience attention and making the session more interactive.

In addition, learn more how NARA has moved its adult programming to online platforms. They will discuss how to host these kinds of sessions with members of the general public and how to manage registrations, digital platforms, and advertising.

3A – From the Margins to the Center: Foregrounding Underrepresented Communities and Revitalizing Mainstream Collections

This session examines how different approaches to foregrounding marginalized groups and individuals have revitalized established collections at three archival repositories.

3B – Showing Up: Community Engagement Events Toward a Better Cultural Record

This panel will explore the centrality of community partnerships in the diversification of the archival record, featuring programs that have hosted grant-funded community engagement activities to create and collect documentation of historically underrepresented groups.

Friday, August 7

4B – Reframing History: Opening Up Archives to Artists

This panel will highlight the Chicago Archives + Artists Project organized by Sixty Inches From Center and feature visual artists, curators, and writers who have collaborated with archivists, librarians, and other collection caretakers for their research-based creative practices to commission new artworks and curate exhibitions.

Hop into History: Archives and Alcohol in America

Grab a drink, and pull up a stool at the virtual hotel bar for a storytelling session featuring archivists who are working to document various aspects of alcohol history in the United States. Whether your drink of choice is beer, wine, bourbon, or cocktails, we’ll share some stories from our collections that might make you think a little differently the next time you take a sip!

Saturday, August 8

S04 – Ambition, Advocacy, and the Future of Storytelling

Orchestra and radio archivists describe how they pitched forward-thinking projects that break storytelling out of its traditional mold. Participants then break into groups to imagine, share, and learn what the future role of archives will and can be. Practical tips and challenges related to technology, project implementation, and advocacy will be shared.

S11 – Community Collections as Digital Collections

L.A. as Subject (LAAS), Chicago Collections Consortium (CCC), and the Recollect community in Australia and New Zealand will address the lessons learned and future visions in achieving a truly collaborative and reciprocal network. Although they are separate and independent entities, LAAS, CCC, and Recollect developed coinciding missions to collaborate with a diverse set of community archives in order to openly share collections and strengthen the profession through more comprehensive knowledge sharing.

S12 – Connecting to Communities: Outreach at the Missouri State Archives

 In this session archivists from the Missouri State Archives will share their experiences with tours, special events, speaker series, and grant programs. The focus is on creating sustainable, diverse programs to reach a broad range of patrons.

S29 – Love Can’t Turn Around™: Evidences of the Belief in the Power of Our Collective Social Experiences as Sites of Pleasure, Purpose and Politics

The Blackivists™ are a collective of trained and credentialed African-American archivists based in the Chicagoland area who address the needs of people interested in creating and preserving personal, community and “non-traditional” archives. The Blackivists™ collaborated with Honey Pot Performance on a series of programs for the Chicago Black Social Culture Mapping Project, which exists to preserve Chicago’s black social cultural lineage through fun and informative experiences focused on a Chicago based cultural art form: House music.

S35 – Project STAND: Highlights and Hurdles of a National Project on Social Justice and Archives

Project STAND, is a consortium of 70 colleges and universities that has created an online resource centralizing primary sources relating to student activism in historically under-documented and minoritized communities. This session will focus on its creation, highlights, and hurdles, and the role of the archivists to build relationships with marginalized communities, provide tools for documenting activism, and advance archival collections. Speakers will discuss the website and collection highlights, the Archiving Activism toolkit, and the symposia conducted in 2019/2020.

S36 – Protocols 101: How to Start the Conversation at Your Institution

This session explores the future of Indigenous collections stewardship for the 21st century archivist. Following the conference theme, it asks participants to consider how archivists can leverage creativity to make positive changes to collections care and access amidst institutional constraints.

S39 – Remaining Relevant: Changing the aesthetic of archives through collaboration and creativity

This interactive session is opportunity to not only hear what this institution is doing to change the profession, but engage in constructive and collaborative brainstorming with a variety of professionals to incorporate new strategies to better provide access and awareness to collections.

S42 – Setting a New Standard: Practical Applications and Uses of Standardized Measures and Metrics

Presenters will discuss implementation of the  SAA/RBMS Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics, approved by SAA in 2018, and suggest ways to use statistical data to impact internal operations and advocate for your institution. General recommendations for data collection and application will also be provided. 

Tuesday, August 11

Reference, Access, and Outreach Section

As a part of the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists, the Reference, Access, & Outreach (RAO) section will host its 8th annual Marketplace of Ideas. The Marketplace of Ideas takes place in conjunction with the annual RAO business meeting, and offers participants a chance to learn more about creative instruction, outreach, and reference programs piloted by colleagues. 

Thursday, August 13

Committee on Public Awareness

Come meet the members of the Committee on Public Awareness, hear about our activities over the past year, and learn about our plans for next year!

Know of other outreach- and advocacy-related sessions, events, and general happenings taking place over the course of ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2020 that didn’t make our schedule? Tell us in the comments below, or let us know which of these and other annual meeting events you are most looking forward to!

Announcing a Storytelling Workshop with Micaela Blei – August 3, 2020.

MicaelaBleicopy

Micaela Blei, PhD, has years of experience working with individuals, organizations, and communities to shape and share the important stories of their lives. Last year at the SAA Annual Meeting in Austin she hosted the storytelling-show-about-archives, “A Finding Aid to My Soul,” to great acclaim! Her popular workshops are invitations to reflection, spaces for discovery, and—most of all—a lot of fun. Her own stories have been called “heartbreaking and hilarious.” She’s appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and live on sold-out storytelling stages nationwide. In 2016, Micaela wrote The Moth’s storytelling curriculum, now used by more than 1,500 educators around the world. Learn more at micaelablei.com.

A powerful story has the potential to connect us to our own experiences, pull a community together, and engage new audiences with our work. In this master class storytelling workshop sponsored by the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) and led by two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei, you’ll learn “what makes a story work” and the connections among narrative performance, research, and teaching, as well as brainstorm and craft stories of your own. The workshop is structured to make the online experience as engaging and welcoming as possible—using a webinar format and then an optional small-group discussion structure to allow you to take part in the workshop at the level that will best serve you.

micaela+blei_01After this workshop, you’ll have the chance to submit your story for possible performance in a special online storytelling event—“A Finding Aid to My Soul” on October 1, 2020! If selected, you’ll receive additional guidance from Blei to help fine tune your story.

Register for the workshop here ($49 fee), and stay tuned for more details about the third annual “A Finding Aid to My Soul” storytelling event.

Stories from the 2019 event, including one from Micaela herself can be found on Season 3 of the Archives in Context podcast and stories from the 2018 event can be found here and here. To learn more about Micaela, check out this ArchivesAware! interview from 2019.

 

 

 

 

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.

esjack_headshot

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.

Picture1

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.

Picture2

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.

Picture3

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.

Picture4

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.

Picture5

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.

Advocacy and Outreach Opportunities at the Archives*Records 2019 Annual Meeting

This week is the start of the SAA Annual Meeting. Here is a list of some recommendations for awareness and advocacy sessions and activities.

First things first — stop by the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) table! We’ll have a table in the conference registration area.

  • Saturday afternoon, 3:15 – 4:30 PM the Kitchen Sisters will be at the table playing clips from their podcast!
  • The Archives in Context podcast team will be at the table Sunday from 8:00-10:30 AM and 3:00-5:00 PM to record your elevator speech!
  • Elevator speech postcards – get them while they last!
  • Crafting Your Elevator Speech puzzle – a repeat of last year’s puzzle, be part of the team that puts it together!

Storytelling Workshop with Micaela Blei

Learn how to tell your story—and tell it well! In this introductory COPA-sponsored workshop, you’ll work with two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei, PhD, to find stories that you want to tell, learn strategies for delivering riveting stories, and feel great doing it.

“Sing Out, Louise! Sing Out!” The Archivist and Effective Communication

This session includes panelists providing strategies for effective communication, examples of communication fails, and includes Q&A so attendees can share experiences too.

Are you ArchivesAWARE? Teaming up with SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness to Create a Stronger Archives Community

COPA members share successful initiatives and then engage with audience to brainstorm outreach strategies, solutions to outreach obstacles, and how we can better engage with communities that may have barriers to accessing archives.

Community Connections: Unleashing the Potential of Programs and Services Aimed at Underserved Stakeholder Communities

Archivists who oversee labor and social justice collections share their collaborations, programs, and services that have reached beyond the usual academic or institutional stakeholders and discuss the impact of reaching out to underserved communities.

Get With, or at Least On, the Program: Crafting Session Proposals for Archives-Related Sessions at Non-archives Conferences

Panelists from this session share the history and accomplishments of the Society of Southwest Archivists’ new committee, the State Partnerships and Outreach Committee.

What’s Your Elevator Speech?

The Archives in Context podcast team and the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) are joining together to record your elevator speeches at this year’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

COPA will have a table in the registration area with a Crafting Your Elevator Speech puzzle. Stop by to work on the puzzle and to record your elevator speech with the Archives in Context team for inclusion in a forthcoming episode. The podcast team will be at the COPA table on Sunday, August 4 from 8:00-10:30 AM and 3:00-5:00 PM.

We want these recordings to sound like real conversations, so we’re also looking for your help creating some conversation scenarios.

Three ways to participate:

  1. Contact the Archives in Context team at Chris.Burns@uvm.edu ahead of time to set up an interview or to pitch a scenario (doesn’t have to occur in an elevator).
  2. Stop by the COPA table in the registration area on August 4 between 8:00-10:30 AM or 3:00-5:00 PM.
  3. Can’t make it Austin but want to participate, record your own elevator speech and send it to the email address above.

A Finding Aid To My Soul

This year’s show will be hosted by two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner (and former Moth director of education) Micaela Blei. Featured storytellers: Arielle Petrovich, Katie Moss, Travis Williams, Katie Dishman, Joyce LeeAnn Joseph, Cliff Hight, Kira Lyle, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Leah Harrison, and Joanna Black.

Blowing Off the Dust: How to Move Your Archives from the Basement to the Public Square

This interactive session is about how to partner with your public radio and includes best practices for pitching to public radio, how cultural institutions and public radio complement each other, and information about a current collaboration between an archive and public radio.

Archival Value: Tales of Professional Advocacy

This session features professionals from a variety of archival settings who share how they advocated for themselves, their staff and students, and their colleagues to get administrative support for the resources they  needed.

Know of other outreach- and advocacy-related sessions, events, and general happenings taking place next week that didn’t make our schedule? Tell us in the comments below, or let us know which of these and other annual meeting events you are most looking forward to!

 

An Interview with Micaela Blei, Award-Winning Storyteller and Educator

The Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) is pleased to bring Micaela Blei, PhD, two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner and former Moth director of education, to ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2019 this August in Austin, Texas at the JW Marriott. Blei will be teaching a FREE two-hour  “Storytelling Workshop” on Saturday, August 3 (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM) and hosting a storytelling event, “A Finding Aid to My Soul,” on Sunday, August 4 (8:00 PM – 10:00 PM). Pitch Your Story by June 27 for a chance to participate in the event. If selected, you’ll receive guidance from Blei to help whip your story into top shape.

In this interview conducted by Chris Burns of the University of Vermont and past chair of COPA, Blei discusses how she got into storytelling, her time working at Yale’s Beinecke Library, storytelling education, what we can expect from her as the host of “A Finding Aid to My Soul,” and how archivists can apply storytelling to their own work.

profile-3-copy

Micaela Blei has years of experience working with individuals, organizations, and communities to shape and share the important stories of their lives. Her acclaimed workshops are invitations to reflection, spaces for discovery, and—most of all—a lot of fun. Her own stories have been called “heartbreaking and hilarious.” She’s appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and live on sold-out storytelling stages nationwide. In 2016, Micaela wrote the storytelling curriculum now used by more than 1,500 educators around the world. Some of you may also know her from her keynote address at RBMS in 2017.

Burns: How did you get into storytelling?

Blei: I found storytelling in 2011, when I left teaching to go to graduate school in education, and could finally stay up late enough on weeknights to go to shows. I found myself at a storytelling show in Brooklyn, and I loved the feeling in the room, loved the kind of community it created—I got up there and it just felt really right! I started going all the time, began teaching it, and ultimately I changed my doctoral research to be about storytelling and identity.

Burns: You actually have some firsthand knowledge of archival work. Can you tell us a bit about your time as a student employee at the Beinecke Library at Yale?

Blei: I often say it’s the best job I ever had (it’s a tie between that and scouting real estate in the Caribbean, which is a whole other story). It was my work-study, to help out Pat Willis (then the Curator of American Lit at the Beinecke) with her correspondence and filing. But we got along so well, and I got really passionate about what she was doing, so slowly I got to do more and more curatorial things. Pat let me be in charge of exhibits—small ones at first—and it was my first experience with really going on an independent intellectual/research journey. I’m so grateful to her for that!

Burns: Your experience educating aspiring storytellers is pretty impressive and includes creating The Moth‘s educational program. What’s a favorite moment of yours from a past storytelling workshop?

Blei: I think my favorite moments are when storytellers are finding out new things about each other through their stories, even if they already knew each other. One of my favorite moments was in a high school workshop: two boys had signed up together and they were best friends. They cracked each other up all the time, and then one of them shared a story with the group about how it felt when his dad passed away the previous year. When it was time to give “feedback” and responses, the teller’s best friend said: “I had no idea, man. You seemed so together that year. I’m so glad I know what you went through.” It reminded me that sometimes, weirdly, it’s easier to share vulnerability with a group than a trusted friend.

Burns: You will be hosting SAA’s storytelling event this August during ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2019 in Austin. How do you think about making the night work for both the storytellers and audience? Will there be any surprises? Big musical numbers? Pyrotechnics?

Blei: No big musical numbers planned, unless there is a big demand, in which case I’ll pack costumes . . .

I think a lot about the kindness of a storytelling audience: this isn’t about impressing each other, it’s about connecting with each other. It takes the pressure off. On the audience side, it’s this chance to step into someone else’s experience and realize—that’s happened to me too! Or I never realized that’s what that’s like!

As host, I will also be trying out my absolute best archive jokes from my Beinecke days.

Burns: What are the odds that you might share a story?

Blei: Quite high! I’ll tell a little something at the beginning of the evening, to help set the mood . . . and in my workshop on August 3, which I am so excited for, I’ll probably start us off with a story.

Burns: Why do you think archivists should consider learning more about storytelling as it relates to their work?

Blei: I think learning more about storytelling can help introduce some new tools, but more importantly, remind you that you already have powerful tools that you can use with new intention. We tell stories all the time! Realizing that this is something we are already good at—and can apply it with an awareness—can be so effective in archives work.

I also think that this workshop will help re-frame what “having confidence in public speaking” means. It’s a little bit of a different approach and so many people have found it really helpful.

Burns: Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding your work as a storyteller and educator?

Blei: Not at the moment! If you want more, apply to be in the show, or come to my storytelling workshop, or “A Finding Aid to My Soul”!

Archival Innovators: Bryan Giemza, Director of UNC Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection (Part 2)

This is the latest post in our new series Archival Innovators, which aims to raise awareness of the individuals, institutions, and collaborations that are helping to boldly chart the future of the the archives profession and set new precedents for the role of the archivist in society.

Bryan Giemza

This is Part 2 of Lindsay Anderberg’s interview with Bryan Giemza, Director of the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the Wilson Special Collections Library, part of the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (see Part 1 here).  Part 2 continues Lindsay and Bryan’s discussion on how one archive was able to launch multiple innovative projects while challenging the notion of who creates and maintains archives.

LA: Your projects obviously require a lot of collaboration— from grant funding to partnerships both international and local. Can you talk about these partnerships both on a large scale, for example your Mellon grant funding, and about smaller, local connections that have propelled these projects forward?

BG: Funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has certainly enlarged the scope of what we can develop.  It offers the opportunity to grow our collaborations outward in expanding circles.  It enables the development of the backpacks and put us on a footing to contribute our methodology to the project in Yucatán, for example.  The Mellon Grant gives us the opportunity to pull together a Community-Driven Archives Team with multiple graduate students, library colleagues, coinvestigators in other institutions, and talented people and administrators.  Another key element to our model is working with community liaisons, who help us do the translational work of explaining archives work to communities, and explaining community needs to archives.

Train the Trainer session: Participants at the San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum (SAAACAM) work with Dr. Karida Brown to conduct oral histories and store digital files.
Image Credit : B. Bernetiae Reed, SHC Community-Driven Archives.

At the same time, these projects are intensely local in nature.  Professor Karida Brown, one of our co-investigators and an innovator in her own right, always points out that you can’t be local enough.  When she was framing up what became the East Kentucky African American Migration Project—one of the SHC’s community partners—she started with the received tools of sociology and mailed out a survey to would-be participants. People in the community responded dutifully, but she realized that the instrument flattened everything out. It didn’t really get at their stories. It wasn’t until she really started talking to people one-on-one that she could begin.  She realized that the survey had been a false start and went back to the drawing board, which really put the project on a footing for success.

Fostering those local connections and surfacing the stories eventually led Karida to the Southern Historical Collection through word-of-mouth referrals from academic advisors. We are connected with larger partnerships and circles of like-minded colleagues who work in this area, too, from the west coast to the east, and finding strength in those numbers, as well as the lessons we learn from community partners.

LA: What is your advice to someone who wants to launch an innovative project with their archives, but might have limited funding or an organization that is not open to change?

BG: In writing about all this, the sheepish fact of the matter is that I work in an institution that is very well resourced, I have the backing of grants, and I work with very talented and creative colleagues.

So, it’s very easy for me to talk about how projects work…. And it’s hard to offer answers that aren’t too pat.  All I can say is that you can be creative and use your reputation in service of others to change things. Put your products in the public domain. Where funders are concerned, it’s important to move your ideas tangibly into practices and products, not just as proof of concept but as proof of the sort of success that others like to invest in. It’s better to come from a place of strength before need.

Backpacks in use: The SHC Community-Driven Archives Team collaborated with Public History graduate students from North Carolina Central University and community members in Princeville, NC, to conduct oral histories and to discern needful resources and cultural projects.
Image Credit : Claire Du Laney, SHC Community-Driven Archives.

Another perhaps too-easy answer is to start small or structure the strategic partnerships that extend your reach and resources. This doesn’t do a lot to disrupt power and funding disparities where larger institutions are concerned, but it gives you a way to tap into the aquifer.  When you are bringing something of value, turn the tables and set the terms.

Last bit of advice: borrow shamelessly and make sure you know what’s going on in your corner of the marketplace of ideas before setting out.  Be careful about reinventing the wheel; figure out how to borrow it from someone else. If you’re applying for a job, go ahead and float a budget and ask for startup money to achieve the vision on the front end—that’s what entrepreneurs do, and it lets you put something on the table when you ask others to participate.  Part of innovating is developing a thick skin. Expect to hear no often and remember that you only have to hear yes once.

If your organization is not open to change, as I see it, there are two options. You can take the long view and begin a change management campaign, as I mentioned earlier.  Or you can move on to an institution that is open. If it comes to that, my advice is to vote with your feet.  You owe it to yourself. If you’re interested in justice and innovation, align yourself with a place that makes it possible.

LA: Is there anything else you’d like fellow archivists to know about your projects or tips for how to launch similar projects at their institutions?

BG: This is a good moment to put in a shameless plug for the Practices in Community-Driven Archives Handbook that we’re developing as part of the Mellon grant.  It’s still a few years out on the horizon, but we are designing it to be useful to practitioners of all kinds. We’re the first to say that these are simply practices—not best practices, but the results of our experiments and learning, since every project is different—so your mileage may vary.  But maybe there’s something you can use there.

The contents of the Oral History Archivist in a Backpack include how-to guides, audio equipment and thank you cards. The Community-Driven Archives Team provides basic tools for oral history success and affirms the importance of community-curated histories.
Image Credit: Aleah Howell, Wilson Library, UNC-CH

We’re currently renovating the web presence for our community-driven projects, and we’re constantly adding our products and training materials as we go.  So if you wanted, for instance, to create a set of Backpacks for a community project, you can find all of the elements of the backpack, down to the pricing, in our online helps.

One other suggestion. Say things at meetings and have your elevator speech ready—ideas have to be reducible to terms that a child can understand quickly.  Speak them out loud.  Language is the first step toward making the ideal into the real, and if you sit in meetings and bite your tongue because you’re worried that your ideas aren’t good enough, nothing will happen.  The African proverb says it best: the open mouth gets fed.

LA: What’s next?  How will these projects continue or are you launching something new?

BG: Well, there are a lot of things. I am excited about the upcoming release of a fulldome movie that will bring our archival materials on southern history to a new format and to new audiences.

And I have a longer vision in mind for building on the potential in Archivist in a Backpack.  It’s about gradually scaling up capacity for community archives.  What if we could create archivally sound storage units—the sort of thing that municipalities throughout the region could afford to include in their planning—and harvest those pods to depositories supported by regional consortiums of libraries and archives?  Repeat the process and enhance inclusivity in each cycle? Community groups that aren’t interested in starting their own brick-and-mortar archive want to know that their materials will have a good archival home that respects the rights of their creators. As a profession, I think it’s a good thing when archivists consider how to join ranks in the scholarly dissemination of participatory methods. We can build outward from there.

These projects certainly have a momentum of their own.  Sometimes good writers turn out stories by creating characters and turning them loose to see what they will do.  Maybe we can think about projects and invention the same way.  Pick up one little piece of the challenge, start the project, and see where it wants to lead you.  We think about innovation as something you do, often through a kind of hard-nosed wrestling with a particular challenge.  But that puts “problems” first instead of people—the characters, so to speak. The reward of good work is more of it, and if you see innovation as a natural outgrowth of generosity, spontaneity, friendliness—well, maybe innovation has an animation of its own, and becomes the sure guide to better places.

Assembling the Archivist in a Backpack kits at the Southern Historical Collection