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.

nebnewspapers

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

BurnsPortrait

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.

IMG_5432

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.

IMG_5381

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.

IMG_5229

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.

IMG_5343

Photo credit: Ai-Ha Do

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

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

HABposter

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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.

Catching Pokémon: A Historically Themed Pokémon Scavenger Hunt Outreach Activity

torre_headshot
This post was authored by guest contributor Meredith E. Torre, Archivist at the Atlanta Housing Authority.

To celebrate October’s Archives month, the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) Archives recently launched a historically themed Pokémon scavenger hunt. The game was designed to celebrate some of the important people who have contributed to AHA’s history.

This outreach activity was great at eliciting responsive participation, generating conversation, and demonstrating some of the papers and records the AHA Archives holds for people valuable to our history.

assortment-of-pokemon

An assortment of Pokémon cards featuring notable individuals.

The fabrication of the game was fairly simple. The game was created entirely out of paper “Pokémon” cards, with corresponding stickers (to show how rare or common that particular Pokémon was) attached to the Pokémon, and a Pokéball or scorecard. Because the game was setup like a scavenger hunt and the score card resembled a bingo card, no knowledge of the actual Pokémon game was necessary to play the game.

The Pokémon cards consisted of biographical information for persons who are a significant part of AHA’s history—Charles F. Palmer, Dr. John Hope, Harold L. Ickes, Jesse Blayton, Clark Howell, and President Roosevelt, just to name a few—and corresponding stickers. These Pokémon were posted throughout AHA’s building. The object of the game was to locate the Pokémon (the person of historical significance) and to “catch” the Pokémon by placing the corresponding sticker onto a scorecard or your Pokéball. In the actual game of Pokémon, some Pokémon are common and some are rarer than others. We printed out less Pokémon cards for those person in our history we identified as already familiar and made them “rare”. On the contrary, we printed out more Pokémon cards for those persons perhaps less familiar and placed them in more prominent places to make them “common” and to give them more exposure.

 

pokemon-scorecard

Pokéball Scorecard

In creating the game, there are lots of Pokémon templates online to choose from. We selected a blank card template created by artist Christian England (LevelInfinitum) on Deviant Art to create our Pokémon cards and edited the images using Pixlr. We created our scorecards as a Word document and printed an image of a Pokéball on the opposite side.

We announced the Pokémon activity and posted the rules with scorecards in centralized locations. We held the game for a period of one week. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the activity and people said in hunting for the Pokémon that they really enjoyed discovering the people who make up a part of AHA’s history and learning things about them they may have not known!

susie-labord

Completed Pokémon card created for Susie Labord, AHA’s first resident commissioner.

Pokémon themed prizes were awarded in a drawing for the hunters who collected the most Pokémon and to the hunter who collected the Legendary Pokémon, AHA’s first resident commissioner, Susie LaBord.

This outreach activity was easy to coordinate, super fun, and is also easily customizable for your institution!

RESOURCES:

Pokémon templates used in this project: http://levelinfinitum.deviantart.com/art/Pokemon-Blank-Card-Templates-Basic-474601445

Artist’s profile page: http://levelinfinitum.deviantart.com/

Pixlr Editor: https://pixlr.com/

 

Have you developed an innovative outreach program at your repository? If so, please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Finding the Hook

DWC_sm
This post was authored by guest contributor David Carmicheal, State Archivist, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and former Chair, SAA Committee on Public Awareness (COPA)

Good advocacy is always targeted to a specific audience—specific people who need to hear a specific message to drive a specific outcome. In governments, for example, that audience is often legislators who need to hear the message of how the archives benefits citizens so that those legislators, in turn, will be more likely to support the archives with adequate authority, budgets, facilities, and such. Every archives needs support from governing authorities, users, the public, and others who may need to hear targeted messages. But before the target audience can hear the message the archives must grab their attention; we have to find a hook.

Normally archivists use the historical documents themselves as the hook. We tend to believe that the thrill we get from our collections is felt by everyone. After all, what could be more exciting than holding an actual George Washington letter in my hands? Our outreach is often built on the premise that target audiences will visit the archives if we give them the opportunity to experience the delight of hands-on history. And while that often works, it’s not a guaranteed strategy. It’s a good idea, then, to think about other experiences you might use to encourage key audiences to visit the archives.

When the Pennsylvania State Archives held its annual display of William Penn’s original 1681 Charter in 2015 we decided that the excitement of seeing the original document might not be attraction enough for many. So, in addition to advertising the event we sent personal invitations to state legislators offering them a private, fifteen minute viewing of the Charter with the state archivist and an opportunity to have their photo taken with the document, which they could publish in their constituent newsletter or display in their office. More than sixty legislators accepted our offer—a record for the archives—with the happy result that we extended our two day viewing schedule to three full days in order to accommodate the requests. Many legislators brought along key staff members for the photo op (an opportunity for us to meet the people who create policy briefs and provide data to the legislators). Some brought family members, including their children, to see the document and be part of the photograph. All of them took the opportunity to ask questions about the Charter and learn how the archives helps to protect the legal and financial interests of the commonwealth and its residents, beginning with Penn’s Charter.

Tweet from the office of Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty following his visit to see the 1681 Penn Charter while it was on view this year. Rafferty is pictured with State Archivist David Carmicheal. View the Storify of tweets from this year’s Charter Day event.

A very different attraction drew staff from a key agency to the archives: a trip to the roof of the archives tower. The panoramic view from the top encompasses the city, the surrounding valley, and a distinctive bird’s-eye view of the State Capitol building. The first stop on the tour, though, was the ground floor meeting room where the visitors saw a display of key documents from the archives’ collections and heard a brief explanation of the value of the archives to the commonwealth. The route to the roof passed through storage areas and provided opportunities to discuss the records as well as the aging facility itself. No doubt some of the staff visited the archives solely because of the lure of the rooftop tour, but all of them came away excited about the documents.

djg31951

The State Museum of Pennsylvania and State Archives Complex in Harrisburg, PA Source:_http://statemuseumpa.org/50th-anniversary/_

Even if you don’t have a tower archives you can probably devise unique experiences that will attract key people to your archives. Just remember, it pays to think beyond the documents when you’re looking for the hook.

If you have examples of innovative archives outreach that you would like to share on ArchivesAWARE, read more about the editorial process on our About page and contact the editors at archivesaware@archivists.org!

Undergraduate Archival Internships: Opportunities for Professional Development -AND- Student Outreach

 

Gene Hyde headshotUntitled-1This post was authored by guest contributor Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections, and Ashley McGhee, archival intern at University of North Carolina Asheville

The University of North Carolina Asheville is the designated public liberal arts campus in the UNC system, and as such we serve an overwhelmingly undergraduate population. In Special Collections we work closely with the UNCA History Department to offer a credit-bearing internship experience for undergraduates. An internship is the equivalent of a 3 credit hours History course, and interns are vetted by the History faculty in collaboration with Special Collections.

Our interns work 150 hours over a semester with a set schedule. Internships start with readings in archival theory, followed by hands-on arranging and describing of a collection, creating finding aids, and creating a display and/or blog post about their work, all accompanied by plenty of one-on-one mentoring. We have interns most semesters, and sometimes we’ve had two or three at time. Interns seem to enjoy the experience, and often express interest in careers in archives, librarianship, or public history. Indeed, part of the mentoring process often entails discussing these career options.

Last year Special Collections received an internal UNCA grant to purchase a significant local history collection and hire a student intern to process it, and we hired Ashley McGhee. Ashley had previously worked in Special Collections as an intern and had proven herself as gifted and hard-working, plus she is from Western North Carolina and has a strong interest in Appalachian history. As part of her internship responsibilities she was required to process the collection, join me in meeting with the donor and discussing the collection, and write a process paper describing her internship. Her process paper is below.

Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections, UNC Asheville

AshleyMcGheeUNCA

Ashley McGhee in the UNCA Special Collections Reading Room

The John Brown Land Speculation Collection Papers
A Process Paper by Ashley McGhee

          When I came to UNC Asheville to pursue a second degree in History I had no idea how the Library’s Special Collections would have an impact on my life.  I spent more time in the library than I did in class, and quickly made the acquaintance of both the Head of Special Collections, Gene Hyde, and the Archives Assistant, Colin Reeve.  After I worked a summer internship in Special Collections, Gene realized how at home I was among books and manuscripts and asked if I would be interested in working on an additional project.

A private donor who is an amateur historian of Western North Carolina (WNC) and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had offered Special Collections papers from the Brown family, which were related to the Speculation Lands Collection already housed in UNCA’s Special Collections.  The Speculation Lands Collection documents land acquisition and ownership in Western North Carolina during the late 1790s -early 1800’s, when land speculators sought land for investments instead of settlement like most frontier residents, and it provides an intimate, and often unique, look at land business dealings during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Brown family papers document land speculation efforts by John Brown and three generations of his relatives.  After securing the details regarding the collection, Gene and I traveled to the donor’s home to meet with him and his wife to discuss some of the finer points regarding the collection.  As noted, this private donor is a historian of Western North Carolina, and every nook and cranny of his personal library contained books, maps, and pictures, all housed in a warm wooden room full of soft lighting and squishy chairs, a bookworm’s dream come true.

The donor was willing to share what he had already learned about the Brown collection as well as provide extensive notes of his research. This was the beginning of background research for the collection, but it only scratched the surface.  Since the collection was related to the larger Speculation Lands Collection, the obvious research choice was to start with that collection and then work backwards.  After perusing it, and then books such as Sadie Smathers Patton’s Buncombe to Mecklenburg: Speculation Lands, along with the previously published “John Brown’s Journal of Travel in Western North Carolina in 1795”, I realized I was going to have to go back even further in my research.  Eventually, I ended up having to go all the way to the mid-1600’s with the first England Land Grants that were chartered for North Carolina, and then the original Eight Lords Proprietors.

When Special Collections received the papers, they were in a big box containing several manila folders with all the documents mixed together. The donor purchased the collection at an estate sale, and there was no evidence that any original order was intact by the time it was obtained by Special Collections. After examining the collection and conferring with Gene, we agreed that the logical way to organize the collection was to separate the documents by each speculator. Most all of the documents were from speculators within the Brown Family, but each man worked in different areas and in different time periods, so I wanted their documents categorized unto each of them so their work could tell their individual stories.

Before even getting to that though, I had to relax the documents, which involved placing the documents overnight into the bottom of a dry plastic container and then sitting that in a larger, deeper container which held a couple of inches of water in the bottom, thus reintroducing moisture and making the items more pliable and less fragile when handled. The materials were then laid flat between acid-free sheets of paper and weighted down to flatten out. Finally, to wrap up the project, I described the folders of material, wrote a detailed description and history of the collection, and created a finding aid.

Once the collection is made public on the UNC Asheville Special Collections website, it will be available for all to use.  Gene and I plan on stopping in to see our friend who donated the collection again, and enjoy his hospitality and talk Western North Carolina history and archives.

Sound and Vision: Using Video to Tell the Tales of Archives and Archivists

BurnsPortrait

This post was authored by ArchivesAWARE! editor Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist at the University of Vermont.

This is the first in a series of posts about the use of video as an archival awareness tool. This initial post will feature videos which focus on what an archives is and what archivists do.  Future posts will look at promoting these videos, determining their impact, and will take a closer look at some of the other topics archives are using this format to cover. 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.

On August 26, 2015, Kathleen Roe premiered the Society of American Archivists’ Archives Change Lives video during her plenary talk at SAA’s annual meeting. As of this writing, the video has over 3,400 views on YouTube. The video clocks in at just under three minutes and features Kathleen Roe, Dennis Meissner, Steven Booth and Samantha Norling talking about the power of archives, cut with images from archives, of archivists at work, and of people interacting with archives. The core message of the video is articulated by Kathleen Roe, “What I hope that my colleagues and I will all be able to do together is to explain to people in clear, compelling language why we think archives matter, why what we do is valuable.”

The video was unveiled at the end of Roe’s year as President of SAA, a year where she led Year of Living Dangerously for Archives initiative, which challenged SAA’s membership to increase their advocacy for archives. One compelling way to get this message across, as Kathleen and SAA demonstrated, is through the use of video. A search of YouTube for videos relating to archives, archivists, and special collections turns up a number of attempts to do just that. These videos tackle a range of topics and vary in their approach, goals, budget, and production quality.

The National Archives UK has done a series of videos, compiled in an Explore Your Archive playlist, that tackle big questions as well as feature archivists talking about particular records.

One of the big questions they address is What is an Archive? The production elements are similar to the SAA video, it clocks in at just under 3 minutes, features a combination of talking heads and still images, and has music playing in the background throughout. Like the SAA video, the premise is simple and direct, it is a short video of archivists and archives users speaking passionately about the power and importance of archives. The three-minute length of these two videos is no accident, as it is often recommended as the maximum length for promotional videos. The video was published in October, 2013 and has been viewed over 4,100 times.

A video produced in 2014 by Duke University’s Rubenstein Library begins with a voice stating, “I think it’s a challenge and a curse to explain what an archive is to people, and it’s because it means so many different things to different people.” The video, The Guardians of History, digs a little deeper than the two mentioned above, taking a look at the work of seven archivists at Duke. This video is a little longer, coming in at just under 9 minutes, but again features interviews, still images of archives and archivists, and a musical backing track during part of the video. The interviewees speak candidly about the difficulty they have in explaining what they do to friends and family members, one speaker noting, “sometimes it’s not worth the effort to explain what an archivist is, so I’ll go ‘Oh, I’m a librarian.’” The video is an honest look at the work of archivists, giving voice to their passion for the work, and discussing some of the humorous and very human items in archival collections. The video is a good introduction to archival work. The budget is not on a Hollywood scale, but the quality of the sound, images, and editing are all very good. To date, the video has been viewed over 1,500 times.

At an Institutional level, BYU took a novel approach in 2011 when they made a fictional trailer for their L. Tom Perry Special Collections, parodying the trailers of blockbuster Hollywood adventure films. To date, the clip has been viewed over 13,000 times.

Two years later, they made a more conventional, and more informative, introductory video. This video has been viewed just under 800 times.

Of course, the number of views a video gets does not really tell us whether a video has successfully met its goals. Those goals could be for an institution to experiment with the process of producing a video, or to create a video that can be played in a classroom setting or sent to a patron in advance of a research visit. However, creating a high quality video that people want to watch and share should also not be understated. It is relatively easy to shoot footage, and increasingly easy to edit that footage, but creating a video where the sound quality is consistent, the edits are relatively seamless, and the content is compelling takes a certain level of skill and patience.

A number of videos get into the question of what an archivist does, which can be helpful in explaining our profession to people who might be interested in a career in archives as well as getting the word out more broadly.

A 2010 example of this type of video comes from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Archives, A Day in the Life of an Archivist. The video features an archivist explaining their work over a musical backing track. As the comments indicate, from both viewers and the creator, this was an initial attempt by the Sackler Archives to work in this medium and there are some issues with sound levels. That said, the video has been viewed over 12,000 times, which demonstrates that this is a topic of interest, and is either well promoted or frequently found through internet searches.

By comparison, another video done at the same time, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives Introduction, has been viewed just under 1,900 times.

Some other videos that introduce viewers to archivists and their work are:

Meet Our Vintage Collection Archivist, Bill Bonner – National Geographic (over 45,000 views)

 A Day in the Life of a Processing Archivist, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, 2014 (300+ views)

 Aaron Rubenstein, University and Digital Archivist, UMass Amherst Libraries, 2014 (around 150 views)

 Peter Hirtle’s Thoughts on Being an Archivist, Debra Schiff, Here and There Blog, 2011 (2,300+ views)

 Not all institutions are as well-known or have the same ability to promote content as the National Geographic, but there are a few key principles that we should keep in mind as we develop content in this area in order to ensure our videos successfully reach their intended audience.

  • Compelling content. As archivists, we know we do interesting work. Video is not and should not be the only way to tell our stories, but the passion we have for our work and the visual appeal of the materials we work with make video a great opportunity for archivists. Demonstrating that passion, telling fascinating stories from our work, exhibiting collection highlights, and using humor are effective ways we can pull in viewers.
  • Clearly defined goals. Why are you making the video? Who do you hope to reach with the video and how will you reach them? Is your video aimed at an internal audience or a much broader audience?
  • Production value matters. Experimentation and a Do-It-Yourself ethos are laudable, but we should also be striving for something that people want to watch and share. Poor production quality will compromise good content.
  • Promotion is key. Creating a well-produced video with a good story is only the beginning. Working with whatever outreach outlets are available and appropriate for your video is essential to achieving success.

The videos highlighted above show that there is an audience for stories about and from the archives. We can create a larger audience for this content by collectively developing more content. Some of it will necessarily be institution-specific, but there is also certainly a role for more videos produced by SAA and others that talk more generally about archives and archivists. Video is a powerful medium, and we as archivists should be taking advantage of it to promote our institutions and the archival profession.