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.

A COPA Guide to SAA 2017

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Just one month to go until the annual conference in Portland!  As you plan your conference schedule, take a look at the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA)’s guide to all things public awareness-related at SAA 2017: https://archives2017.sched.com/committeeonpublicawareness.

To make it even more digestible, we’ve broken down the Sched list into the top 5 things you should check out.

1.) Be sure to catch our 2nd annual Advocacy Forum on Thursday at noon!  Our timely topic is “Archival Advocacy and Awareness Amid Social/Political Upheaval.”  This talk will be moderated by COPA chair Sami Norling and the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) chair Dennis Riley.

2.) Chat with us during our COPA office hours in the Exhibit Hall on Friday.  We’ll be there from 8 – 8:30 am and 12:30 – 1:30 pm.  We’ll be collecting your Federal Funding Impact Stories, ideas for Ask An Archivist Day 2017 (October 4, 2017), nominations for inspirational archives speakers and stellar collections, and soliciting contributions to this very blog!

3.) Still not sure what COPA does?  If you arrive early, join us for our meeting on Wednesday at 2:00 pm.

4.) Staying late?  Take advantage of all of The Liberated Archive sessions, happening throughout the day on Saturday.

5.) Finally, look at all of that green in the middle of our schedule.  There are so many great sessions highlighting archival outreach to the community this year.  You’re sure to find one which fits your particular public outreach interest.

See you in Portland!

Share Your Federal Funding Impact Story!

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On Thursday, March 16, 2017, President Trump sent an outline of his proposed FY 2018 budget to Congress, to be followed by a more detailed proposal in the spring. The budget, known as “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” proposes a $54 billion increase in defense and public safety spending that is offset by equivalent cuts in discretionary non-defense programs. Included in those cuts are reductions in, or the total elimination of, funding for federal agencies with a history of supporting cultural heritage organizations and projects.

Share Your Story!

The proposed budget eliminates funding for the following agencies with a history of supporting archival and other cultural heritage projects:

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

The proposed budgets for other agencies with archives-related programs have not yet been released. These include:

  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
  • Library of Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution

Although this budget originating from the Oval Office is only a proposal, with Congress ultimately controlling appropriations, this proposal serves as a reminder to cultural heritage professionals in archives, libraries, and museums that it is always important to advocate for our institutions and those sources of funding that are so crucial to the work that we do.

During the lengthy appropriations process to come in the House and Senate, we should focus our advocacy efforts on the appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the programs that affect SAA members and the institutions that employ them. By sharing examples of the positive impact of federal funding for the arts and humanities with representatives in both the House and Senate, we as a profession can hope to affect the decisions made regarding these federal funding agencies.

As archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, we know how our collections, institutions, and local communities have benefited from grant funding from these federal agencies. We collect statistics about the work we accomplish under these grants, but we also know that the impact goes far beyond numbers alone.

Consider: Did your federal grant-funded project empower K–12 educators to teach with primary sources, connect family members through genealogical records, or inspire a community art project?  Did a federal grant enable your institution to create jobs, contract with an external vendor, or carry out a project that had a fiscal impact on your institution? It is these stories of direct impact, whether personal or fiscal, and at all levels–within your institution, your local community, or even on a national scale–that speak to the true value of federal grant funding for the arts and humanities.

Personal impact is powerful. Please share the details of your federally funded project and the story of its impact. Access the online submission form at the following link:

Share Your Story!

Submitted stories will be published online by the SAA Committee on Public Awareness, and promoted by the Society of American Archivists through their website and social media channels. We hope to gather stories representing all types of archival repositories, and in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, so please consider sharing your story–no impact is too small when it comes to advocating for federal support for the arts and humanities! Please check back regularly to ArchivesAWARE and the main landing page for the Federal Funding Impact Story initiative on the SAA website to read and share stories of impact.

NEH        NHPRC

IMLS

NEA

Header image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An Interview with the lead authors of “Recommendations on Federal Archives and Records Management Issues” for the Trump Transition Team

 

In December, a document outlining Recommendations on Federal Archives and Records Management Issues was submitted to the Trump Presidential Transition Team by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The document was authored by the CoSA/NAGARA/SAA/RAAC Joint Working Group on Issues and Awareness. Chris Burns, SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) representative to the Joint Working Group, interviewed three of the primary authors of this document, Jim Corridan (Indiana Archives & Records Administration), Dennis Riley (New York State Archives), and Barbara Teague (Kentucky State Archives, retired), to talk about the document and its importance as a policy, advocacy, education, and awareness tool.

 

Where did the idea of this document come from? Have there been similar efforts in the past?

Barbara Teague: – There was a jointly authored transition document in 2008, that was primarily focused on criteria for a new Archivist of the United States but also addressed other issues of importance. Back then there was a  meeting of  CoSA, NAGARA, SAA representatives with two people from the Obama transition team. This year, Dennis Riley and Kathleen Roe did an initial draft , starting from that 2008 document. However, some of the issues in the 2008 document were focused on issues in the Bush  administration.

Dennis Riley: We started with the 2008 position paper and tried to reframe it and make it more applicable to 2016. We looked at SAA issue briefs and joint statements from the Joint Working Group that had been released and picked out issues that might fit here. We put a lot into the first draft, and then the group edited it down. Funding issues are perennial issues, so those were easy to put into the draft. We took a broad approach in the initial draft.

Jim Corridan: NARA has caught up on declassification in a big way since 2008. Great strides were made in many ways in the last 8 years. Records management compliance and statutory responsibility continue to show improvement, so we didn’t have to talk about this as much as in 2008.

Dennis: The 2008 document focused on specific problems. The 2016 one is a broader approach, addressing common issues that any administration should be aware of: adequate funding, adequate resources for NARA/NHPRC, etc., the necessity of good record keeping by public officials. It is less about legacy issues from the previous administration.

Jim: A new issue was the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). SAA has opposed the copyright provision in the TPP, so  we included that, as well as the importance of government officials using government email to do government business.

 

Why was it important to write this and pass it on to the Trump transition team?

Barbara: It wasn’t requested, because transition teams look at the big agencies, they don’t necessarily look at archives issues. It is always a good idea to take the chance to emphasize the importance of archives and records management in government.  With this administration, there are going to be a lot of people who hadn’t been in government before. The goal was to make ourselves and our expertise available.

Jim: It is an education piece as well as policy, to assist those new to office in understanding the role of government records

Dennis: No one else is going to speak on behalf of these issues if archivists do not. As a government archivist, I believe the foundation of good government begins with good records and archival practice. How many officials at all levels keep getting tripped up by poor email habits? This is an opportunity to educate those in government or coming into government  about their responsibilities. We, as representatives of archival agencies, have a responsibility to say something, and to say it often. Other lobbying groups are pushing their agendas, we need to push ours.

Barbara: It is an advocacy and awareness tool. It has been published on all our websites,  as well as passed along to the transition team. We are also planning to share it widely, as  part of a greater conversation about how government  record keeping is central to our democracy.

 

What is the value of having the document come from all four organizations?

Dennis: The more consensus we have as professional representatives, the better. Agreement that these are the core issues that are important and important to our members adds weight to the final product.

Barbara: It comes out of our joint working group, having more statements come through that group helps gets all of the organizations on the same page, thinking about common issues. The group is only three years old, and we are still learning our role as a group, when to do a joint statement and when to do a statement  from an individual organization.

 

How did you make decisions about what to include in the document?

Jim: Dennis did a great job of starting with that 2008 version that we sent to the Obama Transition Team. We added current issues and other things that were missing, and deleted information that was no longer relevant, as we refined the the document. We benefited from input from our Joint Working Group, as well as the CoSA and NAGARA boards, SAA Council, and the RAAC Steering Committee.

Dennis: There was some difficulty discovering relevant background information that was available online, whether it has to do with funding (what are the challenges), or declassification (what is the status).

Jim: At one point, there were two sections that were extraordinarily long. We had to think about  the audience, not as archivists. A transition team member or transition staffer who may not make it through the first page is the likely audience.

Barbara: The Joint Working Group group is fairly new, and we learn a little more with each new document. We will come out of this most recent joint statement with a more clearly defined process for working more quickly on completing joint statements.

Dennis: This was an opportunity for the organizations to figure out how to communicate in a cooperative way.

Barbara: RAAC (Regional Archival Associations Consortium) brought a new perspective, as a recent addition to the Joint Working Group

 

What are a few of the highlights?

Dennis: The Executive Summary was more of a CoSA product. The original draft of the Executive Summary had a couple of bullet points but came back from CoSA in a less rough state.

Jim: In it, we succinctly say what we’re hoping to accomplish. Set the premise for each of the things we think are important.

Barbara: If something did pique their interest, there is a table of contents, so they could quickly get to that section.

 

What do you think a document like this can accomplish?

Jim: Educating the transition team and advisers. Maybe more importantly, we intend to send this to the Congressional committees that have oversight over NARA. It might prompt some support for particular issues. It will be more broadly utilized.

Dennis: This is just the beginning of making use of  this document. It’s a public policy agenda for the next four years. These are the important issues. We should exercise the voice that we have. If we don’t speak up, we definitely won’t have an impact.

Jim: It is important to try to set a positive and proactive agenda with the administration.

Barbara: We always need to educate any President that’s coming in. Not all of our members are familiar with these issues, so this is a good education tool showing concerns and positions to all members of these organizations that they can use as needed. Any archivist around the country can use this in discussing public policy issues

Dennis: We started the drafting process a month before the election.

Jim: The only substantive change was that it was addressed to Trump and not Clinton. We see this as a constructive engagement with the administration.

 

Since this blog is focused on raising the awareness of archives, how do you think this document does that and could it serve as a model for communicating about archival priorities in other settings?

Barbara: It is a really good model for state government, I doubt most state archivists  use a written transition briefing when a new governor is elected. We generally have meetings, and focus more on face to face, as opposed to sending something written, since we have access to state officials. State and local governments could use this as a model, to get important government issues before newly elected officials.

Dennis: This sets a tradition, since we have done this formally for two transitions now, in 2008 and 2016. It lay groundwork and expectation that this is what we as professional organizations need to do. It is an opportunity to engage with elected officials and to ensure that archival and records management issues don’t get lost in the transition. It is also an example of what our group members could be doing with elections at every level. How are we, as individual members, engaging our elected officials? Do I as an individual member feel empowered to send this to my newly elected representative? We are organizations of members. As such, members need to feel empowered to use this product to engage with their representatives.

Barbara: We didn’t do much with the 2008 document. We could use this as a tracking document to see how things are progressing, to follow the archives and records management agenda

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Barbara: Nancy Beaumont is the one who pulled the document together at the end. She never lets us compliment her (don’t let her edit out a compliment again!), but she does a great job keeping everyone on track, while helping us keep the big picture in mind.

 

Public Relations and Marketing for Archives: An Interview with Peter Wosh

Wosh2011Among the resources in SAA’s advocacy toolkit is Public Relations and Marketing for Archives: A How-To-Do-It Manual (2011), edited by Peter Wosh and R. James and co-published by SAA and Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. Today we bring you an interview with Peter Wosh, Professor of History and Director of the Archives/Public History Program at New York University. In this interview with David Carmicheal, Peter revisits the book and discusses the ways it relates to current advocacy efforts.

David: What prompted the book in 2011? Was there an event that brought advocacy to SAA’s attention?

Peter: Back when I was publications editor for SAA [2007-2013] the Publications Committee regularly scanned the literature to identify gaps, and we discovered that SAA’s last real advocacy book had been published in 1994 (Advocating archives: An introduction to public relations for archivists, by Elsie Freeman Finch).  Our scan of journals also showed very little literature about advocacy. There was much more archival writing on technical topics. Then, too, by 2011 archivists had become much more conscious about how central to our work advocacy is and how we need to spend more time on it. So the time was right for that book.

How do public relations and marketing relate to advocacy? Are they the same thing?

They relate, but I think of advocacy as a much broader concept that incorporates marketing and public relations. The public relations and marketing book focuses on how archives relate to user communities—primarily external communities—and how to make your archives more visible by using new technologies. This kind of marketing doesn’t include, for example, political advocacy. Advocacy includes internal audiences, which marketing and PR don’t generally consider.

When we decided to revise the Archival Fundamentals series (Archival Fundamentals III is due to be published in 2017) we thought it important to include a specific volume about Advocacy (being authored by Kathleen Roe) because the publications board thought it was so vital to what we do and had to be more encompassing than marketing and PR.

Advocacy versus marketing—do archivists favor one over the other?

I think they are more comfortable serving more traditional research communities and are still in the process of developing tools to promote themselves and their place in their particular institutions. To some extent archivists are also still hesitant to enter the public sphere of debate when archival issues come to the fore, though that is getting much better. I think it’s hard to mobilize the archival community around issues. Professional associations like SAA and CoSA take a stand on key issues, but I wonder how many people really take a personal responsibility to advocate. Advocacy needs to be sustained and ongoing and not just crisis management. We are better at responding to threats, but successful advocacy is being there all the time and promoting yourself in a constructive way 365 days a year.

How do we turn archivists into advocates?

Advocacy isn’t built enough into archival training and education. Archivists are good at standards and best practices and applying rules and regulations, and that has been the emphasis of our education and professional literature to a great extent. We don’t necessarily need individual courses in advocacy but every course should incorporate advocacy—how does what you’re learning in this course helps you express the importance of what archivists do. It needs to become part of our everyday lives.

Do you have an advocacy success or failure in your career that is instructive?

When I was at the American Bible Society I would ask myself what are the big issues facing the organization I work for and can I put together historical background papers to send to the Vice President or others that might show them the value of the archives. They responded well to my taking existing information and packaging it in a way that was meaningful to them.

When I was an Archdiocesan archivist it was a time when making church records open was a new idea, and many officials were nervous about who might be using the records. I would send them user reports (not just statistical) that included stories about how lives were touched by the archives. By talking about the range of users I was able to demonstrate that making the records available was actually supporting their larger mission to help parishioners and people in general.

I would say, finally, that just doing your job strategically is a form of advocacy. Doing the job well communicates the value of what we do in a quiet way.

Archives Awareness on the Redesigned SAA Website

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After many months of planning and development, the Society of American Archivists launched a redesigned website last week. Coordinated by SAA staff members, the new website reflects the work of many SAA constituent groups, including the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) and the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy (CAPP).

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The four main goals of SAA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan.

As a reflection of SAA’s current Strategic Plan, which prioritizes Advocating for Archivists and Archives as Goal #1, “Advocacy” is now prominently featured on the website’s main navigation bar. In this context, SAA defines “Advocacy” as not only the shaping of public policy that impacts archives and archivists, but also includes the act of raising public awareness of archives collections, institutions, and professionals.

Advocacy Banner

Advocacy links available directly from the main SAA page navigation bar.

Over the past year, COPA has worked to compile the many resources that lived throughout the former SAA website–on various sub-pages, constituent groups’ micro-sites, and external pages like this WordPress blog–and make them available in one centralized place on the redesigned website. These can now be found under “Resources & Toolkits” under Public Awareness.

The current list is just a starting point, with new additions to be added as they are identified. We welcome suggestions for additional Public Awareness resources and tools. They can be shared in the comments below, or e-mailed to archivesAWARE@archivists.org. As the ArchivesAWARE! blog was developed as a forum for sharing and discussing awareness-raising tools, tips, and experiences, we also welcome guest authors who want to highlight their resources on this blog, as a more dynamic compliment to the static Resources & Toolkits list!

Feedback

Just as the Advocacy and Awareness pages will continue to evolve, so will the entire website continue to expand–and the SAA office is eager for feedback. Take the survey and share your thoughts over the next few weeks!

Highlight: Advocating Business Archives Toolkit

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This post was authored by guest contributor Scott Grimwood, System Manager of Archives, SSM Health Care

 

Most archivists acknowledge the importance of raising awareness of archives and their value to individuals, organizations, and society as a whole–especially in regards to major stakeholders and decision makers. For business archivists, this reality cannot be denied: effective advocacy is often directly related to a business archives’ (and archivist’s) continued existence within that organization.

Any business archives exists at the discretion of the business it serves and is at risk of being shut down if it is not seen as adding value to the organization, or as they say in the business world, providing adequate return on investment (ROI). This can be very difficult for business archivists since ROI is measured by how much money you either earned or saved the company.

In 2014 the Business Archives Section (BAS) of the Society of American Archivists put together the “Advocating Business Archives Toolkit” as a central resource to its members, as a place where they could find extremely helpful information on and examples of successful advocacy. Because advocacy and awareness is vital to the to the entire archives profession, BAS encourages all archivists to utilize this valuable toolkit.

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BAS Advocating Business Archives Toolkits screenshot, Society of American Archivists website

The Advocating Business Archives Toolkit has a wealth of information broken down into seven categories:

  • How to Get Started,
  • Articles on the Value of Archives,
  • BAS Member Recommendations & Success Stories,
  • Elevator Speech Examples,
  • Helpful Sites,
  • SAA Training Opportunities on Advocacy, and
  • Tips & Tricks.

The resources come from a wide variety of sources including external sources such as the American Association of School Librarians, American Alliance of Museums, and the Harvard Business Review.

The goal of the Toolkit is to provide archivists with the basic information to create and implement an advocacy program, and it does an excellent job. While the information from outside sources is very helpful, by far the best information comes directly from the experience of business archivists. Nothing beats a practical idea that has been tried and tested.

Most of the “archivist-tested” advocacy materials can be found in the “BAS Member Recommendations & Success Stories” and “Elevator Speech Examples” sections. The information and examples in both can be thought-provoking and inspiring, especially if you are looking to increase your advocacy efforts. Even if you do not work in a business setting, the motivations behind each example will be familiar to all archivists, and you’ll find many ideas that you can use as starting points to create an effective advocacy plan and individual projects and programs to raise awareness of your archives in your institution/organization/community.

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Portion of the BAS Member Recommendations & Success Stories section of the BAS Advocating Business Archives Toolkit

While there can never be a single source for anything, the Business Archives Section’s “Advocating Business Archives Toolkit” comes pretty close when it comes to archival advocacy. It is worth your time to check out the toolkit and see what it contains that can be of help to you!

Share your favorite source of archival advocacy ideas in the comments below, or contact the ArchivesAWARE editors to contribute a guest post! Read more about the submission process on the About page, then contact the editors at archivesaware@archivists.org.