Ah, October. One of my favorite months! For people like me who live in the southeastern United States, October commences our collective obsession with fall, sweaters, boots, wedding season, football games, cool weather, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. For archives lovers, October has even more meaning, because it is officially American Archives Month!!! Yay! To top it all off, Georgia archivists decided to double claim this month, because it is officially Georgia Archives Month as well. Yeah, we did it. BOOM. As exciting as this is, it also puts a lot of pressure on people like me, whose jobs revolve around archival outreach. This is the month where I finally have an excuse to talk about archives every second of every day. Whether it’s through social media, scholarly articles, outreach events and programs, or even just striking up a conversation with a stranger—my life this month is all about bringing the importance of archives into public awareness and advocating for stronger and better supported archival programs throughout the United States.
Taking advantage of Archives Month must be done in a thoughtful way, because whether we like it or not, most people are probably unaware of and/or don’t care much about archives. I know . . . it hurts to say it! However, I believe that most of this nonchalance comes from ignorance, simply because the majority of people do not understand what archives are and why they are useful. In order to reverse this way of thinking, we have to get creative! Instead of merely lecturing our audiences about the nature of archives or doing a show-and-tell presentation of a few collection highlights, let’s step outside of the archival box and have a little fun! Here are some fun ideas I’ve seen floating around in the archival community:
- Although archivists strive to create a complete, authentic, and accurate view of history, why not get a little fictitious for a second?? Invite fellow archivists or members of your community to participate in a fiction contest featuring an archives, an archivist, or archival materials. This is a great way to get the archival community and the general public to use their imagination and to think about archives in unconventional ways. Take a look at the Society of American Archivists’ second annual fiction contest invitation: http://archivists.org/short-fiction-contest.
- Participate in #AskAnArchivistDay—a large-scale Twitter conversation where archivists from all over the country answer any and every question about archives and archivists. This year’s #AskAnArchivistDay is on October 5: http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/askanarchivist-day.
- Draw comics about archives and post them on social media. Here’s an example from the ArchivesAware! Blog: https://archivesaware.archivists.org/2016/07/25/beyond-the-elevator-no-5/
- Develop a state or local theme to coincide with Archives Month and develop programming around this theme. In Georgia, our theme this year is “Archives Big and Small: Showcasing Our Gems.”
- Have a photo contest or a photo identification contest where you solicit the general public to either submit archival photos they may have in their homes or help identify unknown faces and names in collections of unlabeled photographs. (Ahem . . . don’t even pretend like your repository doesn’t have a collection of mystery photographs!)
- Make contacts with local and state politicians. This month is the prime time for advocacy! Each year in Georgia, we kick off Archives Month with a proclamation signing and photo op with our governor. This was my first year attending! (see the photo below):
Anyway, these are just a few small ideas, but I’d love to hear more!! Please use this space as a sounding board for Archives Month ideas and experiences 🙂