I will no longer stay quiet.

I generally do not engage in political talk on this blog. First and foremost, I simply do not like talking about politics; it stresses me out. But secondly, I like keeping the peace. I remember learning something in political science class during my freshman year of college that will always stick with me. The TA dropped a little wisdom on us and said that if you’re ever with a group of people you don’t know very well, stay away from discussing money, religion, and politics. Because this blog is a space open to everyone, I would hate for someone to feel attacked or unwelcome by a post simply because he or she holds certain political views.  Hence, my idea of a politically neutral blog has been totally sufficient for almost two years.

But there are times when you just cannot stay quiet. Right now, we are in one of these times. A few days ago, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and his administration released their proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. This proposal sent archivists, librarians, scholars, educators, museum curators, students and all those who care about cultural heritage into a complete shock. In this proposal, Trump and his administration desire to eliminate funding for the following programs related to archives and libraries:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Heritage Areas program at the National Park Service. There are currently 49 Heritage Areas nationwide.
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Twenty individual grant programs at the Department of Education are eliminated. The proposal specifically mentions international education which includes Title VI/Fulbright-Hays.
  • The Department of Interior’s budget is cut 12%.

In my mind, this is nothing less than a tragedy. Even though this is just a proposal and it is highly unlikely that this will have any chance of making it through Congress, I call this tragic because it shows us that the President of the United States simply does not value what we value. Apparently, he does not see value in funding archives, libraries, and the countless other cultural heritage institutions that document the human experience. This proposal has once again forced me to confront the question, “why do archives matter?” I found my answer to this question many years ago, and it still has not changed. Archives matter because humans matter. Archives matter because the human condition matters, and our collective experiences, stories, victories, challenges, and legacies matter on this planet. Does President Trump value the human experience? Does he value human expression? Does he value the culture and rich traditions that we all share as members of the human race? According to this budget proposal, the answer is no, and that, my friends, angers me.

On an even more intense level, I must add that this budget proposal personally offends me. I cannot even begin to explain the incredible impact that programs like the NEH, IMLS, and National Heritage Area programs have had on my life. In 2015, I was awarded a ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellowship, which paid for the last year of my graduate schooling and provided me with a paid internship so I could gain experience in my field and enter the job force after graduation. Yeah, the IMLS did that!! Do you all remember my work with the Flat Rock Archives? The Flat Rock Archives is a small community archives in Lithonia, GA that documents the history of African Americans in the area. The Flat Rock Archives survives on two grants per year, and one of these grants is provided by the National Heritage Area program. Without this grant, the archives would cease to exist. As for the NEH, where do I even begin? The NEH and the IMLS partially fund almost every conference I attend as an archives professional. The NEH provides the entire cultural heritage profession with preservation grants, outreach grants, research grants, and more. Eliminating the NEH would be completely catastrophic for the development of the humanities in this country.

I want to raise my future children in a country that values their thoughts, expressions, and stories, and history. I want to live in a country that sees value in its people and their ideas. Right now, I am sick with grief over the current administration’s death sentence toward so many things that I hold true to my heart. But I will not give up hope!! There are too many of us to let this go down without a fight. I believe that through solidarity, activism, prayer, and grit, America will push back against this assault on its cultural heritage.

Who’s with me??

For more information about the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/trump-budget-cuts/

To see the Society of American Archivists’ most recent analysis of the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www2.archivists.org/news/2017/trump-administration%E2%80%99s-proposed-fy-18-budget-slashes-neh-nea-imls

 

Our 31 days of glory. Make the most of it!

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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/
  4. 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.” 
  5. 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!)
  6. 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):
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A few Georgia archivists (I am fourth from the left!) with Governor Nathan Deal as we officially proclaim October as Georgia Archives Month.
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Having a little fun in the Governor’s Office before the Georgia Archives Month proclamation signing 🙂

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 🙂

Meet My Team!

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I LOVE my first professional position as an archivist at the Kennesaw State University Archives! I am the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist. I’ve been there for a little over two months, and it’s amazing. My job involves giving instruction sessions to undergraduates, developing and maintaining relationships with donors, handling reference requests, creating exhibits and public programs, and working with the Bentley Rare Book Gallery!

I’d like everyone to meet the two archivists I work with! On the right is Anne Graham, University Archives/Digital Collections Archivist, and in the middle is Armando Suarez, Processing Archivist. Of course, on the left is me! We are the archivist family at KSU, and we love it!

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Pomp, Circumstance … and Employment!

First comes …

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then comes …

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then comes …

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Check me out in my big-girl office 🙂

YAAS! It’s official! As of May 7, 2016, this girl is a graduate of Clayton State University’s Master of Archival Studies program.

And…

I have officially finished my first week of work in my very first professional position ever. That’s right, no more “i-word” for me (aka intern). I am now the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist at Kennesaw State University! #Hallelujah. Check out our site here.

As the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist, I am a member of the Archives section of the KSU Museums, Archives, and Rare Books Department (MARB). My position focuses on increasing and enhancing archival awareness both on and off campus. My main functions include providing archival instruction sessions to undergraduate and graduate students, providing reference services for patrons, working with donors from the north and northwest Georgia community, and developing exhibits, workshops, social media content, and public programs that increase the presence of the KSU archives.

Some of you may not have heard of an outreach archivist before or may be wondering how it is similar to or different from other archival positions. An outreach archivist is very much the face of the archives. In other words, my position is all about facilitating a connection between our archives and various constituents. I may not be involved in much archival processing, but my job is to work closely with the processing archivist, letting him know which collections are being requested the most so he can determine priorities for processing. I also work with him to discuss interesting items within collections so I can promote them to the public. In addition, the second half of my title says “special collections.” That means I work primarily with records created outside the university. The KSU Archives’ goal not only involves collecting records created by the university but also documenting the history of north and northwest Georgia. Hence, I work closely individuals, civic organizations, and social groups in the surrounding areas to ensure their voices are heard and represented within KSU’s archival collections.

In a nutshell, my first week at the KSU Archives was amazing, overwhelming, eye-opening, exciting, busy, and inspiring. During my time at KSU, I know that I will be challenged; I know will make mistakes; and on occasion, I might outright fail. However, I also know these challenges will never supersede my passion for archives and my determination to work hard and diligently no matter what it takes. My title as “archivist” has been three years in the making. I’m ready. #Letsgo.

 

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Last but not least … many congratulations to all the librarians, archivists, curators, and information science professionals who graduated this year! We did it!

 

 

Reaching Out!

Outreach is a core archival function. Period.

I know, I know … I’m not leaving much room for debate there, am I? I’m sorry if I sounded forceful; normally I try to maintain an open mind about all viewpoints when I blog, but I really feel strongly about this particular subject, so excuse my slightly aggressive tone! Honestly, I think most archivists today would also agree that outreach is a crucial part of archival work; however, there was a time when outreach was considered a side effort or a task that was less important than “real” archival functions like appraisal and processing.  According to Timothy Ericson, this outdated mindset harkens from a past era when archivists considered themselves as passive custodians whose only goal was to serve and protect the records that came to them. F. Gerald Ham says archivists were “preoccupied with [their] own gardens, and too little aware of the larger historical and social landscape that sounded [them].”[1] Although it is crucial to acknowledge and understand our past professional practices so we can know from whence we came, sometimes, you just have to say, “so much for the past.”[2] Advances in technology and changes in user expectations/needs now require us to focus more on outreach. As archivists in the “post-custodial era,” our purpose is no longer to serve the records themselves; it is to serve the patrons (both direct and indirect) who can benefit from using our collections. (Part of me wonders if this was always the main purpose yet archivists were simply missing the mark, but that is a different discussion for a different day).

So what is archival outreach anyway? The Glossary of Archival Records and Terminology defines outreach as “the process of identifying and providing services to constituencies with needs relevant to the repository’s mission, especially underserved groups, and tailoring services to meet those needs.”[3] If that definition intimidates you, sometimes I like to simplify it by reversing the word itself. Outreach essentially means, “reach out.” Reach out to those who can benefit from the archives, and make archival services meaningful to them. Plus, the cool thing about outreach is that it can happen in so many different ways. Some archivists may create activities for K-12 or undergraduate students using items from their collections. That’s outreach. Other archivists may create exhibits showcasing archival materials pertaining to Black History Month, President’s Day, July Fourth, or whichever holiday may be happening at the moment. That’s outreach. Archivists may hold special workshops for genealogists or other constituents who have a deep interest in the collections. That’s outreach. Archivists may choose to host receptions, charity events, or community meetings at the archives. That’s outreach. Or, outreach can be as simple as “good, courteous service to any and all reference patrons.”[4]

I’ve included some links below that provide examples of outreach at various institutions.

Kennesaw State University Traveling exhibitions: http://historymuseum.kennesaw.edu/educators/traveling.php

Georgia Archives “Lunch and Learn” workshops: http://historymuseum.kennesaw.edu/educators/traveling.php

Princeton University Department of Rare Books and Special Collections exhibitions: https://rbsc.princeton.edu/exhibitions

“More Podcast, Less Process,” podcast series: http://keepingcollections.org/more-podcast-less-process/

I’d love to hear some examples of archival outreach that you’ve encountered! All comments are welcome!

Here are some pictures from an outreach activity we did at the Flat Rock Archives in October 2015. We hosted our annual Heritage Day and Jazz Festival which included an archival exhibit, music, food, and lots of family/friend fellowship. It was great!

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[1] F. Gerald Ham, “Archival Strategies for the Post-Custodial Era,” American Archivist 44, no. 3 (1981): 207.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Glossary of Archival Records and Terminology, Richard Pearce-Moses (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005), s.v. “outreach,” http://www2.archivists.org/glossary/terms/o/outreach.

[4] William Landis et al. “Reference, Access, and Outreach: An Evolved Landscape, 1936 – 2011,” American Archivist 74, no. 1 (2011): 33, http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.74.suppl-1.l4625w7459q3g2lu.