Yellowstone Archives Blitz: Five People, One Week, and a Huge Success

Written by Justine Rothbart

Yellowstone Archives Blitz Team 1 (September 2014): (left to right) Patricia Lehar, Anna Trammell, Erin Bostwick, Anne Foster, Shawn Bawden, Henry Mac, and Justine Rothbart (me).

Yellowstone Archives Blitz Team 1 (September 2014): (left to right) Patricia Lehar, Anna Trammell, Erin Bostwick, Anne Foster, Shawn Bawden, Henry Mac, and Justine Rothbart (me).

 

As I skimmed through my e-mails, this one caught my eye: “Yellowstone National Park is seeking five graduate students (or recent graduates) to volunteer in the park’s archives for five days.” As I’m sitting at my desk at the National Park Service Washington Office (WASO) in Washington, D.C., I imagine myself hiking through the first national park. Maybe I would actually see wildlife in person, instead of just from a “live cam” on my computer. Maybe I would see a part of the country I have never seen before. And most of all, maybe this position will give me experience to work on an innovative project in my field of study: Archives.

Continue reading this blog post on the Yellowstone National Park’s blog: In the Shadow of the Arch.

Advertisements

The Art of Navigating Conferences

Written by Justine Rothbart

___

“You’ve been to a lot of archives conferences,” my fellow CUA CHIM cohort member said to me last weekend while attending the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Baltimore. Yes, she’s right. The conference last weekend was my third MARAC conference. I’ve also attended conferences for the Society of American Archivists and the American Alliance of Museums. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips for how to navigate these conferences. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t work. Becoming more accustomed to attending conferences gives me a greater understanding how to experience them to their fullest potential. So here’s a few of my tips for navigating these conferences:

(P.S. This not only applies to archives-related conferences, but it applies to any conference.)

1. Plan Ahead

I know our lives are very busy, but if you get the chance before you attend, print out the conference schedule. Download the app. Plan your schedule. For conferences that are smaller, such as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, I like to actually print out the conference schedule (if it’s not too many pages). Maybe I’m old fashioned, but there’s something satisfying with circling the sessions I plan to attend. For larger conferences, such as the Society of the American Archivists, download the app and select the sessions you plan to attend. Planning ahead gives you a greater idea of everything that is offered. By planning ahead, you probably won’t miss a session because you “didn’t know about it.” Planning is always done with a pencil and eraser. This means that you don’t have to stay committed to those sessions. Chances are, you’ll decide to attend different sessions on the actual day(s) of the conference. And that’s a good thing.

2. Tell Everyone

Tell everyone you will be attending this conference. How many times have I heard, “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” It’s great running into people at conferences you didn’t know were attending. However, sometimes  you might run into them at the end of the conference and you don’t have enough time to talk. It would have been nice to plan ahead so you can grab a cup of coffee with that person earlier in the conference. How do you tell people? Start by e-mailing your previous co-workers, supervisors, and other archives-related contacts. This will start a conversation if you haven’t “talked” in awhile. Even if that person can’t come, this will give you the chance to plan another time to meet. Also, spread the word on social media. Tell your friends you’re attending this conference via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. Tag the organization hosting the conference and add relevant hashtags. If it’s an archives-related conference, tell your archivist friends and also your non-archivist friends. You’d be surprised who might be interested that you’re attending. This summer at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Conference in Washington, D.C., I posted to Facebook, “I am at SAA!” I immediately get a text from my non-archivist friend who saw my Facebook post. She asked if I will be going to the reception the next night at the Library of Congress. Of course I was attending, but I was kind of confused how she would know about it. It turned out, she was attending as someone’s guest! We ended up meeting at the reception the next day and had a great time! If you don’t have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or e-mail to spread the word, try sending smoke signals.

3. Be Spontaneous 

Even though you planned your schedule ahead of time, leave some room for spontaneous encounters. When the day(s) to attend the conference finally arrives, you might change your mind to attend a different session than you planned. That’s ok. You never know what you’ll stumble upon. Maybe you should grab a cup of coffee with a new person you just met at the conference instead of sticking to your previously planned schedule. Maybe you should spend an extra 30 minutes in the exhibit hall. Whatever it is, don’t be tied down with your previously planned schedule and have fun. In May at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference in Seattle, fellow CUA CHIM cohort member, Kelsey Conway, and I ran into a fellow alumni from our undergraduate school (University of Mary Washington). We ditched our plans and spontaneously joined her for a lunch at the Seattle Public Library hosted by her Museum Studies program at the University of Washington. We didn’t plan to go to this event (because we didn’t know about it), but I’m glad we did! We ended up meeting other students in the program and listened to their poster presentations. Read more about the AAM conference in my blog post: A Latte of Museum Fun in Seattle.

4. Be Flexible 

This goes along with the whole spontaneity thing. Just remember, some things don’t always work out as planned. Maybe there are no seats available in the session you planned to attend. Be flexible, and go to a different session. Who knows, you might end up enjoying it. This summer when there was a major delay on the metro during the Society of American Archivists Conference in Washington, D.C., I had to remind myself, “Be flexible.” Maybe it’s meant to be this way. Because of the metro delay, I could not go to some sessions I planned to attend. I still had a great time! Check out my blog post about being flexible at the SAA Conference: Go with the Flow (Even if it’s hard for Archivists).

5. Get out of your comfort zone

You might be tempted to attend sessions where you know the subject really well. But one of the reasons to attend conferences is to learn something new, right? So try to pick at least one session where you know nothing about. Are you planning on attending all sessions relating to education? Mix it up a bit and attend a session about professional development. You never know what you might learn. Read about my experience of being out of my comfort zone at the Library of Congress National Book Festival: Geeking Out.

6. Socialize 

As you can tell by now, socializing is a high priority for me at conferences. Yes, it is important to learn new things and to attend the sessions, but it is also important to meet new people in your field and see old friends. So when you’re at a conference, try not to turn down a socializing event. Is there a reception? Great! Go to the reception and tell other people to attend too. Do you have some free time to kill before the next event? Great! Meet up with other people from the conference to talk in a more casual setting. At the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference last weekend, a group of us (from Catholic University and University of Maryland) decided to go to a restaurant (in a historic hotel, of course) while we had some time before the reception. This gave us the chance to meet new people and talk to classmates outside of class.

CUA “CHIMers” at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference reception at the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Left to Right: Justine Rothbart (me) and Kelsey Conway. October 17, 2014.

7. Think about the Future

What’s going to happen when you go home after the conference? What can you do to harness the momentum? While you’re at the conference, make connections with people who live in your geographic region. At the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC), there are different regional caucuses. I am a member of the MARAC DC Caucus and get local updates through e-mail and Facebook about DC related archives topics and MARAC DC happy hours. At MARAC last weekend, I attended the DC Caucus session where we received updates and we able to put a face to the name. Also, share your experience! Tell people that you attended a conference. After the conference, post on your social media accounts or write a blog post. Writing a blog post (longer than 140 characters) about your experience, what you learned, and your thoughts about the conference gives a little more depth and perspective. It is also a good way for you to reflect on your own experience. By sharing your conference stories afterwards, you might encourage someone to attend the same conference in the future or make a connection with someone unexpectedly. After attending the MARAC conference last year in Philadelphia, I wrote this blog post: A is for Archives and Advocacy. A member of the Society of the American Archivists (SAA) Issues & Advocacy Roundtable was grateful I wrote a blog post about their session in Philadelphia and recommended I should write a blog post for the SAA blog! I wrote this blog post for the SAA Issues & Advocacy Roundtable blog called: Oh my gosh, this is so cool!

I hope these tips will help you when you attend your next conference. Whether it’s your first conference or your 50th, remember the most important tip of all: Have fun.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wondering which conferences to attend? Here’s a couple archives-related conferences you should check out:

Society of American Archivists

Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference 

 

“Archives Blitz” in Yellowstone!

Written by Justine Rothbart

___

In two weeks I will be embarking on my trip to Yellowstone National Park. You might ask, “How is your trip to Yellowstone related to Cultural Heritage Information Management?” Well, this is no ordinary trip. I was selected as one of five archivists to go to Yellowstone National Park to find their hidden collections. (In other words, I’ll be the Indiana Jones of archives.) Our team of five will spend one week in Yellowstone to complete an “Archives Blitz.”

Here’s a picture of what we’ll look like during our week in Yellowstone:

Tourists at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, 1888

Tourists at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, 1888

The Yellowstone Archives designed this one-week “blitz” to help small and rural repositories, like theirs, to process their collection. Here’s a blog post that describes the project: Using a Team Approach to Expose Yellowstone’s Hidden Collection.

I am very excited to be a part of this unique project. As a current National Park Service Intern, I am looking forward to learn more about a National Park’s archival collection located outside the Washington, D.C. area. By traveling to Yellowstone National Park, this will give me the opportunity to reflect on my past experience and give context to the archival profession as a whole.

Can’t wait to see what we discover!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Check back for a future blog post(s) about my Yellowstone “Archives Blitz” experience.

Geeking Out

Written by Justine Rothbart

____

geek out

  1. To enthuse about a specific topic, not realizing that most people listening will fail to understand it.
  2. To do geeky things; to act geeky; to speak of geeky things. [wiktionary]

 

How many times has this happened to you? You might be talking about something totally cool, and then suddenly realize that others are not as excited. They might be nodding their heads along thinking, “Wow, I’m glad she’s excited” or maybe “When is she going to stop talking?”

If you know me, you might have listened to me totally geek out about something. It might have been about archives, historic preservation, cats…ok, I’ll stop there. Anyways, there’s always something that gets people excited. And isn’t it surprising when it’s not the same thing you’re interested in?

This Saturday I saw the wide range of things people could geek out about. Thousands of book lovers gathered at the Washington, D.C Convention Center for the 14th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival. I listened to Sandra Day O’Connor and her brother talk about wild horses in the west, Eric Cline talk about archaeology and the year civilization collapsed, and Elizabeth Mitchell talk about the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. While I was totally excited to learn about the diary of the Statue of Liberty’s sculptor, others were having just as good of a time learning about graphic novels or poetry in other sessions.

It’s sometimes refreshing to get out of your comfort zone. You might, like me, gravitate to the things you know you’ll be interested in. But if you try something new, you might step into another world that you didn’t even know existed. And who knows, you might even enjoy it.

This happened to me on Saturday while I was waiting in line with my friend to meet David Sibley. As my friend described him, David Sibley is the “rock star of the bird world.” While I like birds, I am not a bird enthusiast. I was there for my friend. I never knew how much someone could like birds until we met the other people in line. Suddenly I was on the other side of geeking out. I was the one just smiling and nodding along. Although I wasn’t as excited as they were, it gave me a greater appreciation for bird watching. I was happy to see people so passionate about one subject.

I was glad I stood in that line to see that other world, that new perspective. I don’t think I’ll be buying a pair of binoculars anytime soon. But now when I see a bird, I’ll stop and take a few more seconds to think back to David Sibley and the bird enthusiasts we met in line at the National Book Festival.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Check out my blog post from last year’s National Book Festival: Cupcakes are out. Archives are in. 

 

Go with the Flow (Even if it’s hard for Archivists)

Written by Justine Rothbart

___

I downloaded the app. I mapped out my day. I planned my schedule. When the day finally came to attend the Society of American Archivists conference, I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was the announcement I heard while waiting on the metro platform, “We are experiencing residual delays from an earlier train malfunction at Farragut West. We regret your inconvenience. We thank you for your patience.”

Doesn’t WMATA know that the Society of American Archivists conference is in town? Don’t they know that I need to go to a session on crowdsourcing?!

Unfortunately, those of us from Washington, D.C. are too familiar with this announcement. We sometimes schedule time for metro delays. But I didn’t schedule time for a two hour commute from my home in Reston, Virginia to the conference. Alas, I did not make it to the crowdsourcing session. When the sessions were too crowded to find a seat, I just decided to wait until the next session.

While meandering through the hallway of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, upset that my dreams have been dashed by, yet again, another metro delay (too dramatic?), an unexpected surprise happened. I ran into people I did not expect to see! I ran into my previous supervisor, co-workers, professors, and classmates. That’s when I realized, conferences, like the Society of American Archivists Conference, are not just about attending all the sessions and learning so much new information until your head explodes. It’s about the unexpected surprises. It’s about the serendipitous encounters. It’s about the connections.

Fellow Catholic University graduate students at the Society of American Archivists Conference

Catholic University graduate students at the Society of American Archivists Conference

I know as archivists, it’s difficult for us not to plan and for us not to organize. It’s our job to organize. But maybe we should plan for spontaneity. Maybe we should plan for those unexpected encounters. And who knows, you might even end up having more fun than you planned.

University of Mary Washington Alumni at the Library of Congress for the Society of American Archivists reception

University of Mary Washington Alumni at the Library of Congress for the Society of American Archivists reception

 

Should I be reading this?

Written by Justine Rothbart

__

“Won’t you please destroy? You are not always careful with letters, and if you destroy, you won’t need to be careful.” (Harding to Phillips, Jan. 26, 1915, from San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, where Harding died in 1923, regarding their correspondence)

President Warren Harding’s love letters to Carrie Fulton-Phillips (from 1910 to 1920) are now open to the public

Warren Harding requested Carrie Fulton-Phillips to destroy the letters. These letters, written from 1910 to 1920, express details about an affair between the future president and his mistress. Even after Harding’s request, the letters were never destroyed. They were hidden in a box and then later kept in the Library of Congress’ “vault.” One hundred years later, the letters are now available to the public.

With just the click of your mouse, you can now dive into the personal relationship of Harding and Phillips. You can read their secrets. Their hopes. Their fears. You might feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a treasure-trove. It might seem as if you found these letters in a shoe box under someone’s bed. As you discover the shoe box and curl up with a flashlight in hand, you might think to yourself, “Should I be reading this?”

Last month I wrote a blog post about recently discovered personal letters written by Jackie Kennedy (What would Jackie Do?). Eventually, after strong opposition to publicly revealing her personal and private thoughts, the letters were removed from auction. The Kennedy family are now involved in “how to preserve and curate” the letters.

How are Jackie Kennedy’s letters different from President Harding’s? One major difference is time. The Harding letters were written over forty years earlier. They were written during the time of the Titanic sinking and during the time of World War I. Or to put it into further context, they were written between series 1 and 3 of Downton Abbey. 

This brings up the question: “How soon is ‘too soon’?” People often find it respectable to read private information with the passing of a certain amount of time. But the amount of time is debatable. Even if the associated people have passed away, their legacy needs to be taken into consideration. Their privacy needs to be respected. But do we expect all archival institutions to be one giant vault where we lock the door and throw away the key?

No.

Privacy needs to be respected, yes. But as time passes, so does information. As archivists, one of our main ethical pillars is to provide everyone access to information. As news broke about the revealing of these letters, the number of hits on Warren G. Harding’s Wikipedia page  must have skyrocketed. People need to refresh their memories (or learn for the first time) who Warren G. Harding was. I’m sure many people say, “Who is Harding?”  or “Is that Carson from Downton Abbey?” (Ok, that’s my last Downton Abbey reference).

The time the letters spent sitting on a shelf, the memory of President Harding was slipping away. Maybe that’s when we know enough time has passed. Or maybe that’s when we realize it’s too late.

The past few weeks in our Special Collections class, we have had behind-the-scenes tours of several special collections in Washington, D.C. We were lucky enough to have a tour of the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division where the Harding letters were housed since 1972. (We did not see the letters because they were not available to be seen by the public until today – July 29, 2014). Through our tours, we have learned there’s always a balancing act between privacy and access.

Maybe there’s never a right answer only the best answer. Either way, I hope this starts (or continues) the discussion.

And whether you feel it’s appropriate or not, you can start reading President Harding’s love letters here: http://www.loc.gov/collection/warren-harding-carrie-fulton-phillips-correspondence/about-this-collection/

____________________________________________________________________________________________

For more information on President Warren Harding’s love letters, here’s today’s news release from the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2014/14-129.html