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

Written by Justine Rothbart

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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

 

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Mark Your Calendars!

Written by Justine Rothbart

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It’s almost that time of year again! Back-to-School? Christmas? Nope. It’s almost time for the Library of Congress National Book Festival! This year the festival will be held on August 30th, 2014. It’s the first year to be held indoors at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For more information on why you should go, check out my blog post from last year’s festival: Cupcakes are out. Archives are in. Last year I discovered new trends in archives (and maybe some fashion trends). Let’s see what we’ll discover this year!

What: Library of Congress National Book Festival

When: August 30, 2014

Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C.

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For more information visit: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/ 

Keeping the Kennedys Alive

Written by Justine Rothbart

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I was not alive in 1963. I don’t remember JFK’s inauguration day. I don’t remember his years in the White House. And I don’t remember that tragic day in November of 1963. And why do I feel as if I do? Why am I so fascinated with the Kennedys fifty years later?  Why do I feel as if I know them?

One word: Archives.

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Photography by Jaques Lowe from the exhibit “Creating Camelot” at the Newseum.

John F. Kennedy was the first president to essentially use the television as a way to talk to the United States (JFK Presidential Library). He was the first president to have an official White House photographer on staff. The TV and photographs captured those White House years in an unprecedented way. They captured Caroline and Jack Jr. playing in the Oval Office. They captured those tense days during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And they captured JFK’s forever-lasting funeral procession through the streets of DC.

Those photographs and the films are now archival materials. They are stored in archival institutions, such as the JFK Presidential Library and the National Archives. These materials are what keep the Kennedys alive today. As I watch JFK’s inauguration speech I feel a sense of hope and optimism. As I watch Jackie Kennedy’s White House tour, I feel her sense of pride. As I see photographs of Jackie on the day of her husband’s funeral, I feel her sense of utter grief and pain.

Those feelings rushed back for many people yesterday on November 22, 2013 – fifty years after JFK’s assassination. I spent the entire day at the Newseum for “JFK Remembrance Day.” I looked at never-before-seen images of the Kennedy family during happier times. I listened to stories from people who personally knew the president. I watched Walter Cronkite deliver the news during the real time viewing of the 1963 CBS news footage.

 CBS News live coverage of November 22, 1963 in the Great Hall of the  Newseum on "JFK Rememberance Day": November 22, 2013

CBS News live coverage of November 22, 1963 in the Great Hall of the Newseum on “JFK Rememberance Day”: November 22, 2013

This day was all possible because of the archival materials and museum objects that still exist. As archivists, we are the memory keepers. We re-tell the story. We make it seem as if you were there. We keep the Kennedys alive.

Don’t miss the JFK exhibits at the Newseum on display through January 5, 2014.

Also, check out Jackie Kennedy’s recently released oral histories from 1964.

A is for Archives and Advocacy

Written by Justine Rothbart

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This past weekend, archivists descended upon the city of Philadelphia. With our notebook and pencil in hand, we were ready to watch, listen, and discuss art and advocacy in the wonderful world of archives. What is the reason for this gathering of archivists, you ask? Why it’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference! During our weekend in Philadelphia, we learned how to determine the date of daguerreotype photographs and improve our elevator speech all in the same conference.  Most importantly, we mixed and mingled with other Mid-Atlantic archivists and had a great time.

CUA LIS Students at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Philadelphia, PA.  (Left to Right) Katherine Stinson, Erica Johnson, Katie Rodda, and Justine Rothbart

CUA LIS Students at the
Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Philadelphia, PA.
(Left to Right) Katherine Stinson, Erica Johnson, Katie Rodda, and Justine Rothbart (Me)

Five of us from the CUA Dept. of Library and Information Science were in attendance: Katherine Stinson, Erica Johnson, Katie Rodda, Justine Rothbart (Me), and Prof. Jane Zhang. Since there were too many sessions to mention in one blog post, I am going to focus on one of the most, in my opinion, inspirational  sessions of the entire conference. The session was titled: Politics, Professionalism, and the Future of Archival Advocacy. It was chaired by Ed Galloway (University of Pittsburgh), with a panel of speakers that included: Bradley Wiles (American Public University), Laura Starratt (Emory University), Jeremy Brett (University of Iowa), and Christine George (SUNY Buffalo Law School).

This was an interactive session with strong audience participation about advocacy in the archival setting. How do you let the world know about your archival collection? How do you promote for yourself as an archivist? Here are some important statements from both the speakers and the audience:

  • When you say you’re an archivist, what do people think? “We want the word archivist be as ubiquitous as teacher, lawyer, or librarian.”
  • When you are advocating a collection or for your position, one audience member said, “[If you don’t hire an archivist], you run the risk of destroying history.”
  • Who are you talking to? What do they want? “[Depending on the audience] I tell people what they want to hear.”
  • The emotional impact is another major component to advocacy. “Photographs connect with people in a way other documents do not.” One speaker mentioned the importance of showing before and after photographs of the collection. What did it look like before you started your job? What does it look like now? Showing a tangible improvement is key to advocacy.
  • “Whenever you can show something cool, it is a way you can get something that’s not cool.” For example, display a “cool” item to show the importance of the collection. Then you can advocate the need for things that are practical, or “not cool.”
  • Christine George talked about “Archives Bins.” In SUNY Buffalo Law Library, she puts “Archives Bins” in other offices for other staff members to contribute items into the archives. Once the bins are collected from each office, then the archivist appraises the items.
  • This quote pretty much sums up the session “When you can personally connect people with the documents – that’s advocacy.”

Elevator speeches are a major part of advocacy. Here’s a couple examples of elevator speeches from the audience:

This was just one of many educational, inspiring, and entertaining sessions of the conference. Spending my weekend with  CUA LIS students and archivists was a great way to meet other archivists in the field and have a fun time! If you decide to attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in the future (which I recommend you do), you’ll definitely see me there again!

Cupcakes are out. Archives are in.

Written by Justine Rothbart

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The best two days of the year have arrived. What is it, you ask? No, it’s not my birthday. It’s not even Christmas. Need a hint? Fine I’ll tell you. It’s the Library of Congress National Book Festival! Ok, before you stop reading, let me explain why I always get so excited during this time of year. Yesterday and today the Library of Congress hosted their 13th annual National Book Festival on the National Mall. This is where passionate authors congregate to discuss the process of writing their new book and their devotion to the topic. This year some of the topics included: families coping with disabled children, Mexican home cooking, homosexuality and religion, and learning how to motivate others by selling. The best part of the National Book Festival is listening to an author, unknown to you, and becoming completely engrossed in their life and their story. It is invigorating leaving the National Book Festival interested in topics you would have never even thought twice about.

Ok, now that you know the background of the National Book Festival (and are counting down the days ’till next year’s event), I’m writing today to talk about the new trends I learned while attending the National Book Festival. No, I did not learn new fashion trends (although, I did see a family sporting some fashionable, yet very practical ponchos). Anyways, I’m getting off topic. This is the place where I realized that cupcakes are out (we knew that for awhile) and archives are in.

Archives? Seriously? Yes, archives. At the National Book Festival yesterday, it seemed as if almost every speaker used the word “archives” during their presentation. It was used not only at the “History & Biography” tent, but at the “Contemporary Life” tent too. Is it just becoming the new buzzword? Or is the general public finally realizing the importance and becoming interested in archives? I think it is a combination of both.

The first time I noticed it was at the beginning of the first session. Linda Ronstadt was about to come on stage to discuss her new book which highlights her forty-five year singing career. Before the session began, the moderator stated the standard announcement from the Library of Congress, “This session is being filmed for the Library of Congress’ website and archives.” Most people would have not been as excited as me to hear this, but as a graduate student studying Cultural Heritage Information Management, this really got me excited. I was not only excited about the Library of Congress saving this for posterity, but I was excited that it was announced for everyone to hear. Announcing little things like this is just the beginning to archives advocacy. I hope every time people heard that statement, they thought, “Wow, that’s great that the Library of Congress is saving this in their archives.” Maybe I’m being too optimistic. They probably only thought, “Ok, when is the main act coming on stage?”

After listening to Linda Ronstadt talk about her musical career, I headed over to the “History & Biography” tent. Film historian, Christel Schmidt, discussed not only the subject of  her new book, Mary Pickford: Queen of Movies, she also discussed researching in film archives to write this book on the famous silent movie actress. Listening to Christel Schmidt talk about archives just reinforces this trend of the general public wanting to know more about the behind the scenes process.

I jumped from the silent movie era back into 2013 when I went to the “Contemporary Life” tent again. This time I was there to listen to Bonnie Benwick discuss The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers’ Favorite Recipes. Ok, you might think, how can cooking be related to archives? Let me tell you. Bonnie Benwick discussed that in order to find the content for this new book, the Washington Post staff not only looked back in the newspaper’s archives, but they contacted readers to look back in their own personal archives. This is just another example of how archival items can be used today for “Contemporary Life” purposes.

The votes are in. The people have spoken. Archives has been named the new trend of 2013. I only hope, that this is not a trend which will quickly disappear as fast as slap bracelets. In fact, I hope this is not a trend at all, but an awakening.

Digital Humanities Data Curation Institute Now Accepting Applications

Hey everybody:

The Digital Humanities Data Curation Institute — a joint effort by University of Maryland’s MITH, the Women’s’ Writers Project, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Library and Information Science — is now accepting applications for a three-day workshop (one of three) to be held in College Park, MD in October. According to the Institute website, the workshop “will provide a strong introductory grounding in data curation concepts and practices, focusing on the special issues and challenges of data curation in the digital humanities.”

At the workshop, attendees will learn how to:

  • Model humanities data for sustainable computational research
  • Identify, assess, and mitigate risks to their data
  • Evaluate tools and systems for working with data from a curatorial perspective
  • Plan and implement data management during all phases of a project’s lifecycle
  • Leverage data curation skills to improve scholarly publications, grant applications, and promotion dossiers
  • Understand and stay current with the landscape of data curation research

More information on applying for the Institution can be found here.