“Oh my gosh, this is so cool!”

Written by Justine Rothbart

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“Oh my gosh, this is so cool!” This phrase goes through my head dozens of times a day while working in the archives. As archivists, we think almost everything in an archival collection is the most interesting thing in the world. Well, of course, we’re archivists. We get lost in our own world reading the stories, examining historic photos, and listening to oral histories. We think, “I have to tell everyone about this! They will all think it is so interesting!” Will they? Let’s think for a minute. Let’s think about those people who are not archivists. Let’s think about those who do not dedicate their life to preserving and providing access to archival material. Will they feel the same way you do? Will they care as much as you do?

Click here to continue reading the rest of the post on the Society of American Archivists Issues and Advocacy Roundtable blog.

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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!