Examples of archival & special collections being used for current scientific purposes?

Perhaps inspired by the fantastic session on the recent CLIR Hidden Collections Symposium featuring uses of scientists’ field books (including the Smithsonian’s Field Book Project), I’m interested in hearing about examples of archival and special collections materials being used to support current scientific research. “Current scientific research” can be framed broadly–really anything interesting that’s not history, fiction, art, etc. If you’ve got an example, even an anecdotal one, please share in a comment or send me a message, if you’d prefer. I expect the people of Twitter will be contributing as well–the Royal Bank of Scotland Archives already has:



Opportunity to be an ambassador for archives outside the usual venues … CFP for MLA session

Here’s an opportunity to talk about archives outside the usual venues most of us attend: the Modern Language Association (MLA)’s 2016 meeting in Austin. There’s a call for papers out for this session (http://www.mla.org/cfp_detail_8175):

Archival Practices

Special Session

Roundtable bridging “the archive” as concept and the labor of archivists: arrangement and description; exclusions; institutional power; grassroots efforts; literary collections; non-paper materials; access. 300 word abstract and short bio by 15 March 2015; Anne Donlon (adonlon@emory.edu).

That’s all the info I’ve got, but if you can be in Austin January 7-10 of next year, it seems like a great opportunity to both talk about how archivists think about archives and learn more from academics about how they view “archives” as a concept. I hope some of you will follow up and consider putting in a proposal!

Many thanks to Roxanne Shirazi who shared this on Twitter.

For non-archivists: What aspect of archives do you wish you knew more about? What’s a mystery to you?

As noted in the previous post, I’ve got a another new project in the works, scheduled for an early 2015 launch. It will be about archives (of course) and targeted at the general public. I’m working on finalizing the scope and project goals at the moment, and I want to make sure I’m aiming for the right goals and including the right content, so last week I posted on Twitter:

Unlike the previous question (aimed at archivists) I didn’t get a lot of responses to this one, so I’m throwing it out there again. Historians, scholars, family history researchers, and all “civilians”! What do you want to know about archives? What should I make sure I cover in my new project?


Archivists: What do you most wish people knew about archives?

I’ve got a another new project in the works, scheduled for an early 2015 launch. It will be about archives (of course) and targeted at the general public. I’m working on finalizing the scope and project goals at the moment, and I want to make sure I’m aiming for the right goals and including the right content, so last week I posted on Twitter:

Here are some of the responses I received:

That people know how much work “just scanning a photo” really is.

That archivists aren’t trying to hide interesting sources from researchers; that we WANT them to use the archives!

some don’t get the ‘point’ of what we’re doing, who we are serving, who has archives.

That it’s not all digitised, nor should it be.

Keen to find out about entry-level graduate jobs in archives & where to find them, as well as the transition from library work

That there’s more than meets the eye. Treat archives like an adventure. Adventures take time/effort/risk but are rewarding.

How we get our materials; that our collections grow rather than were given/purchased all at once; that we have contemp. stuff!

I find ppl are shocked when I post pics of tours I’ve been on (IE Recent tour of Hockey Hall of Fame Archives!)

that they are entitled to access the records. And frequently people don’t know how to do that. Or how to ask

That knowing the collection s/t was in doesn’t mean I can find it. Some collections are 300+ boxes! &How finding aids work.

That we can’t catalogue and/or index the contents of everything. Searching takes time and effort.

most archives are publicly owned and are a societal resource

that is pronounced Ar-kiv-ist 🙂 And no, putting a whole bunch of things on the web is not ‘archiving’.

I wish people knew archives are applicable to many disciplines, not just folks interested in “history.” My favorite recent illustration of this is Thomas Piketty’s use of historical financial records to in his econ book “Capital”

Would like to see archivists more involved in, benefitting from popular discussions about archive/archives [example: http://flavorwire.com/479261/david-bowie-is-the-movie-doesnt-do-david-bowie-is-the-exhibit-justice]

that we don’t just have ‘old stuff’ but are busy swiping history as its made.

that archivists don’t necessarily work in “archives” all the time-can be Inst. Repository,data curation, etc.

Also, we cannot digitise everything, digitisation is rarely preservation, digital preservation is more than storage

How do you decide which new materials to keep, and which to get rid of?


Anything to add? What do you most wish people knew about archives?


Next up for Archivists Reading Group: The Levy Report (if you don’t know what that is, you should)

I’m excited to say that the next reading over on the Archivists Reading Together blog will be a report commissioned by SAA and published in 1984, The Image of Archivists: Resource Allocaters’ Perceptions, commonly referred to as “The Levy Report.” It’s about 60 pages long and is available as a PDF on the SAA website: http://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/Image-of-Archivists-Levy1984.pdf

I haven’t read it, although it gets referred to quite often so I’m looking forward to it. This seems a timely topic to return to, although I expect we will find that unfortunately not much has changed in the world since 1984. But perhaps I am being too pessimistic. So please join in  over on that site, beginning around June 21 for a discussion of the Levy Report.

Advocacy for the Georgia State Archives needs your support

Copied from my friend Richard Peace-Moses on Facebook:

The Friends of Georgia Archives and History (FOGAH) has contracted with a legislative affairs consulting firm to help build support for the Georgia Archives. We’ve already seen an enormous return: the Archives will remain open on 1 Nov, rather than closing, and two staff who had been given notice will keep their jobs.

We have politicians’ attention, but we have much more work to do to fully restore funding for the Archives. (And for archives, generally, in the state.) To enable FOGAH to continue working with the legislative affairs consultant, please consider a donation to help defray the unexpected costs. (By the way, the consultants are charging a small fraction of what they’d normal ask.) Can you imagine if each of the 17,000+ people who signed the petition to save the Georgia Archives gave just $5?!

Please donate $5 or $10 dollars to help get Georgia Archives back on its feet. You can contribute with a credit card through the FOGAH website at http://www.fogah.org/id7.html


I approve this message: “Wake The F*ck Up!”

I’ve been considering this post for a while, but Samuel L. Jackson’s message hit home:

There was a conversation on Facebook about this a few weeks ago. I know you can argue that Obama hasn’t been as good on many issues (such as openness and transparency) as we would have liked. Many of us who were passionate about him four years ago have been disappointed that he wasn’t everything we wanted. But that disappointment shouldn’t blind us to how clear a choice is before us and how important this election is. If you’re in doubt about that, please take a look at “WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS, IN THEIR OWN WORDS: A Side-by-Side Comparison of the 2012 Democratic and Republic Party Platform Documents.”

While it’s not part of the issues covered on that site, Romney has publicly stated that he wants to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by half (source and this is also stated on his own site). NEH provides grants to many projects related to archives, and I think it’s safe to assume Romney would be no friend of the NHPRC if he has no love for the NEH.

Don’t be lulled into complacency by the latest polls. This election hasn’t been won yet. Please, as my friend Mr. Jackson says, wake up! Do what you can. Volunteer, organize, talk to friends and family, and donate. We all know the Republicans have supporters with very deep pockets and seemingly unlimited sources of money available to them. If you can afford to give, please donate to the campaign. Here, here’s an easy link for that too.

Note: I’ve disabled comments on this post because conversations about politics can get quite heated and this blog isn’t about politics. I posted the message that I wanted to post, but I’m not interested in moderating a discussion about it.

UPDATED NOTE: The People of Twitter wanted comments turned on, and so I’m turning them on. However, I reserve the right to turn them off again any time I feel like it. It’s my blog, after all. I’m not a government agency.

Great New York Times story today: Budget Cuts to Archives Put History Out of Reach

If you haven’t seen it already, please read and pass along this great story from today’s New York TimesBudget Cuts to Archives Put History Out of Reach. Note that it starts with the situation in Georgia, but expands to cover cuts to government archives across the country. And thanks to friend-of-the-blog, Richard Peace-Moses for emphasizing the impact cuts have on the ability of archives to deal with both paper and electronic records. Great job by everyone involved!

Some good news for Georgia State Archives, but bad news (that’s not really news) in a larger sense

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Governor of Georgia has said he is committed to keeping the state archives open. However, as far as I’ve heard, no plans have been made to rescind the firings of the 7 out of 10 employees. So he’s committed to keeping the building open, but not to doing so with appropriate staffing?

On the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable listserv, Jeremy Floyd posted this:

I just wanted to point to this bit of reporting about the ongoing Georgia Archives debacle


First, yay the Governor promises to keep the archive open somehow.  But what I wanted to point out was at the close of the article:

“Although Clayton State University, which is located next to the Georgia Archives, offers a master’s degree program in archival studies, Kemp said using student interns to keep the facility open is not a viable option. It would mean the secretary of state’s office would still have to pay security and janitorial staff to work. The security and janitorial staff will be let go as part of the budget cut.”

So the Georgia secretary of state says professional archivists can’t be replaced by unpaid interns, not because they lack the training or expertise necessary, or that it would be exploitative of those students, but because ‘oh yeah we’re also firing the janitors and security guards that allow the building to stay open’. Maybe they can get unpaid janitorial and security interns, problem solved. Seriously, we need to eliminate the perception that budget shortfalls can made up for with volunteers and interns performing essential functions. Its not good for the interns, its not good for the archives, and its not good for the profession.

I don’t think I can say it any better than Jeremy did. The Georgia State Archives situation illustrates many of the problems faced by archives all over the country and the profession at large. The staff has been reduced from over 50 employees down to 10 over the years. And now eliminating virtually all public access is seen as more acceptable than cuts to other departments. The governor seems to want to support the archives, but doesn’t recognize that  the services of professional archivists are necessary to provide adequate public access.

I don’t know that there is very much anyone can do to combat these larger trends, but I know when I’m giving my input into SAA’s updated strategic priorities, I will be arguing for moving advocacy higher up on the priority list. If you have suggestions about specific actions or strategies that could help address the root cause of these problems, the comments are open for you.



Roundup of links regarding closing of public access to Georgia State Archives

Here is a quick roundup of links:

The change.org petition now has almost 12,000 signatures, but if you haven’t signed it yet, please do that now. And please add any other appropriate updates and links in the comments.

UPDATE: The American Historical Association has also sent a letter to the governor: http://blog.historians.org/news/1738/aha-responds-to-georgia-state-archives-closure.