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:

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.

Adopt a wax cylinder for Christmas & other ways you can help archives before the tax year ends

Yesterday on Facebook I was reminded of the wonderful “Adopt a Cylinder Program” sponsored by the Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project at the Department of Special Collections, U.C. Santa Barbara. It gives you an opportunity to browse the list of early sound recordings in their collection and select one (or more) for which you will fund the digitization.  In the previous post I noted that archives need help from historians and other users in supporting advocacy for archives, but it’s just as nice to show your support by just plain giving money.

Below is a list of similar “adopt a …” programs sponsored by archives, special collections, and historical organizations. I’m sure most are also tax deductible (but verify for yourself if that’s important to you). I hope you’ll consider making a gift to one of these, or the archival organization nearest to your heart. And I’m happy to keep adding programs to the list, so if you know of one that’s not here, let me know.

Happy holidays, and happy giving!


Christmas poster featuring a koala dressed in Santa hat and boots ca 1920, State Library of Queensland, Australia.

And don’t forget the lovely limited edition, custom Moleskine® notebooks being offered by the Special Collections at the University of Scranton. Maybe too late for a stocking stuffer, but ideal for starting a new diary for the new year!


Continue reading “Adopt a wax cylinder for Christmas & other ways you can help archives before the tax year ends”

Update on situation for archives in Canada

As you  may know if you’re on the A&A listerv or following along on Twitter or Facebook, a lot has been happening with public funding for archives in Canada, and I’m afraid almost all of it is not good. A few weeks ago I asked if any Canadians wanted to write a summary of the situation for the blog and two people rose to the task. Below is a post from Amanda Hill, documenting her perspective on the situation from about two weeks ago; you can read an update on her blog here. Following Amanda’s post is a more recent one from Myron Groover. You can read more from Myron on his blog here and follow him on Twitter (@bibliocracy). If you have updated information to share or more ideas of what those outside Canada can do to help, please share in the comments.

Note that our own Society of American Archivists has also protested the budgets cuts, via on letter to the Honourable James Moore sent on May 11.

This is a long post, but one I hope you’ll read with care. Thanks to Amanda and Myron for their contributions.

Continue reading “Update on situation for archives in Canada”

Two Kickstarter projects to look at

If you have a few dollars left over after you have made your donation to the Spontaneous Scholarships fund, please consider contributing to one of these interesting Kickstarter projects:

2nd Scene Culture City Project 

 2nd Scene Culture City Project is an initiative to collect the history of the Chicago hip hop scene from inception until the present day. The mission of the project is to ensure the inclusion of Chicago in the historical conversation about hip hop and the rich music history of the city. This is an oral history, serial documentary and digital archive project.  The oral history will be collected via video interviews and then made available on the archive in interview form.  There will also be a documentary for each era that will act as an overview for the uninitiated.

We will also be collecting primary/original source documents like handwritten lyrics, party pluggers, photos, old video, tickets, cassette tapes and the like. These items will be identified, photographed or scanned, cross referenced and then returned to the original owners.

All of this information will be available online in the form of a digital archive.  The archive will be accessible to students, lovers of music, researchers and of course the hip hop community.

The archive will also be self sustaining, thus allowing for scalability and maintenance way into the future.  The idea is for the history to live way beyond us, as such the project is also developing a non profit to be the managing entity of the archive.

The project is seeking participants in the local scene to be interviewed.  Participants in every sense of the word: club goers, promoters, graf writers, djs, bboys, emcees and activists.

First round interviews will not begin until July and will likely run until February 2013.  Fill-in/Second round videos will likely start in April  2013 and end in June 2013. Since the history is very rich we are starting with 1970, 1980 and 1990 eras first.  We hope to have a completed 1990 era series and archive up and online by August of 2014.  We have opted to start with this era first because we anticipate research being more difficult for the 1970’s and 1980’s eras and will use this time to concurrently begin and complete research and development on those eras in order to create the next series. It is then that we will shift to the current era for archival interviews.

Saving Montana History

This project aims at fund production of a series of documentary vignettes featuring collections from across Montana. The vignettes will be published in both online venues and in community formats with the hope that they will inspire Montanans and American history fans alike to help “Save Montana History.”

Archives and history on Kickstarter

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. This is the first in (I hope) a regular series of posts highlighting projects on Kickstarter that relate to archives and history. Here’s a short list of what’s available for you to help fund today:

And if you’re skeptical that Kickstarter really works for organizations like archives, read about the successful proposal by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to raise funds to preserve “key artifact from a defining moment in popular music . . . a historic sign from Max Yasgur’s farm, the site of the groundbreaking Woodstock festival.” The Museum raised over $12,000 on Kickstarter

If you know of any other relevant projects on Kickstarter, please let me know and I hope I’ll be able to make this a regular feature of the blog.

And although this post was inspired by looking for projects to take screen caps of for a presentation next week at SAA, it’s possible I was also given a bit of a nudge by Trevor Owens’ excellent post, The Digital Humanities Are Already on Kickstarter.

PAHR will be introduced in Sentate soon–time to start working on your Senators!

A message from the PAHR Joint Task Force:

We’ve got the Preserving the American Historical Record legislation in place in the House & now it’s time to mount the campaign in the Senate. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will be introducing the bill shortly in the Senate. But first they will be sending a “Dear Colleague” letter, inviting the other senators to join them as sponsors. It is essential that your senators know that this bill is of concern to you and your organization as their constituents.

Please do the following by March 5:

* Contact your Senators and tell them how important this bill will be to your state. If you can mobilize your SHRAB or some of your researchers to make contact as well, please do so.
* Tell your Senators that the bill will be introduced shortly by Senator Hatch and Senator Levin, and they will be receiving a Dear Colleague letter from them during the week of March 2.
* Ask them to contact the following people to sign on:
– Senator Hatch’s office: Bryan Hickman, 202-224-5251,
– In Senator Levin’s office: Harold Chase , 202-224-6221

If you have letters that you used in contacting members of the House of Representatives–recycle them! Or you’ll find on the PAHR website a draft letter that you can fax or email. We also suggest that you include the original PAHR fact sheet and as well as our new fact sheet about the potential for PAHR to stimulate job growth.. These–and all the materials you need–are on the website at:

And one more thing:

It would be extremely helpful if you could call your Senators’ Washington offices. Ask for the Legislative Director and make your case. If you can’t do that, please call or visit with staff in the regional office. The regional office director can take the call and will be able to move your request forward.

If we can move PAHR well in the Senate during the next month or two, the chances are VERY REAL that we could get this bill voted on in both houses THIS YEAR. This is real. It is possible. We can do this with your help!

Please take a few minutes this week to make a call, visit or fax/email your Senators. It’s time to tell Congress that what we do matters a great deal to this country and its inhabitants. We need and deserve the resources to ensure access to our heritage.

Thanks for your efforts! Feel free to contact the PAHR Task Force if you need any help or have questions.

PAHR Task Force Members:
Kathleen Roe, Chair
CoSA Members: David Carmicheal (Georgia Archives, Karl Niederer (New Jersey Department of Archives and Records Management), Vicki Walch (CoSA)
NAGARA Members: Tracey Berezansky (Alabama Department of Archives and History), Jelain Chubb
SAA Members: Brenda Lawson (Massachusetts Historical Society), Steve Hensen, Ben Primer (Princeton University), Nancy Beaumont (SAA)

White House budget cuts Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grant programs, NARA and NHPRC avoid major hits

As noted by Andrew Hazlett (@theoccasional), the 2011 budget proposed by the White House cuts funding for the Save America’s Treasures grant program, as well as the Preserve America grants (both managed by the National Park Service). According to the White House statement (entitled “Tough Choices“):

Save America’s Treasures program was started to mark the millennium and was supposed to last for two years. Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.

In 2009 Save America’s Treasures grants were awarded for preservation and digitization of archival collections, as well as preservation of historic buildings and artifact collections. For an excellent and lengthy analysis of the reasons these cuts don’t make sense, see “On the Hill: Short-Sighted Budget Slashes Preservation Funding” from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PreservationNation blog. Which reads in part:

But here’s the biggest irony in the President’s Budget Request (and a little-known fact). Technically speaking, SAT and the other core national preservation programs under the HPF cost the American taxpayer nothing. You see, this account, by law, is funded by the revenue received from offshore oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. Years ago, Congress had the foresight to place historic preservation in this dedicated account along with other ‘conservation’ activities. Their rationale was that as non-renewable resources are expended (such as fossil fuels), some of the associated revenue should help pay for the conservation and preservation of other non-renewable resources, such as sensitive ecosystems and nationally-significant buildings, collections, and objects.

Makes sense, right? Well, the problem is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have budgeted much of this money for purposes other than historic preservation, and that simply has to stop. In fact, some of the other conservation activities that are funded by oil and gas leasing revenue are increased substantially in this Budget Request, just as we were slashed. It seems to me that preservationists need to make it loud and clear to their lawmakers as to why we need every penny of the $150 million that we’re supposed to get from Washington every year.

The final irony is that, among federal programs, SAT stands out as a model of efficiency and effective spending. You see, every grant recipient under this program is required to find a dollar-for-dollar, non-federal match. To date, SAT has raised more than $350 million in non-federal and private funds. As a result, SAT has been enormously successful in leveraging private-sector financing and creating productive and sustained partnerships with large corporations, foundations, and individuals that provide matching contributions.

The justification provided–lack of “rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts”–is an interesting one. If this is indeed the real reason for the cuts, is this a sign of things to come for other funding for the arts and humanities? What are the implications for the funding for PAHR? In a press release issued yesterday, NARA was pleased to announce that although their proposed FY2011 budget had declined 2% from the previous year, it does include an increase of 2.6% for “Operating Expenses,” which means:

The OE increase will also allow NARA to hire 57 new full-time staff members to support a variety of programs. Resources have been provided to staff and operate the new National Declassification Center (NDC). The President established the NDC within NARA to overhaul the government’ system of declassifying material. A new ‘holdings protection team’ has been created to protect NARA holdings from internal and external threats. This team will develop loss prevention training and conduct compliance inspections. Staff resources under the Information Security Oversight Office have been increased for the Controlled Unclassified Information Office to support expanded mission requirements. Finally, this increase in OE funding will support 12 new entry-level staff archivists, which will enable NARA to continue building a cadre of new archivists to address the agency’s growing records management workload.

Funding for the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) remained stable. Funding for NHPRC was requested at $10,000,000, which appears to be largely the same as last year. I still wonder, though, whether the administration’s emphasis on “rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts” will have wider implications for our field. Another reminder that the need to be able to demonstrate the value of what we do is steadily increasing.

Truly fantastic news about PAHR

I think that PAHR–Preserving the American Historical Record, a bill to provide federal formula grants to every state for projects that preserve historical records and make them more accessible–is without doubt one of the most important efforts the American archival profession has undertaken perhaps in its entire history. If the bill is passed, it will bring funding and jobs to archives in every state for years to come.

That’s why I am thrilled to be able to share this news from PAHR’s champion, Kathleen Roe:

We have 53 sponsors now in the House, thanks to some more hard work by my New York colleagues, particularly on Long Island, who brought in three more sponsors, and efforts from California which has brought in 3 sponsors, and one more from Nevada, bringing us to 53.

And there’s more. Thanks to wonderful efforts from Sandra Clark and Mark Harvey from the Michigan History Center, and great letters from several Michigan colleagues (Frank Boles, Mike Smith, Fran Blouin and others), Senator Carl Levin has agreed to co-lead the bill with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Levin is on the Homeland Security committee, which will consider the bill first, and as a very respected member of the Senate, as is Hatch, we have really strong sponsors. So we will soon be ramping up our efforts in the Senate–stay tuned on that for the specifics.

Finally, David Carmicheal from the Georgia Archives and I will be meeting with the House and Senate sponsors staff in early February, and with staff from the relevant committees to discuss moving the bill.

This is another important benchmark in the progress–there is more to do, and we will need some very strong PAHR support and action in the coming months, but we have reached a very important point in the process. Thanks to you for all your help with PAHR, and for “getting” that this takes action, not talk. More soon–but that’s the basics for now. YES WE CAN!

It’s great news that PAHR is still alive and stronger than ever-thanks to the tremendous work of those Kathleen mentions, and of course Kathleen herself and all the others who have worked for so long to make this a reality. We’re not at the finish line yet, but this progress shows that archival and history communities can roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of getting legislation passed. This is a real example of “archives power” in action!

Call for: Reasons to the Thankful for Archives (and Archivists)

Last night via their Twitter account the Australian Society of Archivists called attention to a blog post listing “85 Reasons to be Thankful for Librarians” and asked what the archival equivalent would be. A good question, don’t you think? The libraries list included such gems as:

  • Older books still hold great cultural significance.
  • Girls with glasses can still rock the “sexy librarian”  look.
  • Colleges need something to remodel every so often.
  • With their training in instructional design, librarians can help teachers find resources for their curriculum.
  • A library is much MUCH more well cataloged and organized than the internet.
  • Even though libraries themselves may be losing attendance, their online archives and websites are still receiving plenty of visitors.
  • Not everyone can afford books, but everyone has access to the library.
  • If librarians were no longer around, kids wouldn’t understand the opening scene from Ghostbusters.
  • Libraries are where most colleges store some of their history (choir CDs, videos of athletic matches, etc.)

Ok, so the list is a mixture of the tongue-in-cheek and the serious. Could we come up with a list of 85 for archivists? (Well, really archives and archivists.) Let’s find out. I’ll start us off:

1. Archives hold the records that help your document your legal rights.
2. Archivists preserve records about your family’s history.
3. Archivists love to help you find what you’re looking for.
4. Without archives, would we still have that famous picture of Nixon and Elvis? I’m not so sure.
5. Someone has to keep Hollinger Metal Edge in business.
6. Not to mention keeping the makers of white cotton gloves rolling in dough.
7. Archivists can help you do research on your house or property.
8. Without archivists, David McCollough’s books woudn’t be nearly so long, I’m sure.
9. If a couple of hundred years from now people can actually find out where toxic and nuclear waste is buried, I think it will be because of archivists.
10. Archives help people find documentation to hold public figures and governments accountable for their actions.

Ok, there, I’ve started you out with ten. Now it’s up to you. Why should people be thankful for archivists?

What–we might have to start all over again with PAHR in 2011?!!!

Yes, it’s true, even after all the drum-beating we’ve been doing lately, PAHR still doesn’t have enough sponsors. Kathleen Roe writes:

We very much need to have over 50 co-sponsors for PAHR by the end of this calendar year–it will make the difference between getting the PAHR bill up for a vote in 2010, or having to start all over again in 2011. So please encourage your colleagues, friends, and users to fax letters and make calls (in particular calls!) to your Congressional offices in support of PAHR.

We need every ONE!

After all the hard work that’s been done on this, I can’t believe we’re looking at having to start all over again in 2011! See the message below and please do what you can to help push PAHR over the top! Thanks!


Action Alert

Remember those dreaded word problems in math class? Here’s one for archives and historical records:

Question: If 17 States have convinced 44 representatives to sign on as co-sponsors for the Preserving the American Historical Record bill (HR 2256) and the remaining 33 States plus 6 Territories each get one representative to sign on to the PAHR bill…how many sponsors will PAHR have?

Answer: Enough sponsors to bring the bill up for a vote in the House in 2010!

Every number is made up of an accumulation of ONEs.

Can you get ONE person from your Congressional delegation to co-sponsor the bill? We need every state to share the responsibility to enact PAHR. If we share the responsibility, everyone can share the results–$50,000,000 a year! Every ONE counts. Every ONE can do something.

Will you:
● Make one call to your representative’s office?
● Send one fax to your representative’s office?
● Make one visit to your representative’s district office?

Co-sponsors are already signed on from:
New Jersey
New York

If your state or territory is not on this list, then can YOU be the ONE to take action? And if your state is listed here, can YOU try ONE more time to bring on ONE more sponsor from your state? [Here’s a list of the representatives who have already signed on.] There is only ONE way we will succeed-when we work together!

For supporting information, templates, tips on contacting Congress, see the PAHR information at

It’s ONE small step for each individual but ONE giant step for historical records funding!