More about Outreach: Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections

You can order Outreach: Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections from the Rowman & Littlefield site (and save 20% by using the promotional code 7S14ARCH). The Table of Contents is available there, and you can also read the pre-publication reviews from Larry Hackman and Terry Baxter. 

To help give you a better idea of what’s in the book, here’s an excerpt from the Introduction: 

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The Future of Archives is Participatory: Archives as Platform, or A New Mission for Archives

This is the talk I gave this morning—by phone rather than in person because of the Lufthansa pilots’ strike—at the Offene Archive 2.1 conference in Stuttgart. It’s also similar to the talk I gave in Oslo a few weeks ago at the #arkividag conference. While I also made a recording of it as a backup, since I have it all more or less written out I thought I would post it here too. (I’ve inserted a few images from my presentation but not all the transitional slides or ones that are just repeating things in the text or showing screenshots.) There are some interesting ideas in it, I think, and I’m sure some readers will have comments and additional food for thought. Please remember, it’s a talk, not a journal article. The intent is to give people some big ideas to think about. So I might as well do that here on the blog as well!

UPDATE: If you’d prefer to listen rather than read, the recording I made of me reading the talk over the slides is now available at I was reading very slowly and carefully, so I think I sound a bit like a robot, but it’s available if you’d rather listen and see all the slides as they were presented.


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Deadline for case study proposals

As you might expect, since today was the deadline I set for case study proposals for the new books on appraisal/acquisition and instruction, proposals are coming in nicely. If you had a great idea but need just a few more days, please get in touch me and let me know to expect something from you.

Here’s a link to the post with all the information, in case you missed it the first time, or any one of the gazillion times I posted it on Twitter, listservs and Facebook.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted a proposal so far. These books are shaping up to be just as good as the first four in the series!

“Now is what matters”: My first official appearance as an “agent provocateur” at the Canadian Archives Summit

I was very honored to have been invited to present as one a group of “Agents Provocateurs” at the Canadian Archives Summit last week. It was an exciting line-up of speakers, as you can see from the program. My remarks, along with those of the other presenters, will be made available by the conference organizers, but I wanted to post them here as well. And I wanted to give some context for them. (I believe “context” may be my word for 2014.)

When I was invited to speak, I was assigned my topic (“The Role of Archives in a Digital Society”) and give a strict time limit of seven minutes. In coming up with my remarks I tried to write something genuinely “provocative” around that theme that could be effectively delivered in seven minutes. My task as I saw it was to give people something that would get them thinking and talking. Here’s what I said:

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Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections: Outreach – Table of Contents now available

As many of you may know, I’m editing a series of books on “Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections” for Rowman & Littlefield. The first four books are scheduled to be available this May, and I’m pleased to be able to share the list of case studies and contributors for the book on Outreach:

1. The Oregon Archives Crawl: Engaging New Users and Advocates
Diana Banning, Mary B. Hansen, Anne LeVant Prahl, Portland Area Archivists

2. Moved by the Spirit: Opportunistic Promotion of the Hamilton Family Séance Collection
Shelley Sweeney, University of Manitoba

3. Working Within the Law: Public Programming and Continuing Education
Leigh McWhite, University of Mississippi

4. Staying Connected: Engaging Alumni and Students to Digitize the Carl “Pappy” Fehr Choral Music Collection
Amy C. Schindler, College of William & Mary

5. “Pin”pointing Success: Assessing the Value of Pinterest and Historypin for Special Collections Outreach
Mark Baggett, Rabia Gibbs, Alesha Shumar, University of Tennessee

6. Creating a New Learning Center: Designing a Space to Support Multiple Outreach Goals
Dorothy Dougherty, National Archives at New York City

7. “Wikipedia is made of people!”: Revelations from Collaborating with the World’s Most Popular Encyclopedia
Sara Snyder, Archives of American Art

8. 21 Revolutions: New Art from Old Objects
Laura Stevens, Glasgow Women’s Library

9. Happy Accidents and Unintended Consequences: How We Named Our Tribble
Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Center

10. Navigating Nightingale: Creating an App Out of Archives
Geof Browell, King’s College London

11. DIY History: Redesigning a Platform for a Transcription Crowdsourcing Initiative
Jen Wolfe and Nicole Saylor, University of Iowa

12. Taking Preservation to the People: Educating the Public About Personal Digital Archiving
William LeFurgy, Library of Congress

You can access more information on this book and the others in the series and read some enthusiastic early reviews from Larry Hackman and Terry Baxter on the  Rowman & Littlefield site:

Thanks to all the wonderful contributors and I’m looking forward to seeing all the books in print in May!

Participatory Archives: Something Old, Something New

Or, “I finally write up a presentation I gave last spring, now with a shiny new definition.” File this one under “better late than never.” I have finally taken the slides for the keynote presentation I gave at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) meeting last spring and written up explanatory text for them. The text and slides are now posted as a PDF on Slideshare:

Note that this presentation contains more discussion about how I think we should scope “participatory archives,” including a refined definition (bold indicates the additions):

An organization, site or collection in which people other than the archives professionals contribute knowledge or resources resulting in increased appreciation and understanding of archival materials and archives, usually in an online environment. 

I hope this will be a useful addition to the discussion of this concept and why it matters for archives.

Next on my list: writing up a presentation I gave last fall!


Call for case studies: reference and outreach “innovative best practices” in archives and special collections

I have signed on to edit a series of books for Scarecrow Press highlighting innovative best practices in archives. I’m excited about this opportunity to learn about and share the best examples of how professionals working in archives and special collections are adapting to changes and creatively solving problems.

I’ll be doing a total of four books in this first round, one each on outreach, reference, management, and description. For now, I’m collecting proposals for case studies for the volume on reference and the volume on outreach. If you want to propose a case study, just send me a short (1-2 paragraph) description of the problem you set out to solve, how you solved it, and what the results have been. Please also include the name of the repository, and your job title. Proposals are due by Thursday, January 31. The final case studies should be about 6-7,000 words.

Don’t be intimidated by that word “innovative.” Sometimes we have a tendency to think what we do isn’t that special or unique. Rather than fixate on whether or not what you did was “innovative,” if you’ve implemented something in your archives or special collections library that you think is effective and other people would be interested in, please send me a proposal.

In addition to this open call, I will also be soliciting case study proposals, so if you know of a person or project that you think would be good to include in these volumes on reference and outreach, please let me know about it so that I can follow up. Case study institutions are not limited to any specific type of archives or special collections, and are not limited to the U.S. only.

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them here on this post or via email. Please send any questions, proposals or suggestions for me  to follow up on to me at kate.theimer [@]

I’ll be putting out separate calls for proposals for the books on management and description, so if you want to participate in those books, stay tuned in the next few months.

UPDATE: For more information on what I’m looking for in reference case studies, please read this later post

Self-publishing for archives and family history, or, Kate makes a Christmas present

Earlier this year I decided I would give my family a book for Christmas, which meant I would have to create it myself. My friends on Facebook have had updates on this saga, but I thought I’d write a summary here as I think the process has potential for use in the archival world.

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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!


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How about Education as a new Strategic Priority?

There’s has been some discussion on the SAA SNAP discussion list about the topic I threw open on a previous blog post: what should SAA’s updated strategic priorities be? I want to follow up on that in this forum and throw out a somewhat more specific question: should we replace “Technology” as a priority with “Education”? (Again, it may be helpful to refer to the Strategic Priorities document if you’re not familiar with it.)

We could talk about education in terms of:

  • providing new/expanded educational opportunities for members and the archival community
  • becoming more involved in commenting on (sorry, that’s not the right verb but Mr. Thesaurus is not helping me today) the ways that archivists are being prepared in graduate programs
  • educating and providing resources for non-professionals (sometimes called “accidental” or “citizen” archivists) who have responsibility for collections but no training
  • educating the public about what archives are and what archivists do (you could say that this is really advocacy/public awareness but I think it’s slightly different).

So I think “Education” covers a wide range of activities that are of interest in SAA’s members and support its mission.

But whither “Technology”? I’d be the last person to say it’s not important, but what specific activities can you suggest that might go under this objective in a new strategic plan? What do you think SAA should be doing in the area of Technology and Education?