Attn archives entertainers: sign up quickly for Raiders of the Lost Archives at #SAA14

I’ve been tardy about posting this, so if you’re interested, jump on it quickly!

No apologies for cross-posting. This announcement is awesome and everyone should read it, preferably multiple times.

Raiders of the Lost Archives was a series of musical comedy performances presented at SAA and MAC in the 80′s and 90′s. We’ll be resurrecting the tradition Friday night at SAA 2014, and we need your help! If you can sing, act, write, direct, play an instrument, or otherwise contribute to a performance, we’d love to have you. Even if you can’t–we’re not picky.
Here’s how to get involved:
If you’re interested in participating, join our Google Group at!forum/raiders-of-the-lost-archives-the-next-generation. If you have any trouble signing up, you can email and we’ll manually add you to the list.
If you’re interested in attending, or want to help out on an as-needed basis, follow our public announcements at
Please feel free to email me off-list if you have any questions, and I look forward to seeing you at SAA!
Rebecca Goldman, Raiders co-wrangler


How you can get one of those “this is not an archive” USB drives

Like this one:

"this is not an archive" USB drive

(Well, basically like that one. They will not be exactly like the one in the picture–may have different color/style, but the text will be the same.)

I’m happy to promote this fundraising effort for the Association of Canadian Archivists Foundation (ACAF).* You can order one of these drives for $20 (Canadian) + 5$ shipping to Canada or $10 to outside Canada. (It’s $10 per shipment, so you may be able to combine orders with your local friends/colleagues.)

You can find their order form here. All orders must be received by June 6, 2014 at noon (EST).

*(As noted on the form, this effort is an independent project by Canadian archivists Rodney Carter and Loryl MacDonald,  who are not acting on behalf of, nor do they represent, the ACAF. They are independently producing these as ACA members wishing to raise a bit of money for this charity.)


A challenge: Can you find stories related to one day, December 28, 1986?

Friends, colleagues, researchers, and anyone else who this post can reach, I am here to forward to you a challenge.

We often say that one of the most important reasons we preserve archives is for the stories they tell about “ordinary” people. Well here is your chance to share some of those stories. Below is a challenge from noted author Gene Weingarten (multiple Pulitizers, people!), who has asked me to help him get his message out to the archival community. And I am happy to do that, and to communities of historians, librarians, genealogists, and people who keep their own archives that document themselves and their own families. I know we can help him find the material for this book. So, please:

  1. Read his eloquent request. 
  2. Dig into the collections you know about.
  3. Send him whatever you find that might fit the bill. (Caveat: I’ve confirmed that he’s only looking for US-based stories. So if you’re outside the US, but your story or documents relate to Americans, please get in touch with him.) 
  4. Pass this request along to your family, friends, and colleagues if you think they can help.

I feel like I should have my Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It!” picture here. I actually don’t know if we can do it, but I know that this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the value of archives. So, please: read, dig, forward!

Dec 28 1986


 Is There Such a Thing as An Ordinary Day? 

(A challenge/plea from Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post)

 I am writing a book about a single day in American history, a date I chose at random by drawing numbers out of a hat. My working thesis is that life is an endless, fascinating drama, and that if one digs deeply enough into any single day – the basic, irreducible unit of human existence – one will come up with a rich and textured story with interlacing, universal themes.   The publisher is Penguin, and the book (tentatively titled “One Day”) is scheduled for release in 2016.

That’s my random day, above. It’s the Sunday between Christmas and New Years in the year of Challenger and Chernobyl.  To help build this book, I’m hoping to borrow your skills, your experience, your resources, your intuition . . . and your generosity.

So far, I’ve found many interesting, dramatic events from December 28th, 1986: lurid murders, celebrity deaths (John D. MacDonald, for example), devastating accidents, advances in technology, and so forth.  But mostly these have been matters that somehow found their way into the news or other easily searchable public records, or turns up in a Google hit when searching the date.  What I am seeking now are more elusive stories, harder-to-find events and anecdotes from private lives that had intense meaning or resonance within those lives, or were portentous of larger events to come.   Or other sorts of events – within the business world, or in the military, for example – that didn’t make the news.

So, what, in particular, would be of value?  Someone celebrating her 12th birthday on that day would be of no particular interest to me.  But someone who celebrated her 12th birthday on that day, got her first microscope as a present, and would go on to become a successful cancer researcher  ….  very possibly.  The book will be anchored on The Day, but will have the advantage of being able to be contextualized, by looking forward (and backward) in time.  One of the best stories I have so far – and one of the few that takes place on a very private scale – involves a mid-30s couple who met on that day, while on dates with other people.   The following day, they had their first date.  The day after that, they announced to a room full of people that they were engaged.  The day after that, they moved in together.  A stunning, stupid tale of impetuosity …. except they’re still married and adorably in love.

I am asking you for help in finding good stories, in whatever way you can.  In return, I can offer you public gratitude: acknowledgement of your efforts in my book, and publicity for the good work you do.

Please communicate with me (all correspondence will be treated as private and privileged) at, or by phone at 240-994-2362.

A simple request, and yet not so simple. How many of our collections have material that recent? How many can be accessed by date? Do we know enough about our subjects to be able to put together the kind of stories Mr. Weingarten is looking for? That’s why I suspect people examining their own personal documentation may end up being more successful than the custodians of other people’s collections. But I’m interested in what you can find. So keep me posted in the comments about your progress, but more importantly share your stories with our illustrious friend.


Help pick the next book for the archivists’ book group

If you’re looking for an excuse to avoid the beautiful spring weather, why not read a book? Even better, why not read a book and archives and then discuss it with archivists? (While flexing your toned biceps, of course.)

If you’re intrigued, head over the Archivists Reading Together blog and vote in the poll to choose the next book. And if you like, you can go back and see what we’ve said about the previous two books Dust and History’s Babel. 

Archives book group–still time to talk “Dust” and poll up on the next book

If you want to talk about Carolyn Steedman’s  Dust: The Archive and Cultural History you’re still welcome to come on over to the Archivists Reading Together blog and join in. And if you  weren’t able to read Steedman but want to think about the next book, you can vote in the poll  and help decide what the next book will be. 

Reminder: Archives book group starts Monday with “Dust”

On Monday, the Archivists Reading Together book group will begin discussing Dust: The Archive and Cultural History by Carolyn Steedman. If you’d like to participate or just follow along, visit the book group website:

Looking forward to another lively discussion, and I’ll post a poll in the coming weeks to vote on the next book for the group.


“collecting visual examples of digital preservation challenges, failed renderings, encoding damage, corrupt data, and visual evidence documenting #FAILs of any stripe”

I saw a link to this via NDIIPP on Facebook and thought it was brilliant.

A Flickr Group: The Atlas of Digital Damages:

Prompted by a blog post by Barbara Sierman, this space is a staging area for collecting visual examples of digital preservation challenges, failed renderings, encoding damage, corrupt data, and visual evidence documenting #FAILs of any stripe.

You can contribute just an image. If you want to tell the story behind the image, that’s even better. If you’d like to share the original file (or set of files), so that tool developers can learn from digital damage and test out their code with it, we’ll be eternally in your debt. Contribute the files


New blog for the archives book group and schedule for first reading

If you’re interested in motivating yourself to do a bit more reading in 2013 I hope you’ll consider joining in at the new archives book group blog, Archivists Reading Together. There are a lot of great suggestions for readings shared on a post a few weeks ago, but you’ll have to go over to the new blog to see what I selected. I plan to start in about a month, so hopefully that will give everyone time to get access to a copy of the book and read it. I’ll post reminders here from time to time but otherwise, please follow the new blog for updates.

And, as the first post states, although this group is aimed primarily at archivists, all are welcome to participate. Happy reading!

The “OverlyHonestArchivists” tweets

This afternoon’s outbreak of Twitter humor was inspired by the #OverlyHonestHistorians hashtag, which included such gems as:

  • “This was the most interesting topic I could find in an archive within driving distance.”
  • I once stunned a graduate seminar by converting a percentage into a fraction.
  • I never actually read books by historians anymore. They bore me
  • I really dislike the smell of old books.
  • I found a text in the archives that disproved my thesis, put it back in the wrong place where nobody could find it
  • I have also used an inkpen in the “pencil only” sections of archives.
  • Haste overruled policy in archives when I neglected to use provided gloves at all times. More than once.
  • “There are about eight 19C presidents who completely blur for me. Too much facial hair, too little personality.”

With those (and tons more) as inspiration, the archivists of Twitter took to #OverlyHonestArchivists with all the relish that a Friday in January can bring. Some of the tweets are clearly tongue in cheek, some seem to be genuinely honest, and sometimes it’s hard to tell. Like all humor and all honesty, not all the tweets will please everyone. But hopefully at least some of them will make you laugh. And perhaps this compendium will come as a shock to non-archivist readers, as the tweets did to one person on Twitter: “Those are the funniest, and also the only, jokes about archivists that I’ve ever seen.”

Continue reading “The “OverlyHonestArchivists” tweets”

Archives book group, anyone? Several options & call for suggestions

I’ve been considering doing another book group, with a somewhat different format than the Reading Archives Power one we did a couple of years ago. (Wow. That was three years ago now. Time flies.) I was thinking of trying to  give myself a goal of reading one  archives-related book a month. If I turn this into a book club thing it will give me more of a commitment to really do it, and I’m sure that would be true for others. Anyone interested?

I’ve been interested in reading books about archives and the use of archives written by historians (and other non-archivists), along the lines of:

Other possibilities include books about the digital world, such as:

Or something like:

I think reading books outside our own discipline might be interesting, although of course, there are plenty of wonderful books written by archivists that I have not gotten around to reading too.

In a follow-up post I’ll ask about a different reading list–what books about archives would you must like historians to read? But for now, if you’re interested in participating in a book club for archivists, and if you have ideas about what you’d like to read, please leave a comment.