With one week left for Spontaneous Scholarships–dollar for dollar matching pledge just received!

With just one week left to throw your name in the hat for a Spontaneous Scholarship this year, I was feeling a bit down because so far donations have also been down. We’ve got 50 people asking for help this year (more “regulars” than students, for the first time), and donations are a little over a third of what we had at the end of last year’s campaign. However, a Very Generous Donor has stepped forward and pledged to match dollar for dollar all contributions made in this final week!

So, if you’ve been procrastinating, this should help you overcome your problem. Give now and your donation will be doubled. Bless, you Very Generous Donor.

And, as always, if you need help, please ask for it. I hope we will see a surge of cash & checks, and so be able to assist even more people this year. More information about applying and giving are available back on this post.

I also want to thank the Generous Donor who helped get the ball rolling during the first week. S/he pledged to give $5 for every donation made during that week, and so thanks to the 36 of you who gave in early June and raised an additional $180 to give away!

Scholarship donors eligible to enter book raffle

What archivist (or archivist in training) would pass up the chance for a free book?

If you donate $20 or more to the Spontaneous Scholarships you can have a chance to win one of these fantastic books:

To enter, when you make your donation also tell me which book (or books) you’d most like to receive. After all the donations are in, I’ll pick names out of the donor raffle hat and let you know if you’ve gotten lucky. (If you send your donation by check, please provide me with an email address as well.)

Many thanks to Michelle Caswell, Sami Norling, Aaron Purcell, Caryn Radick, Kathleen Roe, and Tanya Zanish-Belcher, who generously donated books (and a journal) to the cause.

Spontaneous Scholarships 2015: How to give, how to apply

Yes, it’s the fifth year of this wonderful (and SAA-award winning) crowdfunding effort to help our fellow archivists and archives students attend the Society of American Archivists annual meeting. In the past four years you’ve helped 149 people–86 of them students–and I know how grateful all of them were for your donations.

The rules are the same as in previous years, but look for a follow-up post about how your donation can give you a chance to win a fabulous dining room suite a fabulous new archives-related book!

What is this about?

We’re giving money to people to fund their registration for the SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland. Rather than pay for full travel or lodging for just a few people, I try to give a little bit of help to as many people as possible. This effort has no formal affiliation with SAA. Your donations are not tax deductible. It’s simple. You send me money. I give it all away within a few weeks to colleagues who need it.  Over the past four years, you’ve given over $30,000 and helped almost 150 fellow archivists and future archivists. It’s simple, but it works.

How you can help

If you want to give, you have several options, outlined below. My preference is for checks because that means PayPal transaction fees aren’t deducted from your donation, but I know it’s easier to click and donate while you’re thinking of it, so by all means, click and donate if that’s easier for you. Here are your options:

  • Pay by check– email me (info [@] archivesnext.com or my regular email if you have it) or leave a comment (for which you must supply an email). I will reply with a mailing address. Or if you are an SAA, MARAC, or MAC member, you can look up my address in their member directories.
  • Pay via PayPal–click on the “Donate” button at top right of the sidebar.
  • Pay via credit card–send me an email, and I’ll send you an invoice using PayPal.

Give as much as you feel you can. Every little bit helps. Don’t feel like whatever you can afford to give isn’t enough. But if you’re fortunate enough to be in a comfortable position, please give generously.

Special early-bird incentive: A generous donor will give an additional $5 for every donation received or post-marked during the first week of the campaign. So act no later than June 9 and your donation can have an extra benefit!

This year, people making donations of $20 or more can enter a raffle to win a new copy of a archives-related book. See follow-up post for details.

How to put your name in the hat for scholarship

If you need help funding your SAA Annual Meeting registration, please send a message to info [@] archivesnext.com providing your name, and whether you will be registering for the conference as a student or regular SAA member (note, you must be an SAA member to be eligible). All requests must be received by midnight on Tuesday, June 30. I will draw names out of a hat and notify the lucky people no later than Monday, July 6. This will allow you to register by the early-bird deadline of July 15. Once you forward me the confirmation of your registration, I will send you a reimbursement via check or PayPal.

So, all you need to do to apply is email me with the information listed above.That’s it. It’s on the honor system. Don’t ask unless you need, but if you need, go ahead and ask. This isn’t just for students and new archivists, it’s for everybody who needs a little help.

EDIT: Sorry, I thought I’d included this but it got dropped when I was revising the post. If you have received a scholarship in the past you are not eligible to receive another one. We want to spread the opportunities around. 

Which is why I’m asking you now to give, if you can. And why I’ll keep asking until July 1. Please share this through your own networks, as I will do shamelessly. And if you need some help, throw your name into the virtual hat!


What’s the best book about archives you’ve read lately?

I asked that question on Twitter and Facebook and here are the responses:


Big Data – A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance

Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collections: Reducing Processing Backlogs

Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive

The Boundaries of the Literary Archive: Reclamation and and Representation

Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers’ Libraries: A Handbook

Dust: The Archive and Cultural History 

Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India 

Big Pharma 

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art 

Microfilm: A History, 1839-1900

Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala 

Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa 

The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Newton’s Manuscripts 

The Hermit of Peking: The hidden life of Sir Edmund Backhouse (“he starts Bodlian Library with counterfeit books and archives from Chinese Imperial Court…”)

Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Simaite

Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women’s Archives

and of course

Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice

Any other recommendations?


New suggestions:

All this Stuff: Archiving the Artist

Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents

If you like this list, you might want to check out this older post, when we throwing out possibilities for the archivists’ book club. Lots of good ones there too.




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.

What’s next? A slight hitch in the proceedings

I’m somewhat torn about writing this update, but since I advocate transparency for others, I feel as if I should follow my own advice. A while back I announced that I’d be kicking off a new project (well, actually two), but I haven’t made much progress with them. So, what’s up with that? Continue reading “What’s next? A slight hitch in the proceedings”

“The Hidden Curse of Automation” & archives

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this Los Angeles Review of Books article by Clive Thompson about Nicholas Carr’s book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us. The review raises many issues, but as usual I was reading it with archives in mind. Specifically, this discussion made me think about the possible problem of historians and scholars relying too heavily on keyword searching of digitized archival sources rather than pursuing more old-fashioned (and time consuming) practices. I say “possible problem” because I do not know, of course, that this is what’s being done, but I have certainly heard chatter that leads me think it’s worth considering.

This also brought to mind a long-ago tweet from Patrick Murray-John, who asked “Would archivists accept topic modelling on OCRed items as a collection level description?” As I recall my response was something like, “No. But it would be a very useful resource or accompaniment to such a description.” Just as Carr (according to Thompson) is not opposed to technology, neither am I. But I think both authors raise points that are worth injecting into our discussions with all of our users about the extent to which they use–and rely on–the time-saving features that technology supports, and what information they may be missing if they are relying on it exclusively.

Gender, “making,” and archives and libraries

Recently Richard Urban shared a link to the Atlantic article “Why I Am Not A Maker.”  The  author has the perspective of an educator, but as I was reading it I could not help but think how this also applies to many archivists and librarians, many of whom also do not “make” anything. In what regard does this contribute to our fields being undervalued? The relationship of our fields to many digital humanities projects also came to mind–how often are our skills and contributions marginalized or glossed over in favor of those scholars and technologists who “made” the project? And to what extent are many of the projects we ourselves undertake done so with the very real motivation that we have to “make something” in order to prove our value and the value of our holdings?

Some interesting food for thought?

What’s next?

I’ve been contemplating a change for quite a while now, and hinting at it for some time, but I think it’s time to put out there what I’ve got in mind for my next project. I enjoyed all the work I’ve done here on this blog, which branched out on to Twitter and speaking engagements around the world, as well as editing a whole lot of books and serving on SAA’s Council. I’ve been very successful at observing and commenting on the world of archives and I enjoyed doing it. And I don’t want to leave that role behind entirely, but I need to tackle something new.

I want to, as they say, “be the change,” so very soon I’ll be launching a new project devoted to sharing what I know about the world of archives with the general public. I don’t know how successful I’ll be at reaching beyond an audience of records professionals, but believe me, I’ll try. On Tumblr or Twitter or whatever platform(s) I end up using I’ll share stories that I think will show the public what archives are about today as well as some history of how the profession developed in the U.S. and the challenges we face.  As I write original content I’ll be learning some new things and re-learning others to try to demystify a field which can apparently be intimidating or opaque to many people. (And I’ll also be moving forward with the Helping History site I wrote about last month.)

I hope I can use the new blog as a starting point for a mass-market trade paperback, suitable for the front table of your local Barnes & Noble (and for easy download to your e-reader of choice) and the top of the New York Times bestseller list, but if not that, at least I hope I can do some good by opening up the world of archives to as many people as possible and blowing the dust off some outdated stereotypes.

In the course of working on the new project, I’m sure I’ll run across information more suitable to share here on ArchivesNext, and I also suspect I will continue to use this blog (and Twitter account) to ask questions and get feedback from my fellow professionals.  So ArchivesNext will continue on, but change is good for all of us. And I’m excited about moving from talking amongst ourselves to trying to reach out to promote archives to the world.