Spontaneous Scholarships 2014: How to give, how to apply

Yes, it’s the fourth year of this wonderful crowdfunding effort to help our fellow archivists and archives students attend the SAA annual meeting. In the past three years you’ve helped 98 people–58 of them students–and I know how grateful all of them were for your donations. With the SAA meeting in DC this year (traditionally the location with the highest attendance), I think there will be more people than ever who might really appreciate a little bit of help. And so, on to the details!

What is this about?

We’re giving money to people to fund their registration for the SAA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. 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 is not affiliated with SAA in any way. 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.  In 2011 this campaign ran for two weeks and 94 generous people gave scholarships to 26 happy people.  In 2012, over four weeks we had 103 donors fund 34 people. Last year, in a little over four weeks 38 lucky people were funded by 84 contributors. Overall you’ve given over $20,000 and helped almost a hundred fellow archivists and future archivists.

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.

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 are a student or regular SAA member (note, you must be an SAA member to be eligible). You must do so by midnight on Friday, June 27. On Saturday June 28 I will draw names out of a hat and notify the lucky people. This will allow you to register by the early-bird deadline of July 7. Once you forward me the confirmation of your registration, I will send you a check.

One note based on a previous year’s experience. One year there were a surprisingly large number of people whose names got pulled from the hat who backed out because they hadn’t realized how high the other costs of attending the meeting would be. Which was fine in the long run. I just gave the money away to people on the waiting list, but it caused quite a hassle for me. So I understand that things happen and your plans could change, but please do a bit of homework first and make sure you think you really can attend the conference before you apply. Also, previous scholarship winners are not eligible to receive another one.

That said, 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.

Which is why I’m asking you now to give, if you can. And why I’ll keep asking until June 27. Please share this through your own networks. (Goodness knows I will!) And if you need some help, throw your name into the virtual hat!

Responding to Mike’s comments, and should I put this on a t-shirt?

In response to my post “The Future of Archives is Participatory: Archives as Platform, or A New Mission for Archives,” Internet Celebrity and King of People Who Tweet About Museums, Mike Edson, left this comment:

Hi Kate – – thank you for writing this out!

re: the mission – – “Archives add value to people’s lives by increasing their understanding and appreciation of the past.”

How? Tell me some stories about times when peoples lives became more valuable because they had an increased understanding and appreciation of the past. I’m sure it’s true – – I want it to be true – – but as presented it feels more like a slogan or a statement of intent than a conclusion one would reach by observing archival usage (and users) in the wild. I think the stories you choose will speak volumes about the possible dimensions and impact of this mission. I want to grasp onto some incredible story about how the world I’m living in has been changed by by the best of what can happen in/because of an archive!

Not being an archives guy myself, all the examples I can think of are of two varieties: 1) A historian uses an archive to write a book that changes everyone’s ideas about something that happened in the past, and 2) Somebody walks into an archive and understands something new about their past/family/community and a happy/sad/meaningful/warm-fuzzy feeling ensues. Both of those feel a little…soft…to me. Not enough to drive an entire profession to change its doctrinal practices. (“Doctrinal” – – is that a word?)

I’m kinda craving a story that has a truly life changing, course-of-humanity changing dimension to it. Even better if the example is made possible by the kind of outward looking, open, inclusive, results oriented, civic minded attitude you (we, if I may) want memory institutions to have.

Also, while I’m already moving the furniture around, I want the mission statement to be more forward looking. We humans are not exactly dazzling the universe with our ability to think hard thoughts and do smart things re: the future right now. It’s kind of a problem.

How about: “Archives change history.”

I think that’s a keeper.

Thanks for your comment, Mike, and I disagree.

(FYI, Mike and I go way back. We’re friends. He’s brilliant. Which is why I feel comfortable expressing my disagreement with him in a rather passionate way.)

Continue reading “Responding to Mike’s comments, and should I put this on a t-shirt?”

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.)


What’s going on with me …

Regular followers may have noticed I’ve been unusually quiet, both here and on Twitter. It’s been a hectic spring and once things calmed down a bit I have been taking a little break to rest and reflect. So here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on and what you can expect to see coming soonish in this space and others.

First, the books. Four of them, as you may have seen announced in this lovely glossy brochure mailed by the publisher:

R&L brochure

I think I’ve finished up reviewing all the final proofs and I don’t yet have confirmation of when they’ll actually be available, but before SAA certainly. R&L will be having a booth at the SAA annual meeting, so if you’ll be there you can check out the books in person. I have confirmed that SAA will not be carrying this series in their bookstore, so sorry, no option for an SAA member discount for these ones.

Second, the next books. In addition to these first four (Description, Management, Outreach, and Reference & Access), I’ve confirmed all the case studies for the next two books in the series. These will be on Appraisal & Acquisition and Educational Programs. So thanks to all the brave souls who signed on to contribute to those books, which should be available in Spring 2015.

Third, I’ve received very nice news from several organizations who like my work and want to recognize it. As soon as they make those announcements, I’ll share them here. And as you may have seen, this winter and spring I was asked to speak in Canada, Norway, Germany and the Czech Republic (although the Lufthansa pilots’ strike prevented me from actually making those last two). I’m not really accustomed to this kind of jet-set lifestyle, but as long as people want me to come and talk, I’ll happily oblige.

Fourth, yes, it’s that time of year again. Spontaneous Scholarships will be starting up next week. This is the also the fourth year of this campaign, and although I’m happy to organize it again, I have some trepidation about how it’s going to go. The overall number of donors was down last year (only 84 compared to 103 the previous year).  To be honest, it’s rather discouraging. I’ll do my best to drum up more support this year, so prepare to be inundated with cheerful messages from me asking for your money.

And what else?

Well, I want to try doing some new things. I’ve got three possible projects, all of which I think I’ll probably be trying to launch this year. (Well, maybe only two of them will get off the ground this year …) I’ve been writing this blog for a long time and I won’t be abandoning it, but it’s time for something  new, I think.

So, still no full-time day job for me, my friends. This is what I do. As always, thanks for everyone’s continuing support over the years, and I’ll keep you posted on what’s coming next.


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 http://archive20.hypotheses.org/1551. 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.


                   *                                          *                                                  *

Continue reading “The Future of Archives is Participatory: Archives as Platform, or A New Mission for Archives”

Survey: Archives & preservation of social media

If you are an archivist or special collections librarian, please take a few minutes and complete this survey, which part of an academic study by a postgraduate student at the University of Dundee: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/socialmediasurveyforarchivists.   It is designed to establish to what extent literary authors use social media and have considered its long term preservation, and to what extent archivists are actively or considering preserving an author’s social media content.


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!

Is any archives working with writers to preserve their social media content?

I’m posting this great question on behalf of Kirsty Lee, a student in the master’s program at the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee.

Does anyone know of an archives, special collection department or other repository which is actively engaged with a working writer to capture and preserve his or her social media presence?

And if not an author, anyone know of any examples of archives working with individual people, rather than organizations, to proactively preserve their social media content?

Please pass this question along to your colleagues. I’m sure we’d all be interested in learning about efforts of this kind.



The role of “the professional discipline” in archives and digital archives

Why this discussion matters: part one

Everyone knows words can be slippery things and language evolves. Words mean different things in different contexts and people adopt and adapt words to suit their own needs.  So in some ways, my ongoing effort to discuss the meaning of the word “archive(s)” seems rather like a fool’s errand. But then I see news stories like this one about the failed BBC project that cost the British public 98.4 million pounds:

 It added that confusion about the technology and problems with getting the system to work had also been to blame, including “confusion within the BBC about the use of key terms such as ‘archive database’ and ‘digital archive’.”

Last month in Toronto, I gave a talk in which I debated with myself “Everything is an Archive Now: Good Thing or Bad Thing for Archives?” My conclusion was, naturally, that it’s both. One aspect of the downside is that groups who have to work together—like archivists, scholars, and information technology professionals—often mean different things by the same word and may not know that they are talking past each other (often assuming that their meaning is the commonly understood one). I also talked about this a bit in my remarks at the AHA about the problems with historians and archivists not necessarily sharing the same vocabulary when it comes to “digital archives.” Trevor Owens will be posting an excellent piece on The Signal blog about the many meanings for different professionals and I think it will go a long way to starting a discussion about how these meanings relate to each other (UPDATE: Trevor’s post is now up.)

But I want to dig a little deeper into the “archival” meaning of “archives” and how that relates to the various ways in which we see “digital archives” used. In a follow-up post I’ll discuss some other reasons this discussion is one that I keep returning to.

What is an archive or an archives?

In the definition of “archives” in A Glossary of Archives & Records Terminology (2005), Richard Pearce-Moses noted that the word (either “archive” as a noun or “archives”) can refer to:

  • a body of materials that is being preserved
  • an organization or part of an organization
  • a physical place

It is this first sense in which I think we see the term being used in broad sense in the media and in everyday usage. Any collection of stuff that people are keeping can be an archive or an archives. Any place where such stuff is being kept may be referred to as an archives. The organization or group who brought it together and is preserving it may also be called an archives. That all seems reasonable in a broad, common sense way.

And so this extends logically to the usages of “digital archives,” which we see used to mean:

  • a body of digital materials that is being preserved
  • an organization preserving that digital material
  • the place in which the digital material is stored

One interesting twist in the broad usage of “digital archives” is that the emphasis is often not that the digital materials are being preserved, but that they have been gathered together and are being made accessible on the web. Thus, those adopting the term may be thinking more of their “digital archives” as a virtual place in which materials can be accessed or as the organization (even if only an organization of one person) responsible for gathering the materials and making them accessible. But often in “digital archives” it is digital copies of non-digital materials that are being assembled and made available in the “archives” while the original non-digital copies are being preserved (and made accessible) in a variety of physical libraries and archives and by a variety of archival organizations.

Another aspect of this usage may also be that people perceive a key aspect of archives to be selection (or curation) and therefore a group of materials that has been deliberately selected and brought together qualifies as an “archives.” In this sense, it’s really the function of the archives as an organization that selects what materials to add to its holdings that’s being invoked, although perhaps unconsciously by those creating these “digital archives.” (I included some discussion of this in my article “Archives in Context and as Context” in the Journal of Digital Humanities if you’re interested.) And, of course, there are also “digital archives” in which copies of born-digital materials are being preserved as well as being made accessible. As I noted in my AHA talk, the term is applied to a broad range of uses. And very possibly many of those using it have never actually given much thought to in what sense their collection, site or project is an archives. If the moniker seems to fit, why not use it?

But what this broad usage of the term means is that it is often difficult for a user to know whether or not a digital archives also adheres to one additional aspect of the Pearce-Moses’ definition:

  • “the professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations”

Archives and digital archives—collections, organizations, and places—that are administered in a manner that adheres to the professional discipline of archives are different than those that do not.   (For anyone who”s not familiar with the basic tenets of that professional discipline, I also gave an overview of them in the “Archives in Context and as Context article.) Note I did not say that they were better, but different.  It’s arguable whether the word “archives “ was ever commonly understood to be synonymous with a collection, organization, or place administered in adherence to the discipline of archives, and I’m sure evidence can be produced to show the word has always been used in a broader sense. However, I also feel sure that the broadening of the usage we have seen in the digital age has diminished whatever common understanding there was.

So that is the world we live in, as you all know. The world in which archives and digital archives are used to refer to virtually anything, and are sometimes used by people who believe their usage is consistent with professional practice in their field—and it may be—but that usage has nothing to do with adhering to the professional discipline of archives. This means, as I concluded in my remarks in Toronto—that archivists and all related professionals need to be very clear in our communications with each other about what we mean when we talk about “archives.” (And Trevor Owens’s post on The Signal will help facilitate that.) In my personal experience, the burden for initiating that communication falls primarily on archivists. More often than not it is the archivist who must query and probe to determine what a scholar or IT professional means by “archives,” usually in the course of a discussion about what requirements or functionalities an “archives” needs to have. Not every archives or digital archives needs to adhere to the “professional discipline” of archives, but it’s a discipline that has much to offer in this field and one which we as archivists should continue to promote actively and vocally.


Call for papers: “Archiving Activism and Activist Archiving” in Archival Science journal

This call has been making the rounds, but it’s a great topic and am very much looking forward to seeing some thought-provoking contributions. Please share widely and considering proposing a paper if you have something to share. The deadline is May 16.

Archival Science
Call for Papers
Special Issue on ‘Archiving Activism and Activist Archiving’
Guest Editors:
Ben Alexander, Queens College, City University of New York
Andrew Flinn, University College London, University of London
Although archiving the records of political activism, particularly grassroots activism, is not a new practice, it has often been a controversial and contested process resulting in informal and autonomous activist archival endeavours as well as collections in more orthodox higher education and other local and national specialist archival repositories. In recent years the collection, preservation and the promotion of the use of activist collections for historical research and for ‘social justice’ or ‘human rights’ struggles has become increasingly prevalent in the formal archival sector as well as amongst the growing numbers of independent and autonomous archival endeavours. This explicit alignment with political activism and social justice objectives is not without its critics within the recordkeeping profession, but the archiving of activism and an activist archival approach goes beyond notions of the ‘active archivist’ and instead embraces an understanding of archival practice as (by its very nature) a form of social, cultural, and political activism. Although not necessarily synonymous, these developments come at a time when notions of a more active, collaborative and participatory archival practice are gaining currency in the professional archival world, sharing perhaps an understanding of the power of the democratisation of the production and creation of knowledge.
Accordingly, this special issue of Archival Science “Archiving Activism and Activist Archiving” will explore the varied connections between contemporary archival practice and activism in many different contexts (national, political, socio-economic, technological, autonomous and formal). This special issue will be guest edited by Ben Alexander, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College, The City University of New Yorkbenjamin.alexander@qc.cuny.edu and Andrew Flinn, Department of Information Studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University College London, a.flinn@ucl.ac.uk. Questions about the special issue can be direct to Drs. Alexander and Flinn.
Suggested topics for papers may include:
 how do mainstream archives and archivists work to preserve activist struggles of the past (such as the civil rights movement in the American South, struggles for equality and against discrimination, radical political movements of the left and right as well as across divided and antagonistic communities);
 how the constitution of archives and the active ‘use’ of the past history is considered by archival activists to be a core component of their political activities;
 how global moves to ensure preservation and use of the documentation of social and political atrocities (including genocide, human rights abuses and repressive regimes) in Truth and Reconciliation, criminal tribunals and other social justice processes has increasingly involved archivists as key active participants in on-going struggles for Human Rights and
 the impact of technology in promoting the collection, sharing and use of activist histories and for promoting a sense of a more collaborative and participatory approach to the production of ‘useful’ knowledge
 the implications of a social justice or human rights orientation to archival practice for the traditional professional adherence to political neutrality
Key Dates
Submission Deadline for completed papers: May 16, 2014
Submission instructions
Papers submitted to this special issue for possible publication must be original and must not be under consideration for publication in any other journal or conference. Previously published or accepted conference/workshop papers must contain at least 30% new material to be considered for the special issue (for workshops 50% new content is required). Submissions should be made online via the Editorial Manager System at http://www.editorialmanager.com/arcs/.
During submission please select article type “SI: Archiving Activism”. All manuscripts must be prepared according to the journal publication guidelines which can also be found on the website http://www.springer.com/10502. Papers will be reviewed following the journal standard peer review process (double-blind).