The Spring 2021 Meeting theme, Archives for a Changing World, is inspired by the resiliency of the archives community. Let us use this moment to examine and explore the ingenuity, the resourcefulness, and the curiosity that we as archives professionals bring to a world in a seemingly constant state of flux.
Featuring plenary talks by Elaine Stiles, assistant professor of historic preservation at Roger Williams University, and Becci Davis, artist.
Teaching Hard History: Strategies for Engaging Students Using Challenging Materials
Archival collections include—or have archival silences around—challenging, controversial, and even disturbing topics. When and why do we decide to share these records, and how do we present and contextualize them for users? How do we do all this and still care for ourselves? Teaching hard history is a social justice act, and a part of the professional praxis of the four forum moderators, who will open the session with case studies from their work of presenting difficult records and topics, primarily to students, including lessons with primary school students, undergraduates, and student workers. The session will include an interactive portion (potentially in breakout groups) focusing on topics of interest, including teaching hard history in a remote or online context, to enable panelists and participants to share, include, and learn from any and all interested voices and experiences.
Tamar Brown, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Michelle Chiles, Providence College
Pam Hopkins, Tufts University
Blake Spitz, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Capturing the Pandemic: Collecting the COVID-19 Experience
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of us recognized history in the making. Archivists from three Vermont organizations will recount their efforts to capture the impact of COVID-19 on their communities. Their collecting endeavors have netted images, audio diaries and interviews, written reflections, artwork, signage, masks, and other objects acquired through both crowdsourced and archivist-driven approaches. Strategies discussed will include fast-forwarding project development in the moment, implementing collecting methods and logistics, marketing projects to different constituent groups, using release forms and other legal issues, and managing a project’s evolution as the pandemic has continued.
Paul Carnahan, Vermont Historical Society
Andy Kolovos, Vermont Folklife Center
Erica Donnis, Champlain College
Community Connections: Implementing Collaborative Public Humanities and Citizen Archiving Projects
Engaging in collaborative partnerships can pay off in spades, raising awareness of and appreciation for archival programs and collections, inspiring in-depth study, or harnessing collective wisdom. This session will feature three public humanities and citizen archiving projects involving partnerships with students, faculty, community organizations, museums, and local residents, on projects revolving around diverse collections including sheet music, weather data, personal papers, government archives, and local history collections. The rich and varied outcomes—a documentary film, public radio broadcast, website, oral histories, blog posts, physical and online exhibits, and enhanced technical description and metadata—expand the reach of the archives' collections and programs. Presenters will share thoughts on the challenges posed by these collaborative processes as well as the rewards, showcase final products, and provide tips for developing projects of your own.
Jason Wood, Simmons College
Lori Podolsky, McGill University
Erica Donnis, Champlain College
Creating a Civil Rights Collection: Documenting Jonathan Daniels
This panel discussion will center upon documenting the life of civil rights martyr Jonathan Daniels (1939-1965) and building a civil rights collection from among multiple institutions. Because there is no definitive Daniels collection, researchers interested in this civil rights activist must contact several different institutions for the relevant information in their holdings. Some of these repositories are separated by thousands of miles, presenting challenges for researchers unable to visit them, and for archives staff unable to help when material is not available online or in digital form. In this conversation, panelists will discuss their vision for creating a network of collections connected to Daniels’ life and legacy that is readily accessible to patrons anywhere.
Taelour Cornett, Keene State College
Larry Benaquist, director of “Here Am I, Send Me: The Journey of Jonathan Daniels”
Rodney Obien, Keene State College
Keith Hibson, VMI Museum
Considering Inclusivity: How Three Harvard Libraries Are Working Towards Conscious and Conscientious Description
Guidelines for inclusive, conscious, and conscientious archival description can support consistency in researching and describing marginalized groups. In this session, archivists and librarians from different Harvard University special collections libraries will talk about efforts to prepare best practice guidelines for inclusive description and for revising description to remediate outdated, problematic, or offensive language and meet modern standards. Speakers will address the challenges of describing collection materials concerning people of color, people with disabilities, women, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups; describing materials that might be racist, ableist, sexist, and/or homophobic/transphobic; and processing with care within an MPLP-influenced framework. They will share how processing and cataloging team members are working together to create meaningful and enduring changes that both provide a better experience for staff and users and support the school’s Action Plan for Racial Equality. This session will provide examples, inspiration, and resources for any institution desiring to bring more inclusive descriptive practices to their collections.
Annalisa Moretti, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Betts Coup, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Mary Samouelian, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard University
Christine Riggle, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard University
Charlotte Lellman, Center for the History of Medicine, Harvard University
Respecting Our Resources: Striving for More Inclusive Labor Practices
Even before the arrival of COVID-19 and working remotely, the processing unit at the MIT Libraries’ Department of Distinctive Collections (DDC) had transformed itself by transforming its approaches to labor and personnel. The DDC’s processing unit increased its full-time staff dedicated to processing, renewed efforts to hire student workers, revived its internship program, and adjusted policies for hiring temporary contract staff. Following a social justice framework, it also made changes in its approach to temporary staffing with an eye toward creating a more equitable model. This work has expanded to include more teams in the DDC. In this panel discussion, current processing supervisors and past temporary MIT employees will share their experiences in reshaping supervisory and hiring practices of students, temps, and interns, both in person and remotely.
Greta Suiter, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alex McGee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Elise Riley, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
Chris Tanguay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Joe Carrano, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Radical Empathy in the Archives in the Time of COVID-19
Radical empathy is defined as the process of actively striving to understand the feelings and experiences of others and, through this awareness, working to improve their lives in a concrete fashion. In the time of COVID-19, how can archivists practice radical empathy towards coworkers and archives colleagues affected by reduced or eliminated employment? Three archivists—in a public library, a college archives, and a corporate archives—will consider a range of scenarios and possibilities: managing workflows to include non-archivist colleagues; utilizing underemployed colleagues to assist with backlogs of work and unprocessed collections; sharing the wealth of too much to do, especially if you are a Lone Arranger; practicing radical empathy towards outward-facing staff who may suddenly have lost their audience. This session’s suggestions and perspectives can help us all understand and practice radical empathy towards our colleagues.
VivianLea Solek, Knights of Columbus Supreme Council Archives
Kate Boylan, Wheaton College
Meg Rinn, Bridgeport History Center, Bridgeport Public Library
The National Park Service in the Era of JEDI
Sharing the concerns of the archives community inspired by the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) movement, National Park Service archivists are rethinking traditional descriptive practices and involving wider audiences in the work. Social media and new uses of controlled vocabulary and database interfaces are changing how the records of early feminists, environmental advocates, and gay activists are described and publicized. At one NPS branch, the Northeast Museum Services Center, an internal working group led by emerging professionals is suggesting reforms to the workplace based on the principles of inclusion and equity. This session’s lightning talks will focus on case studies and conclude with a discussion of future paths for the NPS that will interest and inspire archives of any type.
Margaret Welch, Northeast Museum Services Center
Anthony Reed, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
Deanna Parsi, Chelmsford Library
Kate Hanson Platt, Longfellow National Historic Site
Jennifer Skarbek, Northeast Museum Services Center
Alexandra Kornyu, Northeast Museum Services Center
National Archival Finding Aid Network
State and regional finding aid aggregations enable institutions of all sizes to better serve researchers by pooling resources and facilitating discovery across many repositories at once. Thanks to early investment by institutions, states, and funders, there are now sixteen such aggregators across the country, including Connecticut Archives Online and Rhode Island Archives and Manuscripts Online. However, participants in these ventures still struggle to find sufficient resources to update their infrastructure, meet evolving user needs, and engage with promising advances in the field. The descriptive work being done by these groups remains siloed by location, limiting opportunities for broader cross-searching. Should we continue on these parallel paths trying to solve the same problems? Or might we pivot and work collectively towards a more robust, sustainable, shared infrastructure that would enable national access to collections? Learn about the initiative spearheaded by the California Digital Library to create a National Archival Finding Aid Network that aims to transform the archival description landscape in the United States.
Karen Eberhart, Brown University
Building Bridges Over Troubled Waters: Linking Cultural Heritage and Emergency Management to Prepare for Disasters
Climate change and an ongoing pandemic are increasing the challenges and threats to the cultural heritage resources archivists preserve and protect. The panelists represent national and state organizations committed to protecting these resources from disasters by connecting cultural heritage and the arts sectors with emergency management and building networks to educate and prepare for disasters. In this session, after introducing their respective organizations, they will describe current actions and plans, and open up the discussion to include opportunities for collaboration between cultural heritage and emergency management.
Sally Blanchard-O’Brien, Vermont Arts & Culture Disaster and Resilience Network (VACDaRN)
Elaina Gregg, Foundation for Advancement in Conservation (FAIC)
Lori Foley, Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF)
Rachel Onuf, Vermont Arts & Culture Disaster and Resilience Network (VACDaRN)
Alejandra Dean, Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness - Massachusetts (COSTEP-MA)
Do You Know What I Did Last Summer: Executing a Major Collections Move in a Building With No AC During a Pandemic
Staff of the Maine State Archives will recount their experiences dealing with the double disasters of a complete HVAC failure not only in the middle of the pandemic but also during a very hot summer. They found themselves navigating the state bureaucratic system and shifting timelines to find new locations for staff and collections. They transitioned from working from home because of the pandemic to working from home because the building was too hot to work in. They continued trying to balance ongoing grant projects, researcher needs, and outreach requirements, all in a year that should have been a celebration of Maine’s bicentennial. A central theme is the persistent need for archivists to advocate for and educate stakeholders and others about what they do—and that an archival collection is not just a warehouse for boxes.
Kate Herbert, Maine State Archives
Heather Moran, Maine State Archives
Samuel Howes, Maine State Archives
Making Metadata Inclusive to Marginalized Voices
A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities sparked archives staff at GBH to reexamine and rework their descriptive metadata standards to be more inclusive and responsive to marginalized voices. The Digital Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant consists of three activities: the further development and implementation of an internal, open-source digital access system; the improvement of Open Vault, the public access website for Media Library and Archives materials; and digital conversion of the most at-risk materials in the WGBH collection. A flexible standard for metadata that can respond to criticism would be vital to their work on both internal and external access systems, so creating a new list of terms became part of the project. In this session, GBH staff will share their work creating more flexible systems of categorization while cautioning that categorizing itself can function as a tool of oppression. Joining the needs of the archive with the needs of marginalized communities is one way to ensure the archive does not become a tool of imperialism.
Raananah Sarid-Segal, GBH Media Library and Archives
Miranda Villesvik, GBH Media Library and Archives
Rebecca Fraimow, GBH Media Library and Archives
Leah Weisse, GBH Media Library and Archives
Labors' Love Lost ... and Found?: Archival Workers in Pandemic Times
The past year has seen seismic shifts in archival labor as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted workplaces across New England to shift to work-from-home models on an emergency basis, reshape our physical work environments, and change the conditions under which we labor. Many of us have experienced financial crises from reduced compensation, cut hours, furloughs, or layoffs. At this open forum, moderated by organizers of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund, lone arrangers and student workers, digital asset managers and processing archivists, archivists job-seeking and those still working from home or socially-distanced at their workplace—archival workers of all kinds—can come together and reflect on what we have learned, lost, discovered, and hope for in our work, our workplaces, and the labor of doing archives in pandemic times. What gaps in current infrastructure (organizational, technological, social, governmental) related to our field and our work have the pandemic exposed? What can we imagine for ourselves and our work moving forward? How can we build a better (archival) world?
Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Society
Alison Clemens, Yale University Library
Carady DeSimone, CA, independent archivist
You CAN Get There from Here: Using Remote Tools and Resources to Connect to Primary Sources
Supported by innovative approaches to traditional services, archivists, students, and researchers are finding new ways to engage with each other. This session features reports from two projects aimed at taking new approaches to remote access to primary sources. Greenhouse Studios will introduce “Sourcery,” a not-for-profit platform that helps researchers access documents that are not online, and describes its series of workshops on remote access to Archives and Special Collections. UConn’s Archives and Special Collections discusses its “Out of the Archives, Into Your Home” initiative that helped staff rapidly shift to online teaching and maintain academic continuity. Presenters will share some of the tips, resources, and lessons they learned while transitioning primary source instruction to the digital environment.
Rebecca Parmer, University of Connecticut
Gregory Colati, Greenhouse Studios, University of Connecticut
Garrett McComas, Greenhouse Studios, University of Connecticut
Sara Sikes, Greenhouse Studios, University of Connecticut
Wes Hamrick, Greenhouse Studios, University of Connecticut
Jessica Colati, University of Massachusetts Boston
Date: March 25, 2021
Maximum Registration: 40 participants
Title: Collections-Based Online Learning in the Digital Archive
Instructor: Amy Barlow, Associate Professor and Reference Librarian, Rhode Island College
In this webinar about teaching and learning in the digital archive, Amy Barlow will discuss teaching an online first-year seminar that uses collections-based learning as an approach for developing coursework and learning outcomes. The program will describe how students in the course developed academic skills and acquired subject knowledge through the sustained study of a digitized manuscript from the Papers of Dr. Carl Russell Gross (1888-1971), a physician and chronicler of Rhode Island’s Black professional community during the first half of the twentieth century. Participants will gain theoretical and practical knowledge of collections-based learning with digital materials, which may be adapted to various instructional settings both online and face-to-face.
Date: March 25, 2021
Maximum Registration: 50
Title: Your Guess is Worse Than Mine: How to Estimate Work and Make Decisions
Instructor: Rachel Macasek, Individual and Team Coach
Have you ever been asked, "When will this be done?" and not known how to answer? This webinar will provide participants with practical tools to increase their confidence in forecasting project timelines. Participants will learn techniques in project estimation, ways to track their work, and tips for collaborating in ways that reduce churn and create alignment within teams.
Workshop instructor Rachel Macasek is passionate about individual and team growth. She has fostered an environment of collaboration and process improvement in the manufacturing, biotech, and software industries, and she leverages agile principles and lean manufacturing experience to help teams deliver value.
Keep an eye out for more details to come!
Meeting details are subject to change.