Are you an archivist wondering how you could use blogs, Flickr, Twitter, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, or another “Web 2.0” technology to promote your collections and reach out to your users (or potential users)? Then have I got the book for you.
I recently finished reading Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections by Kate Theimer (New York : Neil-Schuman Publishers, 2010), and I must say, it is definitely recommended reading for anyone working with historical and cultural collections : archivists, local history librarians, and perhaps also museum folk (although the book is not specifically geared towards museums, per se). Even if your organization has not given much thought to Web 2.0 interaction before, you should give this book a once-over just to see some of “what’s out there” and what you could be doing.
Theimer admits that Web 2.0 may not be for every organization, but she suggests : “If you want to project an image of being forward thinking and people centered, then Web 2.0 tools may help to shape that image” (p. 208).
Well, of course, who doesn’t want that? But some might wonder : What the heck is “Web 2.0,” and how can I use it to promote historical collections? text Theimer starts at the beginning, explaining what “Web 2.0” means and exploring it in general terms, before getting down to business with individual chapters on various Web 2.0 technologies (like blogs, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook) and how they can be utilized by cultural institutions. She explains the basics of each technology and gives examples, including case studies and interviews with representatives from real cultural institutions that are using it.
There is also a chapter on how to evaluate the success of your project : what are your goals, and is the project “working”? Another chapter on discusses management and other issues : legal issues, preservation, workloads, and getting institutional “buy-in”.
I was particularly interested in the chapters on Flickr and on blogs. We have a Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr account. I have managed to do some cool things with it; I’m particularly proud of my 1913 Flood geo-tagged images/map mashup [see May 9, 2011].
As for blogs, of course I have this personal blog, but we do not have a blog specifically for local history at the library. This book definitely gave me some ideas about the variety of different “types” of local history/archives blogs that could be done, though. Some of those types included : general “institutional” blogs, which could contain just about anything relevant to your institution; “processing” blogs, where archivists write about things they find while processing a collection (the Dayton Daily News Archive blog from Wright State came to my mind as I was reading about that one); and “archival content” blogs, for posting actual primary source content, such as diary entries (she uses the Orwell diaries as an example) [you could also do this with Twitter if the entries are really short]. The diary-entries one really sparked my interest. We definitely have some unique and historically significant diaries in our collection. I expect you could probably do a content blog using a series of letters back and forth between two people, as well. Oh, the possibilities!
And just in case you’re like me and years of history coursework has trained you to flip to the back of the book for the “About the Author” section (translation: why should I trust you?), Kate Theimer has credentials out the wazoo to show that she is “qualified” to advise you on this stuff. She has a Master of Information Science degree with an archives concentration, experience working at the National Archives and the Smithsonian, and she is the author of a popular archives blog called ArchivesNext (http://www.archivesnext.com/). [That’s actually where I heard about her book in the first place: see May 12, 2011.]
In short, I think every archivist should check out this book. It has tons of neat ideas. Web 2.0 might not be for every institution. And certainly, some Web 2.0 technologies will be better suited to your collections and your mission than others. But read this book; see what’s out there.
Find this book at a library near you, through WorldCat. (I can tell you that the Dayton Metro Library has a circulating copy; I’ll be returning it soon!) Or, buy a copy from the SAA Bookstore or Amazon.
FYI: I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. Nobody asked me to do it. I just found an awesome book and thought I’d share…