Tag Archives: archivists

My 2016 in Archives Land

Well, folks, 2016 is coming to a close, and I only wrote 2 posts here on the blog. That’s a little depressing. I won’t make a resolution to try to write more next year; I don’t really do resolutions. But I wanted to check in here and record a few things.

This year has been a bit of a wild ride in Archives Land – well, mine anyway. A couple of my co-workers resigned (to take other positions elsewhere) in the first half of the year. To help put this into perspective, I’m talking about 2 full-time archivists out of a grand total of 6 FTEs in the entire university special collections & archives department – that’s 1/3 of our professional staff. So yeah, that obviously caused a wee bit of upheaval in our department. Meanwhile, the university where I work has been experiencing some financial issues (this has been all over the news), and so we were not able to refill both positions, only one.

But it’s not all gloom and doom: As part of the “shuffling” of duties that had to be done to go from a staff of 6 to a staff of 5, I had the opportunity to take on a different role in the department. Starting in the summer, I began transitioning to the position of collections manager, rather than social media and outreach. (Our new archivist hired in as reference and outreach archivist.)

Nothing says you're official like a new business card! (please don't stalk me- but hey it's not like you couldn't have found all this info on your own with about 10 seconds of Google searching)

Nothing says you’re official like a new business card! (please don’t stalk me- but hey it’s not like you couldn’t have found all this info on your own with about 10 seconds of Google searching)

I am very excited about this change. It’s a chance to do something different than what I’ve been doing, and I have a feeling that my skills and natural proclivities will be well-suited to it.

I call this my

I call this my “mobile collections unit” – a book truck, my Chromebook, ArchivesSpace, and my lists, doing a collections survey to familiarize myself with ALL THE THINGS, in June

Another exciting thing happening in Archives Land is that we are in the process of fundraising for and designing a new archival facility. This has been in the works for what feels like ages, but I feel like I can finally talk about it, now that it has been in the news (Dayton Business Journal, 2016 Dec 28). It’s definitely not a secret anymore. We are looking forward to hopefully soon having more physical space for collections as well as more and more-specialized spaces for other archival activities, such as preservation, processing, and exhibits, among other things.

In other news, I read a lot of books this year. My last post was about one of those. I did a reading challenge, and I ended up reading about 100 books over the course of 2016. That is a ton for me. Most were novels; nice, relaxing novels. A few were history books. A few pertained to the archival profession.

I’ve been brushing up on the archival processing literature, as processing management is another aspect of my new position. Hand in hand with that, I am also lined up to co-teach our university’s graduate course on archival processing this upcoming spring term (in a couple of weeks!). This will be my first adventure as one of the official instructors of a college course. I’m not going to lie, I am extremely relieved that (a) a former co-worker who has taught this class before agreed to co-teach with me and (b) there are only 5 students in the class. Let’s all just ease into this, shall we?

In this case, nothing says

In this case, nothing says “official” like a letter from the Graduate School accepting you as faculty!

One final interesting/exciting thing in History-and-Archives Land is that I was approached earlier this year about the inclusion of something I wrote for this blog in a published book. I won’t say much more than that, because I don’t want to give away the author’s subject matter. But in the course of discussing how the information might be included in the book, I was invited to actually write/rewrite the material myself for the relevant chapter, and I agreed. So that’s pretty cool – someone wants me to write something for an actual book. I’ve been cited a few times (that I know of) in books but nothing like this.

There is certainly a lot to look forward to in 2017.

Advertisements

The Inner Circle, an Archivist’s Tale

For those of you who follow this blog (thanks for that, by the way), apologies for disappearing. You all probably thought I was dead (except you, Mom- you knew I wasn’t). But I’m not. I just haven’t been doing a lot of history/genealogy-related stuff in my free time that would result in a blog post here.

So what have I been doing, then? Well, it’s not quilting up a storm, not this year. This year, I’ve been reading tons of books, as I try to complete this Pop Sugar Reading Challenge that I learned about from a friend. I’m actually doing pretty well; it’s not even halfway through the year and I’m about 2/3 done. I’ve read almost 40 books already this year! I don’t know how much or how quickly any of the rest of you read, but I am not a fast reader, so 40 is a ton for me.

Anyway, getting back to the point of this post, one of the items on the reading challenge is “a book with a protagonist who has your occupation.” So: archivist. I had to find a book where the main character was an archivist.

In the course of looking for this, I came across a number of interesting twists on the idea of “archivists” and “archiving” which involved fantasy or dystopia or some other genre where the “archivists” and I share the same occupation in name only and not in the actuality of our day-to-day activities. Some of these included The Archived by Victoria Schwab and Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace, both which I have marked “Want To Read” on Goodreads and saved for later but which did not fit the spirit of this challenge item.

What I actually did read was The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. In this book, the main character Beecher and his colleague Tot are both archivists at the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration (NARA).

Now, I’m not here to write a book review (oh how I hate writing those), to give a plot summary, or to criticize. And there won’t be any spoilers, or at least nothing that I would consider a spoiler.

But I thought it would be fun to record — and share with you all — some snippets from the book that gave me a chuckle, seemed wise, or that I thought my fellow archivists would appreciate. These are things I would have “highlighted” if I had been reading it on my Kindle — which, I wish I had been, because it would have made writing this post a lot simpler. I had both the physical hardcover book and the audiobook, both borrowed from the library. I actually read it as an audiobook – I don’t know why I got the hardcover too – but then I had to go back with my post-it notes and find all the things I wanted to write about here. I mean, look at this:

So many post-it notes!

So many post-it notes!

Most of these won’t require much commentary, so it’s not as bad as it looks. OK I’ve written two of these and had to come back here and revise: I was totally lying; it’s exactly as bad as it looks. But it will be fun. Page citations refer to this first edition hardcover. And on that note, let’s dive in, shall we?

     “…I go on adventures everyday.”
“No, you read about adventures every day. You put your nose in books every day. You’re like Indiana Jones, but just the professor part.”

“Indiana Jones is still cool.”
“No, Indiana Jones was cool. But only when he was out experiencing life. You need to get outta your head and outta your comfort zone.”

“…The past may not hurt you…but it won’t challenge you either…” (pp. 8-9)

I think the scene has been set for an archivist to have a “real” adventure. On the flip-side, I liked the archivist’s allusion that he does go on adventures (through the collections he works with). There’s a lot of life to be lived through the archives, people!

As they told me when I first started as an archivist…, the Archives is our nation’s attic. A ten-billion-document scrapbook with nearly every vital file, record, and report that the government produces.
No question, that means this is a building full of secrets. Some big, some small. But every single day, I get to unearth another one. (p. 19)

As a group, don’t we archivists hate it when people call the archives an “attic”? It’s not just me, right? That reference likening us to something hot and stuffy and dusty? Maybe we’re (I’m) too sensitive. Maybe they just mean it in the sweet, nostalgic sense, like that’s where Grandma keeps all the “cool old stuff” (because an archivist never told her the attic is a terrible place to keep the family heirlooms and photographs).

And scrapbooks…those are just the bane of our existence, aren’t they? They’re a preservation nightmare, with all those different kinds of things affixed to acidic paper? I mean, photographs smashed face-to-face with acidic news clippings for who knows how many years, until we got hold of them and stuck a sheet of Permalife paper in between every set of pages, because that’s about the most we can do? And I think in most cases the National Archives is going to be much better than “a scrapbook” (though they probably have some scrapbooks too, just like the rest of us: there is no escape!).

And when I first read this (again, remember I was listening to an audiobook so some words slipped by), I remember taking issue with the use of the word “every” but now I see that it is qualified by the word “vital”. No, the archives isn’t going to have EVERY document produced, but they certainly should have all the VITAL ones. For any of my non-archivist friends (and Mom): the term “vital records” is an actual specific term in records management. It means, in short, any records that would be vital to keeping your organization running in the event of a disaster. (NARA even has a whole huge long page about vital records.)

“He even answers the questions that get emailed through the…website, which no one likes answering because when you email someone back, well, now you’ve got a pen pal…” (p. 48)

I think this one was my favorite, because it’s absolutely true that you often obtain a “pen pal” when responding to research requests – particularly ones from genealogists who are likely to have cause to contact your archives again later for something else. Often times, they will email you directly – not the web site, not the archives’ generic email – YOU. And who could really blame them? You were so helpful the first time and clearly know what you’re doing, and who knows who they might get if they submit their next question using the generic method?

…I start every morning with the obituaries… (p. 70)

It’s not just me! OK I don’t do this now – for two reasons: I don’t subscribe to the local newspapers, and I don’t know (and more importantly am not related to) very many people (well proportionate to how many people there actually are) in the area where I currently live. But I used to do this all the time as a teenager in my hometown, when I was doing a lot more genealogy than I do now, and when I lived in a place where I was related to…well, let’s face it, just about everyone, if you go back far enough. Sundays were a special treat because that newspaper had the wedding and engagement announcements too!

Forever an archivist, he knows the value of collecting information first… (p. 77)

This one actually requires no real commentary. I just liked it.

“…Don’t hide in those Archives… Live that life.” (p. 90)

But why not? But I love my wood shavings! You mean I should go outside and do things and talk to people? But I’d rather have my nose in a book! Or a letter from the 1830s… FINE.

     “…y’know what the best part of this job is? For me, it’s this sheet of paper… On any given day, this sheet is just another sheet in our collection, right? But then, one day–9/11 happens–and suddenly this sheet of paper becomes the most vital document in the U.S. government… That’s what we’re here to witness… We witness it and we protect it. We’re the caretakers of those sheets of paper that’ll someday define the writing of history…” (p. 96)

YASSSSS. THIS. We take care of ALL THE THINGS so they are there when they are needed and so that folks can use them to tell the world’s story. Every grain of sand is part of the beach. Every individual person’s story is part of the world’s story.

“…History isn’t written by the winners–it’s written by everyone–it’s a jigsaw of facts from contradictory sources…” (p. 255)

Again, every piece is a piece of the story. If you want to get crazy and convoluted about it, even the inaccurate documents are still a piece of the story. There’s a reason that document is wrong

I don’t have any more quotations to share (which is just as well, both for you and for me; hopefully I’m not past the limits of copyright fair use as it is!), but there were a few more interesting scenarios I wanted to note:

In the prologue (pp. 3-5), one character must deal with a situation in which a researcher (and a VIP one at that) is trying to remove (steal) a valuable document from the archives. Boo. That’s a situation no archivist ever wants to have to deal with, whether it’s Joe-Schmoe-you-wouldn’t-know-from-Adam or a high-ranking government official, whether it’s an ancestor’s naturalization record or the correspondence of a dead president. I think we can all agree that’s a scene right out of an archivist’s nightmares.

It is mentioned that the archivists are ranked monthly “in order of how many people we’ve helped” (p. 47). Is that the number of unique researchers or the number of questions answered? (One researcher might reply several times with multiple questions; see earlier commentary about getting a “pen pal.”) Either way, I thought this was interesting. I have no idea if that is something that NARA actually does. The segment says “it helps justify our jobs, but it also adds unnecessary competition.” True dat! I am glad we don’t do this at the archives where I work! For one thing, though, most of the reference questions (where I work) are answered by the reference manager, and we only have one of those. I suppose this could be more of a “thing” someplace huge like NARA where there are likely to be many reference archivists. But again, I have no idea if this is a scenario based in reality.

And finally, at one point, there is mention of a place called “Copper Mountain.” Ah, delightful; that gave me a chuckle. I suppose “Iron Mountain” must be trademarked. Iron Mountain is, according to their web site, is “a global business dedicated to storing, protecting and managing, information and assets.” Part of their storage network literally involves underground caves.

Now then, I really haven’t told you anything at all about the actual plot of the book (as promised, no spoilers), and I don’t plan to. I just wanted to share some of the particular snippets that were fun to read, as an archivist myself. I enjoyed the book well enough, and I would recommend it if the description (which you can read for yourself on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever else) sounds like the sort of thing you enjoy.

With any luck, it won’t be 4 months before I see you again!

Archivist’s View on Baby Milestone Photos

I’ve been seeing more and more of those “baby milestone” (or “baby month-by-month” or “baby growth-progress” or “hey look how much bigger I am!” or whatever you want to call them) photos, especially on Facebook, lately.

I’ve seen a lot of creative things that I would never have thought to do. (Seeing as I don’t have kids, it hasn’t come up, though I suppose some of them might have worked for my cats when they were kittens, had I thought of it…but alas, I think that ship has now sailed! Much to everyone’s disappointment, I’m sure.)

Anyway, I think these “watch me grow” baby photos are great, and I enjoy seeing them. But as an archivist and family historian, I happened to notice that most of them don’t always seem to include some really obvious basic information that I would really like to see on them: name, date, and age.

I was particularly baffled by the missing names and dates, especially if a photo included a lot of other information written on a little sign or chalkboard (love the chalkboard idea!), such as: weight, length, likes & dislikes, cool new tricks, etc. Although, some of them don’t have much writing at all—just a sticker on baby’s chest or back with the number or months or just a stuffed animal for scale (with the months indicated somewhere in a text description rather than in the photo itself).

I talked to some mom friends about this — in the course of asking them if I could use their baby’s photos for this blog post (we’ll get to that in a minute — didn’t want to completely lose your attention by putting all the cute baby photos at the top) — and I did get some enlightening answers:

Some of them plan to put all of the baby photos into a photo book (say “the first year”), which obviously would have baby’s name and info printed in it, but just not in the photo images themselves. Definitely a cool idea.

Someone else mentioned that some moms don’t like to put their baby’s name out there on the Internet. OK, I get that. I can see how that kind of thing might lead to “creepers” or even identity thieves.

But if I’m looking through your random box of photos (or, God willing, a drive full of your digital photos) 50 years from now, and all I have are these original images without any explanation, what I would love to find is: a name (even just a first name), date of the photo (including year), and the age captured in the image itself. That would be awesome. As an archivist or family historian, that would go a long way towards making sure that I was able to identify this baby — especially if, as we’ll see in the example photos below, you have more than one baby and they bear a strong resemblance to one another!

OK, that’s all I’m going to say about it, because I certainly don’t want to sound like I’m criticizing anyone. I am thrilled with all of you who are making this effort to take the month-by-month (or whatever you call them) baby pics! And thank you for sharing them — both on Facebook in general and (more specifically) for this blog. But it was just something that struck me as interesting, and I thought maybe some of you hadn’t thought about the 50-years-from-now-unlabeled-photo-in-a-box thing yet. (After all, I’m sure a lot of you are kind of sleep-deprived, particularly in the beginning, and busy all the time! All the more reason I applaud you for taking the time to do these cute photos!)

So now, I’ll get to what everyone actually came here to see—-the baby pics. (To reduce any creeper danger, I’m only using the mommies’ first names! Thanks again, moms!)

The two photos below are of Gina’s babies use the “stuffed animal for scale” technique but no writing in the photograph itself. She makes a photo book for each child. (I love how the stuffed animal starts out so much bigger than the baby and then shrinks…oh wait. Haha!)

Gina's Baby #1

Gina’s Baby #1

Gina's Baby #2

Gina’s Baby #2

Sarah’s been using two techniques: both the stuffed-animal-for-scale, as well as the chalkboard method. I love that she has the date and all those other little details on her chalkboard. She also said she was making a photo book.

Sarah's baby, stuffed animal

Sarah’s baby, stuffed animal

Sarah's baby, chalkboard photo

Sarah’s baby, chalkboard photo

Beth B. is also using a chalkboard — a really cute chalkboard at that!

Beth B.'s baby

Beth B.’s baby

Beth P. made a sign—and she included the date, with year! Hooray!

Beth P.'s baby

Beth P.’s baby

Mollie has been doing monthly photo comparisons between her two babies — putting the current monthly photo for the younger one next to the same monthly photo from the older one. Love it! And wow do they look alike!

Mollie's babies

Mollie’s babies

One more thing— In the course of attempting find information on the Internet about these baby-growth-photos, I found this article/post with some more cute baby-growth-photo ideas (some of which I haven’t seen my friends doing) and this one about baby time-lapse videos (which are a bit of a different thing but the goal is similar).

Special thanks to Gina, Beth B., Beth P., Mollie, and Sarah for letting me use your babies’ photos to help illustrate this post! Couldn’t have done it without you — well, maybe I could have, but it wouldn’t have been filled with cute.

Tech in the archives- what should I teach them?

Don’t get too excited. I’m not teaching a whole course. That didn’t happen. Yet. (Though I get the impression it may eventually be eminent…)

But I have been invited to speak to a graduate level Intro to Archives class about “Technology in the Archives” in November. The course instructor is basically giving me free reign to talk to the students about any and all tech-related stuff that I think they should know before going off to work in an archives today. Well, “any and all” that will fit into an approximately 2-hour discussion.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that technology has permeated practically every aspect of our lives these days, and yes, it’s made its way into the archives world as well, of course. So I’m trying to organize my thoughts as to what areas I would like to try to cover and how to arrange that discussion.

Right now, I think I’m going to start with some broad categories and go from there. Those categories are:

  • Access tools (technology-based ways of getting the “stuff” to the people)
  • Outreach/promotional tools (mostly social media since that’s a lot of what I was hired to do)
  • Organization tools (the behind-the-scenes ways of using tech to keep yourself from going completely insane as you attempt to manage, locate, preserve, etc. the beloved “stuff”)

I have plenty of ideas about what to talk about- web development, social media (SO MANY IDEAS), databases, digitization, digital asset management systems, metadata, digital preservation… And there’s always trolling the recent job posts to see what’s listed in those, tech-wise, under the required/desired skills.

But I thought I’d post an open forum to see what any of the rest of you might like to suggest to help me help the students. So I ask you, fellow archivists:

What “tech stuff” do you think is critical for future archivists (or heck, current archivists) to learn these days?

And when I say “critical,” let’s take that with a grain of salt and ride the line of generality- pretend this archivist is suppose to be a jack of all trades or perhaps a “Lone Arranger.” Obviously, there’s going to be some kind of continuum spanning from All-Things-Digital-Archivist to I-Only-Handle-Historic-Manuscripts-and-Have-Nothing-to-do-with-their-Digitization-Archivist. But even in the case of the latter, they probably still have a computer at their desk and the occasional (electronic) finding aid or database to contend with! But let’s aim for somewhere in the middle, because I only have 2 hours!

I also plan to sneak in some tech-related snippets of career advice. OK, so since I’m publishing that statement for all to see at the moment, it probably can’t really be considered “sneaking” at this point…but anyway.

So what do you think, folks? What tech stuff could you not live without? Or what tech knowledge (yours or others’) do you use frequently in your work as an archivist? Or what tech stuff do you wish they’d taught you (or at least warned you about!) in your formal library/archives training?

My talk is on November 6th, but I plan to have this PowerPoint geared up and ready quite a while before then, although it’s already a work in progress.

Sure it’s genealogy; it’s just not mine!

I don’t know what it’s been about the past few weeks, but I’ve been somewhat inundated with emails stemming from this blog recently. Now, when I say “inundated,” okay, it’s still only been about one a week or so. (I think there have been 4 or 5 separate reach-out emails in the past month.) But that still seems like “a lot” when sometimes it’s weeks or months in between receiving those kind of communications.

It was a variety this time, too:

  • One was thanking me for the Howard Forrer story. (You’re so welcome; thank you for enjoying it!)
  • One was: Can I use your  Bessie Tomlin article in this non-commercial digital history project I’m doing? (Yes you can, thanks for asking first, & your project sounds awesome!)
  • Two were family history related: Do you know anything about my rather noteworthy Dayton relative so-and-so? (No, actually, I don’t, but here are some suggestions of where else to look.)

I love these. You have no idea.

Not just because they make me feel like a rock star for (apparently) writing an interesting story or a well-researched history or bio sketch. But because it’s proof positive that there’s somebody else out there who cares about these people, places, and events.

Sure, hypothetically, I know that such people probably exist out there somewhere. And sure, I see the search terms on my blog statistics page that tell me people are looking for these things (and finding me). But when you sit down to actually take the time and write me an email — even if it seems half selfish because you’re really writing to ask me something — it makes  my day. And I’m happy to help you if I can.

But getting back to the title of this post. Over the past couple of years with the blog, based on the emails and comments I receive, usually with reference to the people I write about, I often have people asking me if these are my relatives. I guess it’s because they can tell that I’ve taken much care to write these lovingly detailed biographical sketches of them. After all, why would anyone do that if it wasn’t their own family?

Well, the short answer is that I did all that research in order to write the the biographical sketch portion of archival manuscript finding aids, and my boss gave me permission to re-post them here, my intention being additional discoverability for the collections. To write these biographical sketches, I used the collections themselves (duh, what better than a primary source right there in my hands?!) as well as genealogy research techniques to fill in the “Wait, who’s Aunt Sarah?”-type gaps. (You can read the longer versions of essentially this same explanation in my posts from May 21, 2012, and Sept. 2, 2011.)

But anyway—again—why would anyone go to such lengths to write these detailed, foot-noted, multi-page biographical sketches? After all–you caught me, fellow archivists–I admit they are probably longer and much more detailed than what was strictly necessary to fulfill my obligation of providing some biographical/historical context for the researcher via the finding aid.

But I can’t help it. I love these people. These wonderful, colorful, real people, who lived in the past, whose papers, whose stories, I’m holding in my hands (unless it’s photos- then in my gloved hands). They suck me in. I want to know them. I want to “get” them. Who are they? How do they fit together- with this “stuff”? with the other people they talk about? with the community where they live? Er, I mean, lived.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of genealogy anyway. My grandma got me started on it, and I’ve been interested in it — oh dear God, I just did the math at this very moment — over half my life. But unfortunately, I couldn’t write such detailed biographical sketches about most of my own ancestors (at least, ones from the same time period as the Bio Sketches I’ve written here), even if I wanted to — and believe me, if I could, I would.

But I just don’t know their stories. And I don’t have the diaries and letters and other documents needed to “fill in the blanks” in between the official records (birth/death records, census, city directory, etc.). The manuscripts I would need just don’t exist. Or, if they do, I haven’t found the relative that’s stowed them away yet.

So, if you’re one of my relatives and you’re holding out on me, now would be a good time to speak up, please. I swear I won’t try to guilt you into giving me the docs; I just want a look. (And probably some photocopies.)

And while we’re at it, same goes for the owner of Sarah (Howard) Forrer‘s diary. It’s mentioned in other sources, but it’s currently “lost to history.” If anyone has it, I’d love to see it.

And there I go again, getting wound up about the history of people who aren’t even my relatives. Which seems to baffle the genealogists who email me, thinking they must have found a distant cousin in this girl who has made such an effort to document the life of their ancestor (or great-uncle or whoever).

Nope. Just doin’ it for the love of history, folks. And for the love of these super-cool people whose “stuff” I’ve been charged with arranging, describing, and preserving.

But don’t worry. I don’t mind if you think I’m a distant cousin. And I promise not to laugh or anything when I have to tell you I’m not. Keep those emails coming. I’m always thrilled to “meet” someone, anyone—genealogist, historian, whoever—who still cares about these long-dead people that I’ve cared about. And if I can help you, I will, and I’m happy to.

MVAR Recap 2/21/2013

Yesterday was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at the Heritage Center of the Clark County (Ohio) Historical Society.

Heritage Center, 2 Oct 2011

The Clark County Historical Society’s Heritage Center on a much warmer, sunnier day (photo by me, 2 Oct. 2011)

Our hosts were curatorial assistant Natalie Fritz, curatorial technician Mel Glover, and director of collections Virginia Weygandt. There were 20 people in attendance.

*****

As MVAR Chair, I started off the meeting with a couple of announcements—really, follow-ups from our previous meeting (11/15/2012) and the subsequent survey I sent out afterwards asking for input about creating an MVAR web site and collection membership data.

The response to the idea of a web site was almost entirely positive, and as a result, I created a free WordPress site for MVAR in December. So, now we have an official web presence for the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable! The URL is: http://miamivalleyarchivesroundtable.wordpress.com/. The site currently consists of the upcoming meeting dates & locations, as well as a list of upcoming relevant conferences. (I suppose one could argue that these little updates I write might go on there instead of here, now, but I’d rather like to keep them as “unofficial” records of the meeting, so I’m not sure they belong on the group’s “official” site.)

The second announcement was actually more of a non-announcement: Basically, that I have not made any further effort to collect data for a membership list, so no, you didn’t miss that email/memo/form/etc. I haven’t had a chance to go any further with that just yet!

After the announcements, we did the institutional reports.

*****

The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

I, Lisa Rickey, MVAR chairwoman and an archivist at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives, shared several bits of news, most of which seem to pertain to the upcoming 1913 flood centennial–which, honestly, is not that surprising, considering how many flood projects I have swirling (ooh, bad pun) in my head (and on my desk) at the moment.

I am currently working with a couple of our public history grad students on two related 1913 flood projects: an archival resource list (it’s going to look different soon but here’s the link anyway for now) and a virtual gallery (using Flickr). We just sent invite letters out to area organizations about these today, so hopefully many repositories in the area will contribute to help make them successful. We have a few submissions already, but we’d love more!

I’m also working on a series of blog posts to be posted during the days of the actual flood centennial- letters and diary entries posted day-by-day from 4 different flood survivors whose manuscripts are now in our collections at WSU– so watch for that on the WSU Archives’ Out of the Box blog the last week in March. We’ve also created a special 1913 flood section of the WSU SC&A web site to aggregate all the various 1913 flood stuff listed in various places on our web site (manuscripts, exhibits, blog posts, etc.).

In other WSU-blog-related-but-not-1913-flood-related news: our Dayton Daily News Archive blog more than doubled its previous high (of about 500) on single-day site views on February 9th (with nearly 1,300 views!). That was the weekend of Winter Storm Nemo that pummeled New England, and I noticed the news and weather crews kept referring to “the Blizzard of ’78.” Well, I guess it got lots of people curious, because they were Googling “Blizzard of 1978” — and our DDN Archive blog post on the “Blizzard of 1978” is the first hit on Google for that search term (even above Wikipedia)! Over 1000 of those 1300 views on Feb 9th were for the Blizzard of ’78 entry.

In other non-blog news, our University Archivist Chris Wydman was interviewed by the WSU Newsroom for an article about the history of the WSU tunnel system. A day or two after that, Channel 2 (WDTN) brought a film crew in to ask him about it, but so far, we have yet to see that footage anywhere.

And finally— good Lord, I am long-winded this time!—in personal news (OK it’s still career stuff but specific to me, not WSU), I will be giving a session on “Promoting your Collections Online” at the Ohio Local History Alliance’s Region 7 Meeting in Wapakoneta on March 16th. And I am also writing an article for the spring issue of the Society of Ohio Archivists’ newsletter Ohio Archivist about the various 1913 Flood commemoration activities.

*****

Okay, enough about me…seriously. Here are some snippets from the other attendees’ institutional reports:

Jennifer Gerth of the Marianist Archives told us about a very interesting reference question she recently answered (aka a family mystery she helped solve!). She also told us there will be an upcoming exhibit for the flood centennial: Hope on the Hill: Marianists and the 1913 Dayton Flood.

Gillian Hill, Joan Donovan, and Robin Heise, all at the Greene County Records Center & Archives, told us some fascinating stories from the slave emancipation records they are working with. They have been transcribing them and hope to do a digitization project with them in the future.

Cindy Manz, former (retired) records manager at the Miami Conservancy District, told us about a family photo scanning project she has undertaken for a friend.

[That prompted me to also share about the home movie film indexing project I’ve been doing on my grandfather’s films, which we had digitized in December. Should be very helpful, and thankfully most of the 30+ films are only 2 minutes long!]

Roger Lucas, a representative with Indoll Dayton (filing, storage, and record conversion solutions), has been working with the WSU circulation desk renovation. He also mentioned that there may be several used high density mobile shelving units coming up available soon for a low price—at which statement many ears perked up!

Tina Ratcliff, records manager at the Montgomery County Records Center & Archives, told us that — surprisingly — few of the county records seem to even mention the 1913 Flood. (They’ve looked!) How strange!

Virginia Weygandt, Mel Glover, and Natalie Fritz, of the Clark County Historical Society (our hosts for the meeting), had lots of good news to report. They were recently able to repair a leak in the roof, and an office that had received some water damage was in the process of being repaired. (OK, so water problems are never good news—but getting them fixed certainly is!) They have just finished up an OHRAB-funded project to re-house probate court records; they’ve filled 200 banker boxes with over 8000 folders in the course of 2 years. They even won an OHRAB Achievement Award for the project in 2012 (see photo below)!

Natalie OHRAB

Natalie showing us the OHRAB Achievement Award they recently won for their probate court records project.

They also recently received a grant of $3000 from NEH for some new boxes. In exhibits news, they currently have an exhibit up called Newsweek 1983: Revisiting the American Dream, for the 30th anniversary of a 1983 Newsweek magazine article that put a spotlight on Springfield as representative of America in general. A dramatic performance “Spotlight on History” also accompanied the exhibit opening on Feb. 15. They will also be holding their annual “Night at the Museum” event on March 9th.

Betsy Wilson, who writes house histories and researches historic properties, told us about a really interesting home she’s currently researching, as well as an architecture research project she has in the works.

Galen Wilson, of NARA, is currently working on a team charged with rewriting federal records retention schedules. He also serves on the OHRAB and mentioned that there’s still time to apply for one of the 2013 OHRAB grants. Then he shared a great anecdote about “deaccessioning” some of his personal papers.

Bill McIntire is “the new Lisa (me)” as reference librarian/archivist at the Dayton Metro Library, where he started in January, after having been the DDN Archivist at WSU. He said he’s still learning the place.

Jen Haney is also getting used to her new job as “the new James [Zimmerlin]” at the Warren County Records Center & Archives, where she recently started as the records manager. (James accepted a position as records manager at CareSource, though he has been around to help Jen with the transition.) Jen said that, among other things, they are working on adding some search capabilities to the web site.

Gino Pasi, one of my fellow archivists at Wright State University, talked about the 1913 Flood traveling exhibit we recently started sharing with the public. The exhibit opening on January 24th was a great success. He also told us about an ongoing project with the Five Rivers MetroParks, who have enlisted volunteers to help them gather and organize their records, as well as select materials for their 50th anniversary celebration (this spring), before sending those materials to the WSU Special Collections & Archives. As collections manager, Gino has been working with them on the project.

Collette McDonough, archivist at the Kettering Foundation, told us about some really interesting photo processing projects she’s been working on recently. She also said that she is looking for a volunteer to help re-house photos, but there’s a possibility that the position might eventually become paid.

*****

After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences, which you can find on the “Relevant Conferences” page of the new MVAR web site!

*****

Future MVAR Meeting Dates (you can also find these on the MVAR web site under “Upcoming Meetings”):
May 16, 2013: Jamestown Opera House (Jamestown, Ohio)
August 15, 2013
February 20, 2014

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the May meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Also: I used to not put the locations on here, but according to the survey from November, people don’t seem to think it’s a problem to go ahead and post the locations publicly online. I guess nobody’s worried about crashers, or mass murderers with an axe to grind against all archivists everywhere and looking to take several out in one shot. (Some imagination, right?) Anyway.

*****

Next was the tour. I had been to the Clark County Historical Society’s Heritage Center museum and archives a few times before, but it had been a while. They showed us around some of their storage areas, including showing us examples of the probate court records– some of the re-housed ones, as well as some of the not-yet-re-housed ones (see photos below).

Mel showing a BEFORE probate record

Mel showing us a probate record that has yet to be re-housed

Mel AFTER probate record 2013-02-21

Mel showing us one of the re-housed probate records

Clark Co Archives reading room

The library and archives reading room at the Clark County Heritage Center

We also checked out the archives reading room (see photo above).

*****

After the tour, we had lovely box lunches from a local bistro. They were pretty tasty— especially the dessert!

And so another great MVAR meeting came to a close!

MVAR Recap 11/15/2012

Last Thursday (November 15) was the most recent meeting of the Miami Valley Archivists Roundtable (or, MVAR), an informal gathering of archivists in and around Dayton, Ohio. This time, we met at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives. Our hosts were Dawne Dewey, Head of the Special Collections & Archives, and Bill McIntire, Dayton Daily News archivist.

*****

This was my first meeting as Chair of the MVAR, and I had a few discussion points I wanted to bring up before we did our institutional reports:

1) I would like to re-instate the keeping of a (for lack of a better term) “membership list”. Since MVAR is very informal and there are no dues, the only real criterion for “membership” is that the person have some interest in “Miami Valley Archives” (as it is the Miami Valley Archives Roundtable). I had noticed from the MVAR Archives (which I didn’t even know existed – although it should have been obvious, seeing as it’s a group of archivists! – until Rachel brought it to me in August) that we used to have an actual member list of names and contact information. I think this would be a good record of growth and changes in the group, more than anything else.

2) I would also like to create a web presence for the MVAR. I had thought for a while that this might be a good idea, but the point really hit home when I saw that on the SAA’s list of archival organizations the entry for MVAR has a link to my blog as the web site. And it was like that even before I became chair or updated the chair’s contact info with them; they did it on their own, apparently because it was the only reference to MVAR that they could find on the web. I think it would be good if we changed that. It could be as simple as a list of the meetings and locations on a free WordPress site.

Both of these suggestions were met with generally positive comments. Someone expressed concern that if we had a web site (or a Facebook group) that the announcements on the email list might dwindle. I assured them that I wanted the web site to be in addition to, not instead of, what we do now.

After the meeting, I created a brief survey to gauge interest in a membership list and a web site from the whole of MVAR (since not everyone comes to every meeting) and sent out by email. As of this writing, 25 people have responded, and 100% of respondents agreed that a membership list is a good idea and 100% also agreed that a web presence is a good idea. I have not yet acted on either yet, though.

I made one other announcement that I thought would be of interest to MVAR members (although many are already aware, I’m sure): to remind them of the upcoming 1913 Flood centennial (in March) and to mention the official 1913 Flood Facebook page, Twitter feed (@1913flood), and web site (http://www.1913flood.com/ – forthcoming). Our next MVAR meeting is not until February, and that seemed too late to be spreading the word!

Oh – and one last thing – I subjected everyone to couple of photos. I promised I wouldn’t do this every time, but since it was my first MVAR… Someone also offered to take one of me, too (the third picture):

2012-11-19_MVAR_1

2012-11-19_MVAR_1

.

2012-11-15_MVAR_2

2012-11-15_MVAR_2

.

2012-11-15_MVAR_3

2012-11-15_MVAR_3

After these announcements (and photos), we did our institutional reports.

*****

The institutional reports consist of each person in attendance taking a turn, stating their name, position, and institution, and sharing a little bit about what they have been up to lately, archives-wise. (The label “institutional reports” may make it sound formal, but it’s really not!) Here are some snippets from the reports that I hope my peers won’t mind my sharing:

Judy Deeter of the Troy Historical Society passed around a copy of the recently published Arcadia book Troy and the Great Flood of 1913 (on sale Dec. 3), which she helped write, as well as a copy of Scott Trostel’s new book And Through the Black Night of Terror (about the 1913 flood in the northern Miami Valley).

Dawne Dewey of the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives announced that the Public History Graduate Symposium will be held on March 22, 2013, with the Smithsonian’s Tom Crouch as plenary speaker. (This will be the second PH Symposium, and I am looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the 2012 WSU Public History Symposium!) Dawne also mentioned that one of her grad assistants is compiling a list of local resources on the 1913 Flood, so let her know if you have any 1913 Flood collections!

Toni Vanden Bos & Gino Pasi, both also of WSU SC&A, announced that the 1913 Flood traveling exhibit that they created will soon be available for institutions to borrow — so watch the SC&A web site for info!

*****

When it was my turn to report (as a new archivist at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives), I simply stated that I am still in the “getting the lay of the land” phase of my position, since it was only my second week, so I did not have anything terribly exciting to report just yet!

*****

After the institutional reports, we went over the list of relevant upcoming conferences:

*****

Future MVAR Meeting Dates:

February 21, 2013 – Clark County Historical Society
May 16, 2013 (host still needed)
August 15, 2013 (host still needed)
November 21, 2013 (host still needed)

We still need hosts for all of the above meetings except the February meeting. If you want to volunteer to host a meeting, please contact me! Otherwise, take your chances, because if nobody volunteers, I will have to start cornering people individually with cold calls! 🙂

Historically, I have not liked to post the info about where an upcoming meeting is going to be held. What if we have pranksters? Or crashers? Or bombers? I brought this up when discussing the potential web site, and people didn’t seem too concerned about it. Actually, it sounded like “trying to find out where the next meeting is” was (in most cases) the primary purpose for Googling “Miami Valley Archives Roundtable” in the first place. So…I guess I won’t worry about it anymore!

*****

Next, we had a presentation and tour of the new Dayton Daily News Archive at WSU.

DDN Archivist Bill McIntire gave a great presentation about the DDN Archive Project and its many strengths and challenges:

2012-11-15_MVAR_4

2012-11-15_MVAR_4 : Bill giving presentation

And then we got a tour of the DDN Archive space, including a great selection of items that Bill had on display for us to look at:

2012-11-15_MVAR_5

2012-11-15_MVAR_5

.

2012-11-15_MVAR_6

2012-11-15_MVAR_6

.

2012-11-15_MVAR_7

2012-11-15_MVAR_7

.

*****

After the tour, several of us headed out to the lunch portion of the meeting, which was held at the Great American Grill in the new Hilton Garden Inn on Pentagon Boulevard.

*****

Another successful (and fun) MVAR meeting on the books!