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Online Course: Basics of Archives

Basics of Archives is an AASLH Continuing Education online course September 30 - October 25, 2019 hosted in the online classroom. This online course is about caring for historical records. This online course is taught by Charles Arp. The recently revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

Details

DATES: September 30 - November 3, 2019

COST: $85 members/$160 nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: April 25 - September 25, 2019

REGISTER HERE

Course Logistics:

FORMAT: Online, self-paced course.

LENGTH: 5 weeks; 15-20 hours to be completed anytime during the five-week course period (dates above).

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Online chat. There are no required times to be online.

MATERIALS: There are no required texts for this course. All materials will be provided.

GRADING: Pass/Fail. You must complete all exams within the allotted five weeks in order to pass the course.

Description & Outcomes:

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

The course consists of seven lessons:

  • Archives and Archivists
  • Acquiring Your Collections
  • Processing Collections
  • Housing Your Collections
  • Access and Outreach
  • Digital Records
  • Digitization

Who Should Take This Course:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with archival materials.

Instructor:

Charlie Arp has a BA and MA in history from Ohio University where he specialized in archival studies. From 1991 to 2003 he worked at the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) where he held a variety of positions including archival processor, reference archivist, Head of Reference, Assistant State Archivist and State Archivist. As Assistant State Archivist he was the digital projects coordinator and he formed and chaired the Ohio Electronic Records Committee, an interdisciplinary group formed to draft electronic records policy, guidelines, and best practices for state and local governments in Ohio.  As State Archivist he was a senior level manager responsible for the planning, coordination, and administration of the operations of the State Archives including the Local Government Records program and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor Archives/Library.

In 2003 Charlie was hired by the Battelle Memorial Institute as Enterprise Content Manager. At Battelle Charlie pioneered managing electronic records in lieu of paper records. Charlie also supervised the Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) archives. GLP records fall under FDA regulations to ensure that the records documenting scientific research for substances put in or on humans are created reliably and maintained authentically over time. In 2015 Charlie tested and validated the use of an electronic management program to enable Battelle to create, manage, preserve and use electronic records as part of submissions to the FDA.

In early 2016 Charlie accepted an offer for early retirement from Battelle. Since then he has started an archival and records management consulting firm and is writing a book on archives.

Participant Feedback

“This course was exactly what we need to improve our rather small Collection and take it to another step. Thanks for all of the ideas and information. I am especially impressed with how well the course is organized and presented online. The site was very well thought out and presented no problems for me – a slightly challenged computer geek-wanna be.”

“This was a marvelous course and now I have confidence that I can do the work: material to reference and people to communicate with as needed.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for having this course.  It has really helped me decide what direction I want to make my education in and had definitely helped me with some of the smaller preservation jobs I take on at the library.”


Book Review: Teaching with Primary Sources

This review originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of History News.

Teaching with Primary Sources
By Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (eds.)
(Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2016)
Reviewed by Marietta Carr

Primary sources have long been a critical piece of the curricula at all levels of education, but recent changes to education standards, approaches to teaching, and library and archives services have increased the demand for robust instructional services and access to archival collections. Archivists have responded with creativity, variety, and pragmatism in meeting their communities’ teaching and learning needs. Teaching with Primary Sources, edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, gathers some of the struggles archivists have faced and the solutions they have developed in delivering instructional services. The book is divided into three modules. Each module focuses on different aspects of the topic, ranging from theoretical frameworks to case studies and example assignments. As Hinchliffe explains in her introduction, the book is designed as a primer for instruction in academic archival contexts, but can be applied to cultural heritage organizations generally and used by busy educators looking for inspiration for impending primary source instruction sessions.

The first module lays out a theoretical framework of archival literacy and relates it to concepts and literacies commonly addressed in teaching and education literature such as information literacy, assessment, and domain knowledge. The second module moves into more practical ground by proposing solutions to possible barriers to teaching with archival materials. While the first module gives archivists the terminology and conceptual background necessary to engage with faculty, the second module is a how-to guide for implementing instructional services. The module includes tips for identifying resources like time and professional development, communicating with administrators and faculty, and creating lesson plans. The third module explores common themes expressed in case studies and interviews with archivists, college faculty, and a high school teacher. This module includes examples of assignments and class tools that can be adapted to each reader’s institutional situation.

Teaching with Primary Sources is an excellent overview of this trend in archival practice, especially for archivists with little formal teaching experience or training. Each module includes an appendix with suggestions for further reading so interested readers can delve further into the topic. There are several recurring themes that appear in each module. Perhaps the most prevalent theme is the authors’ emphasis on building relationships with educators. The authors point out that one of the most common instructional services is a single session within the context of a larger course. Strong collaborative relationships with faculty will make these sessions more effective and create opportunities to develop other types of instructional services. For example, one archivist reported that the professors he worked with revised their course learning objectives in response to feedback from archives staff. This theme also highlights two of the book’s weaknesses: a predominant concern for academic archival settings and a lack of input from K-12 teachers. The authors draw primarily from their own experiences as archivists in higher education institutions and interviews with other archivists and faculty.

While the academic archivist will benefit most directly from the authors’ advice, the book is written with the larger cultural heritage environment in mind and the authors’ solutions can be adapted to non-academic institutions. Online tools such as tutorials for accessing and citing materials can encourage college students to use non-academic archives. Creating programs for students in newer initiatives such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and co-curricular programs in colleges’ education departments can benefit both the cultural heritage organization and the academic institution. The authors stress that selecting the right materials significantly impacts educators’ success in integrating primary sources into their curriculum or museum programming. For example, items with unique provenance or preservation histories will engage students and adult audiences and enable significant learning experiences. Educators must have clear and limited objectives for what they expect the audience to learn when working with their primary sources, recognizing that many individuals will likely lack necessary analytical skills such as visual literacy.


Marietta Carr is the College Archivist at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH. She holds an M.L.I.S from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. in History from Northeastern University, and can be reached at [email protected].

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A group of students observe and point at a microfilm reader.

Citizen Historians, U.S. Newspapers, and the History of the Holocaust

This article is from the Winter 2019 issue of History News, AASLH's quarterly magazine. Members can access the full issue in the Resource Center.

A group of students observe and point at a microfilm reader.

By David Klevan and Eric Schmalz

On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, Fajwal “Fred” Hendeles appeared with a broad smile and a dozen roses at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, seeking employment. Hendeles, a Jewish refugee from German-occupied Poland, had escaped a German forced labor camp, fleeing to Shanghai via the Soviet Union and Japan. On September 28, 1941, he boarded the S.S. President Pierce as a stowaway bound for San Francisco. The ship manifest listed Hendeles as an “indigent” with no passport or visa. He entered the country with support from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the Kaiser shipyards provided Hendeles with employment as a steamfitter. Two months later, the United States was at war.

Hendeles’s story—uncovered by volunteers working with the Richmond Museum of History in Richmond, California—is one of many that have emerged from the nationwide “citizen history” project, History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust. Publicly launched by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in early 2016, History Unfolded invites people across the country to research how their local newspapers reported on Holocaust-related events during the 1930s and 1940s. Project participants share their discoveries by uploading findings to a searchable online database. The museum has used this data to support exhibitions, educational resources and programs, and hopes it will be used to support future scholarship.

The idea for History Unfolded emerged in 2014, when staff gathered to discuss the Holocaust Museum’s new initiative on Americans and the Holocaust. Like previous initiatives, Americans would include new scholarly research and a special exhibition, then scheduled to open in spring 2018. However, the small team gathered that day sought to inject something new. Rather than the museum performing research, mounting an exhibition, and then developing educational resources and programs, what if the museum asked schools and the public to perform research ahead of the exhibition launch—research that might help shape the exhibition and even future scholarship on the topic?

What if the museum asked schools and the public to perform research ahead of the exhibition launch—research that might help shape the exhibition and even future scholarship on the topic?

This approach was ambitious, but it made sense. An investigation of reporting by local newspapers in American communities had never before been pursued on this scale. It offered the museum a unique opportunity to investigate an otherwise distant and sometimes abstract “European” history of the Holocaust by making it American and local in a very concrete way. This would also allow the museum to engage learners in the discovery process, uncovering what information was available to members of their communities about the threat of Nazism and the Holocaust during the 1930s and 1940s. Thus, it could reinforce understanding that while the Holocaust took place in Europe, it was also an American story.

As a participatory “citizen history” project of national scope, History Unfolded offered additional opportunities for the museum. First, because the museum itself does not house the newspaper collections used for this research, it was necessary to do research in the field. Second, the broad research scope and wide dispersal of sources would have made it difficult to do this without a crowdsourcing element. Third, and most importantly, the project offers an excellent opportunity for students and the broader public to learn about history by learning how to do primary source research.

In 2014, the concept of “citizen history” was relatively new. Prior to using the phrase to describe one of their projects in 2005, Holocaust Museum staff had never seen it used elsewhere. For Holocaust Museum staff, citizen history is more than crowdsourced data collection.1 Rather, it builds upon the existing research and collections of an institution, and at its best, encourages amateurs and enthusiasts to formulate authentic research questions and helps them learn the process for answering them. This engagement with citizen historians may also enhance the reputation and authority of local history institutions, promote access to their digital collections, and help to grow their communities of stakeholders, both virtual and in-person.2

Because participants in History Unfolded learn while contributing to a large national effort on behalf of a trusted institution, they tend to express high degrees of commitment and self-motivation and appreciate the opportunity to do meaningful work. Therefore, museum staff viewed citizen history as a win-win. Participants could learn about the Holocaust while developing authentic research skills, a love of history, and a strengthened affinity for the museum and its mission. In turn, the museum would compile large quantities of data to help shape an exhibition, programs, and resources. In the process, the museum also would develop a dedicated corps of institutional stakeholders around the country.

A woman observes a digital exhibition panel displaying a newspaper article from the World War II era.

The Holocaust Museum’s decision to launch a large scale, multi-year citizen history project was not without risks and challenges. One key challenge was how best to help participants access widely dispersed collections, typically on microfilm and of varying quality. Unsurprisingly, a major determinant of the breadth and scope of newspaper articles submitted to History Unfolded from any particular state corresponds to whether the state’s historical newspaper collections have been digitized and are easily accessible online. However, most local newspaper collections from the 1930s and 1940s are available only on microfilm or in hard copy, and some collections are incomplete. Typically, the collections are housed in local or state libraries, university libraries, or historical societies. Therefore, the active participation of organizations housing the collections is critical to the project’s success.

In addition, many citizen historians are not familiar with microfilm technology, and many young citizen historians are unfamiliar with print newspapers altogether. Therefore, the History Unfolded website provides participants with guidance on where to find print newspaper collections, how their information is organized, and how to use a microfilm reader. The project website also provides scaffolding for the research process itself, focusing the research of citizen historians. History Unfolded has identified more than thirty Holocaust-related events of specific interest to the museum for citizen historians to use as a guiding framework for research in their local newspapers. A short historical summary is provided for each event, as well as date ranges and keyword search suggestions. When citizen historians find an article, they are prompted to upload their finding, along with specific metadata such as page number, date, headline, and author. All submissions are reviewed by staff and volunteers, who frequently provide feedback to participants on their research.

Despite the challenges associated with access to collections and learning how to perform research with historical newspapers, History Unfolded has enjoyed significant success. This is due largely to the museum’s willingness to dedicate staff and volunteers to engage project participants. The museum invested in a full-time community manager dedicated solely to the History Unfolded project. This fostered a regular flow of communication between citizen historians and the museum, enhanced participant engagement, and resulted in a high rate of retention. Educators whose students participate in the project tend to return with new classes year after year. History buffs, who contribute the bulk of submissions to the project, continue to participate months, or even years, later. When tasked with specific research assignments, such citizen historians typically respond with zeal and take pride in the museum’s reliance upon their participation.

When tasked with specific research assignments, such citizen historians typically respond with zeal and take pride in the museum’s reliance upon their participation.

In three years, over ten thousand individuals, one-fifth of whom are educators, have created accounts on the History Unfolded website. Roughly 30 percent of registrants have submitted data to the project, and as of September 2018, almost fifteen thousand articles from newspapers in all fifty states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) have been indexed in the project’s online database. The Holocaust Museum has organized community events called “research sprints” to focus citizen historians on the investigation of reporting about specific Holocaust-related events or newspapers from specific communities. Research sprints are organized events during which groups of citizen historians gather—sometimes in person at a library, archive, or historical society, other times virtually—to research one or more History Unfolded events in a specific collection of newspapers. Previous research sprints have generated content, such as letters-to-the-editor advocating for and against the Wagner-Rogers Bill of 1939, some of which appear in the museum’s special exhibition, Americans and the Holocaust, that opened in April 2018.

Research by citizen historians has provided visual evidence that illustrates the context in which Americans learned about Nazi persecution and murder of European Jews. For example, major public events that shocked the conscience—such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933 and the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938—often were reported on front pages in communities large and small throughout the United States. These stories ran for several days or even weeks, but they did not appear in a vacuum. The Nazi boycott shared space on the front page with President Roosevelt’s order to cut veterans’ benefits, efforts to repeal Prohibition, New Deal projects, developments in the Scottsboro Boys case, and devastating storms that killed scores of people across the South.

In many communities across the United States, information about the Holocaust was available, but it was not always prominent, and coverage was often ephemeral. Once America entered the war, the attention of Americans shifted, understandably, to the progress of the war.

Indeed, after U.S. entry into the war in 1942, front pages were dominated by news related to the war effort. Stories about the Nazi plan to kill all Jews (the “Final Solution”) appeared in many American newspapers the day before Thanksgiving (November 25, 1942); the top story in many papers that day was that the Soviets finally had broken the siege at Stalingrad and nearly encircled the German army. The Allies’ public condemnation of the “Final Solution” appeared December 17, 1942, one week before Christmas. It was not uncommon to find these articles on interior pages of newspapers printed beside advertisements for turkeys and holiday sales. The History Unfolded project has helped both the museum and the public learn more about the specific contexts in which many Americans learned about the Holocaust and Nazism.

There is still much to learn from History Unfolded. With a more comprehensive data set, staff at the museum look forward to analyzing and comparing coverage across communities—in university newspapers, Jewish and Catholic newspapers, African American newspapers, newspapers large and small, urban and rural.

Two African American women are seen looking through boxes of microfilm in a drawer.

In addition to its broad appeal among educators, History Unfolded offers librarians, archivists, and staff at historical societies ample opportunities to meet their institutional objectives. Some of the most innovative approaches to and most exciting outcomes from the project have come from special programs in which libraries and historical societies have engaged staff and volunteers to investigate collections.

The Richmond Museum of History in Richmond, California, for example, began its participation in History Unfolded in 2016. Staff there were curious to find out what information about the Holocaust, if any, was available to the local community—home to the Kaiser Shipyards, which made significant home front contributions to the war effort during WWII. Were the men who built the ships aware of Nazi persecution and murder of European Jews? Or were their eyes solely on the Pacific theatre? The museum placed advertisements in the local Jewish newspaper and invited members of a nearby synagogue to participate in volunteer research using the museum’s collections of historical newspapers. Eventually, they expanded research beyond just what their community might have known about the Holocaust to an exploration of the history of Jewish Richmond and surrounding Contra Costa County, resulting in a new exhibit that opened in January 2019 documenting the Jewish history of the city and surrounding region. The exhibition includes the aforementioned story of Fred Hendeles and the local press response to the Holocaust.3

Some of the most innovative approaches to and most exciting outcomes from the project have come from special programs in which libraries and historical societies have engaged staff and volunteers to investigate collections.

Other institutions took different approaches to the project, but with similarly productive results. Jill Weiss Simins, a historian at the Indiana Historical Bureau, viewed participation in the project as an opportunity to “help make sure that the lessons and warnings of the Holocaust are not forgotten” and to “make Holocaust history more accessible [and] relevant to Hoosiers, who sometimes feel removed from national conversations.” Weiss Simins worked with intern Jenna Auber to upload content to the History Unfolded website, featuring their findings in the Hoosier State Chronicle blog. At the suggestion of the History Unfolded community manager Eric Schmalz, Weiss Simins and Auber recruited a small, highly engaged group of citizen historians from local universities for a research sprint to investigate Holocaust events in the two Indiana newspapers with the largest circulation in 1940 and upload entries for each to the History Unfolded database.

Similarly, for Natasha Hollenbach, Digital Projects Librarian at the Montana Historical Society, History Unfolded offered a way to make her collections more visible and available to scholars. After first digitizing and uploading articles from the historical society collection, Hollenbach set up internal “research sprints” for her colleagues. She started small, asking for a few hours of staff time and maintaining a flexible schedule. Hollenbach made sure everyone knew they were welcome regardless of experience, both on the project and with the microfilm readers; this ensured a continuing number of new converts to the project and extended word of mouth advertising about how much fun it was. Through the staff sprints and Hollenbach’s individual contributions, the Montana Historical Society has uploaded hundreds of Montana newspaper articles.

Participation by public history organizations has proven critical to the success of the History Unfolded project. Their ability to engage local communities in research, discovery, and learning has made significant contributions to the breadth and diversity of local reporting indexed in the museum’s database. Of equal importance, this participation has made local collections and local history more visible, and has allowed staff, volunteers, and members of the public to learn about their community’s role in Holocaust history.

A close up image of a smart phone in front of a microfilm reader, demonstrating the app used to upload newspaper articles for the exhibition.

History Unfolded has demonstrated its potential as an engaging education tool that teaches valuable research skills and encourages critical thinking. During the project’s first three years, the Holocaust Museum has indexed more than fifteen thousand entries for newspaper articles submitted by citizen historians across the country in a searchable online database. This can only be viewed as a major accomplishment and a successful beginning. However, half of these submissions came from newspapers published in only eight states (primarily in what today would be called “the Rust Belt”).

For the project to function as a representative index of American news reporting, and to maximize its value for historical institutions and scholars, a consistent minimum data sample must be collected across all fifty states. In an effort to achieve this goal, the museum instructs participants to research newspaper reporting about a specific limited set of Holocaust-related events. It aims to compile a per state sample of at least one data submission for each Holocaust-related event for the two newspapers with the highest circulation in 1940. This should provide a minimum level of consistent data across states and allow for meaningful state-to-state comparisons of reporting at the time.

The museum will continue to accept research submitted to History Unfolded through summer 2021.Therefore, libraries, archives, and historical societies have ample time to lend their expertise and ensure that their communities are represented in the project results. In 2021, the museum plans to shift the project focus from collecting new data to synthesizing and analyzing the compiled data. Correspondingly, the Holocaust Museum expects to provide tools that will allow citizen historians, Holocaust historians, and digital humanities scholars to filter, sort, and analyze the data in order to evaluate trends and anomalies and draw conclusions about this history based on the accumulated evidence.

Though the Holocaust took place primarily in Europe, the research of citizen historians from around the United States makes clear that it is also an American story. It was told in front page headlines, editorials, letters-to-the-editor, and political cartoons of local newspapers from Richmond, California, to Helena, Montana, to Indianapolis, Indiana. By examining the information available to Americans, the stories we chose to tell, and the opinions we published, we learn as much about who we were as Americans as we do about how Americans responded to the Holocaust.

David Klevan is Education Outreach Specialist in the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where he develops educational resources and programs for a diverse group of audiences. Mr. Klevan specializes in experiential learning in online and digital learning environments. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1990) and his master’s degree in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (2004). Contact David at [email protected]

Eric Schmalz is the community manager for the History Unfolded project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He oversees the review of newspaper submissions to the project website, assists participants with their questions, and helps educators effectively incorporate History Unfolded into various learning environments. Mr. Schmalz specializes in developing and deepening authentic human connection through his work. He earned his bachelor’s degree in History at the College of William and Mary (2010) and his master’s degree in Teaching (Secondary Social Studies) at the University of Virginia (2011). Contact Eric at [email protected]


[1] There are several excellent examples of cultural institutions using crowdsourcing to transcribe and index historical documents. For example: “The World Memory Project,” US Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed January 29, 2019, https://www.ushmm.org/online/world-memory-project/; “Transcription Center,” Smithsonian Institution, accessed January 29, 2019, https://transcription.si.edu/; “Citizen Archivist Project,” National Archives and Records Administration, last reviewed November 7, 2018, https://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist; and “Operation War Diary,” Imperial War Museum and National Archives, accessed January 29, 2019, https://www.operationwardiary.org/.

[2] Elissa Frankle, “Making History with the Masses: Citizen History and Racial Trust in Museums,” Digital Dialogues, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, April 4, 2013, https://mith.umd.edu/dialogues/making-history-with-the-masses-citizen-history-and-radical-trust-in-museums/.

[3] Fajwal “Fred” Hendeles became an American. He married, had children, and lived the rest of his life in California. He died at age 91 in Los Angeles.


This article is from the Winter 2019 issue of History News, AASLH's quarterly magazine. Members can access the full issue in the Resource Center.


Book Review: Participatory Heritage

This review originally appeared in the Autumn 2018 issue of History News.

Participatory Heritage
By Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland (eds.)
(London: Facet Publishing, 2017)
Reviewed by Megan DiRienzo

Participatory. Engagement. Interactive. Relevant. Since the publication of Nina Simon’s 2010 game-changing title, The Participatory Museum, these words—especially “participatory”—have become common museum jargon. And like all jargon, the term is often peppered throughout discussions like glitter, adding seductive sparkle but little substance. But Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland use the term with heavy weight in their latest publication, Participatory Heritage. This book offers a series of stalwart case studies exploring how the boundaries of foundational heritage work—preserving, archiving, and sharing information—can flex and stretch when the professionalized heritage sector connects with communities that have been preserving their own heritages through genuine participation.

Participatory heritage communities include local volunteer-run archives, online forums hosted by self-taught historians, Wikipedia writers, artisans, and many others who participate in heritage work outside professionally sanctioned institutions like state archives, accredited museums, and official historic sites. The editors remind us that non-professionalized communities of practice, most often organized by unpaid stakeholders without formal training, lack the resources to preserve collections and knowledge in permanent, sustainable ways.

But instead of lamenting the loss of valuable historical documents and priceless objects at the hands of well-meaning but uninformed community members, this collection of case studies focuses on what the professionalized heritage sector can learn from informal communities of practice.

For example, JoyEllen Freeman’s chapter challenges readers to imagine an archive as an active aspect of community life, existing in the open for easy access rather than stowed away in perfectly conditioned storage areas. She reveals less than ideal archival conditions and processes (according to professional standards) at the Flat Rock Archives in Georgia, but then illuminates how implementing archival best practices could threaten the very community participation that saved this important African-American site from complete erasure. The archival materials at Flat Rock (documents, records, etc.) are displayed with artifacts and other materials in a mid-nineteenth-century farmhouse with no rhyme or reason, according to archival principles. And although the Flat Rock Archives organization may seem haphazard to professionals, to the archives’ most immediate users—community members—the house is a dynamic space for programming and community participation that depends on easy access to the archival materials as currently staged. Freeman then describes how she first focused on materials that were not displayed and is now working to organize a mass preservation and processing day that will allow her and volunteers to document materials without disturbing public use.

The Flat Rock Archives Museum in Lithonia, Georgia.

In a later chapter, Noah Lenstra offers a cautionary tale for organizations that seek to offer marginalized communities access to archival resources like databases, training, or willing history students hungry for hands-on archival experience. His chapter focuses on three partnerships between marginalized communities and large universities. Each vignette discusses various levels of autonomy for community members with various failings and successes.

The failures, he argues, happen when well-funded institutions swoop in with “the right answers,” further alienating the very communities they wish to reach by stripping them of their autonomy and ignoring their true needs.

His final example—a statewide workshop and handbook developed by the University of Illinois—is presented as a success because the university offered resources that community leaders could choose based on their needs. In the end, this chapter beckons large, powerful institutions to foster leadership in marginalized communities of practice rather than blindly insisting that the professionals know best.

Participatory Heritage is a challenging read because it asks professionalized cultural workers to loosen their grip on archival best practices in order to favor community needs and wants. However, this doesn’t mean professionalized standards should be thrown to the wind. Instead, the editors implore us to imagine what new best practices could look like when traditional heritage work links with communities who have figured out how to preserve their stories on their own terms.

Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional, this work will open a hearty discussion about how professional standards can evolve to preserve a broader swath of human history. Participatory Heritage makes it clear that the key to that evolution is held by the communities of practice that have struggled and thrived outside the professionalized world of heritage work.

Megan DiRienzo is an Interpretive Planner at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She collaborates with evaluators, designers, curators, community members, and various experts across disciplines to create relevant and personally meaningful experiences with art for museum visitors. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Book Review: Moving Image and Sound Collections for Archivists

This review originally appeared in the Autumn 2018 issue of History News.

Moving Image and Sound Collections for Archivists
By Anthony Cocciolo
(Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2017)
Reviewed by John Morton

In Moving Image and Sound Collections for Archivists, author Anthony Cocciolo brings ample insights from work both “in the trenches” as an archivist and also as an educator to bear on challenges that any archives is bound to face sooner or later. The result is the book on audiovisual archiving for those who don’t have the time to read a book on audiovisual archiving. Readers can rest assured that not only does Cocciolo -- who teaches at the Pratt Institute School of Information -- know his subject, he knows how to teach it, too.

Right from the outset, Cocciolo addresses Moving Image and Sound Collections for Archivists to those with a background in traditional, i.e. paper, collections who may stumble upon audiovisual artifacts in the midst of a larger collection. From this starting point, the book serves as an expanded workflow toward digital reformatting and preservation. Theoretical considerations, such as the appraisal process for a media artifact or different options for eventual digital exhibition online, account for the first half of the book, while the second half profiles the audiovisual carriers an archivist is likely to encounter and offers basic guidance for their conservation and preservation.

The book’s greatest accomplishment is simply to make this kind of archiving seem possible, even if it’s a first-time endeavor under trying circumstances.

Cocciolo’s recurring ultimate recommendation adheres to the accepted best practice in the field: create high-quality digital transfers of collection items, secure the master files in a trusted digital repository, create compressed access copies for day-to-day reference, and conserve the original carriers. At the same time, Cocciolo also concedes that these standards will be out of reach for many small and medium-sized collections, and allows that fleets of budget hard drives may stand in for servers, for example, or that the original artifact may have to serve as the access copy in some cases. He also matter-of-factly acknowledges the pitfalls posed by issues such as copyright compliance, terms of use for online streaming platforms, and the risk of proprietary software being put out to pasture and leaving archivists in the lurch. When broaching complex topics that merit their own dedicated manuals, Cocciolo deftly supplies a baseline sketch of the issue but demurs from leading his readers down any rabbit trails.

Cocciolo’s trim volume benefits from lucid chapter and subject divisions, wonderfully functional illustrations, and down-to-earth language. The book is modular enough that individual chapters serve for functional stand-alone reference, but also lends itself to an easy and effective read-through. In addition to stewards of paper collections, veteran audiovisual archivists may use the book to reorient to the bigger picture if they have spent some time in the weeds or if they could use an update to state of the art practice. The scope and tone of the book are also suitable for students. For all these reasons, Moving Image and Sound Collections for Archivists is certain to enjoy frequent use at organizations or libraries that pick up a copy.

John Morton is the Audio-Visual Archivist Assistant for the Knox County Public Library System in Knoxville, TN. He holds an M.A. from the University of Rochester and certification from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation in Rochester, NY. John has worked with libraries and archival collections for five years. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Online Course: Basics of Archives

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

DATES: October 15 – November 16, 2018

COST: $85 members/$160 nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: August 6 – October 15, 2018

Register Here

Course Logistics:

FORMAT: Online, self-paced course.

LENGTH: 4 weeks; 15-20 hours to be completed anytime during the four-week course period (dates above).

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Online chat. There are no required times to be online.

MATERIALS: There are no required texts for this course. All materials will be provided.

GRADING: Pass/Fail. You must complete all exams within the allotted four weeks in order to pass the course.

Course Description:

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

The course consists of five lessons:

  • Archives and Archivists
  • Acquiring Your Collections
  • Processing Collections
  • Housing Your Collections
  • Access and Outreach

Who Should Take This Course:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with archival materials.

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Instructor:

Charlie Arp has a BA and MA in history from Ohio University where he specialized in archival studies. From 1991 to 2003 he worked at the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) where he held a variety of positions including archival processor, reference archivist, Head of Reference, Assistant State Archivist and State Archivist. As Assistant State Archivist he was the digital projects coordinator and he formed and chaired the Ohio Electronic Records Committee, an interdisciplinary group formed to draft electronic records policy, guidelines, and best practices for state and local governments in Ohio.  As State Archivist he was a senior level manager responsible for the planning, coordination, and administration of the operations of the State Archives including the Local Government Records program and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor Archives/Library.

In 2003 Charlie was hired by the Battelle Memorial Institute as Enterprise Content Manager. At Battelle Charlie pioneered managing electronic records in lieu of paper records. Charlie also supervised the Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) archives. GLP records fall under FDA regulations to ensure that the records documenting scientific research for substances put in or on humans are created reliably and maintained authentically over time. In 2015 Charlie tested and validated the use of an electronic management program to enable Battelle to create, manage, preserve and use electronic records as part of submissions to the FDA.

In early 2016 Charlie accepted an offer for early retirement from Battelle. Since then he has started an archival and records management consulting firm and is writing a book on archives.

Participant Feedback

“This course was exactly what we need to improve our rather small Collection and take it to another step. Thanks for all of the ideas and information. I am especially impressed with how well the course is organized and presented online. The site was very well thought out and presented no problems for me – a slightly challenged computer geek-wanna be.”

“This was a marvelous course and now I have confidence that I can do the work: material to reference and people to communicate with as needed.”

“I just wanted to say thank you for having this course.  It has really helped me decide what direction I want to make my education in and had definitely helped me with some of the smaller preservation jobs I take on at the library.”


Book Review: Fostering Family History Services: A Guide for Librarians, Archivists, and Volunteers

This review originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of History News.

Fostering Family History Services: A Guide for Librarians, Archivists, and Volunteers
By Rhonda L. Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller

(Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2016)
Reviewed by Lila Teresa Church

Research in family history continues to generate wide interest for writers and historians, and this work provides both a primer and an instruction manual for this popular pursuit.

The expertise of librarians and archivists is invaluable for such an undertaking, the authors assert, especially when "some of the pieces are missing, due to lost records, or scant, in time periods that predate the existence of vital and census records" (2). To that end, Fostering Family History Services lays important groundwork for helping information providers understand how best to serve the needs of their patrons.

The authors provide an extensive overview of the diverse types of records and resources a family researcher might consult, as well as tips on those they may not have thought about yet. In addition to discussing sources, the book emphasizes the importance of those providing services to offer tools, guidance, and frameworks (how to research) in addition to basic information (where to research). Descriptions of specific sources are often followed with discussion on how to help patrons process and preserve them, or even create their own for the future. Chapter three discusses current best practices that librarians may follow to support oral history projects and individuals interested in producing such sources, and chapter advocates for training patrons on how to preserve and store their photograph collections.

Chapter four shifts focus from collections held by organizations and cultural heritage institutions to materials in the custody of families and individuals. Clark and Miller offer guidelines that librarians, archivists, and volunteers can follow to help family members assess materials, determine their historical significance and value, make decisions about disposition and donations, and choose appropriate methods for storage. This chapter also includes sections on personal archives and approaches that families and individuals may utilize to preserve private collections.

The penultimate chapter in Fostering Family History Services is appropriately entitled "Mining the Riches." Clark and Miller focus on seven categories of local history materials which they identify as ones most commonly used by beginning researchers, as well as several categories of uniquely relevant resources. Clark and Miller describe the informational contents of these materials, along with their formats and availability, demonstrated uses, and reliability for research purposes. The authors also provide tables for the respective materials along with summaries of how to locate records in various formats.

The book concludes with a chapter pertaining to family history resources available in digital format. National portals such as the Digital Public Library of America, the Internet Archive, and the Chronicling America National Digital Newspaper Program, for example, provide researchers with free access to a wide array of searchable documents, including books, maps, and newspapers. It also discusses how researchers may acquire access to materials through state and regional-level digitization projects. This chapter offers guidelines that information service providers may utilize in training patrons to use digitized collections.

Chapters are meticulously documented with citations from the professional literature, and include lists of other print and electronic resources for further reference. The book also includes program ideas that librarians and archivists may utilize to enhance the services they provide. While Fostering Family History Services is intended for information service providers, it is suited to anyone seeking to understand how librarians, archivists, and volunteers serve the needs of local history researchers.

Lila Teresa Church, Ph.D. is an independent scholar and archival consultant. She served on the AASLH Annual Meeting Program Committee from 2009-2011. She can be reached at [email protected]

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A row of archival shelving.

Book Review: Digital Preservation Essentials

This review originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of History News.

Digital Preservation Essentials
By Erin O'Meara and Kate Stratton (Christopher J. Prom, ed.)

(Chicago, Society of American Archivists, 2016)
Reviewed by Donna J. Baker

The Trends in Archival Practice series extends core archival knowledge and promotes best practices by providing specific instruction and advice for subjects too complex to address in general archive fundamentals texts. A subject as complex and intimidating as digital preservation demands such a module. Digital objects are an everyday part of the archivist’s work, and regardless of the origin or format, must receive the appropriate levels of appraisal, description, arrangement, and preservation as would any other acquisition to the archival repository. Digital Preservation Essentials places the processing of digital material squarely within everyday practice, not as an afterthought.

Erin O’Meara, head of the Office of Digital Innovation and Stewardship at the University of Arizona Libraries, and Kate Stratton, collection development archivist at the Gates Archive, are the authors for Digital Preservation Essentials, comprised of “Module 12: Preserving Digital Objects” and “Module 13: Digital Preservation Storage.”  Each module lays out best practices, demonstrates the application of accepted practice, and recommends workflows and other requirements for achieving implementing practice for archivists. Each module has its own glossary, allowing readers to have vocabulary support and the ability to enhance knowledge without completely disengaging from the material to look up words or concepts. The modules also have appendices for further reading and case studies to demonstrate how archivists might move from the module to implementation in their repositories.  Diagrams and charts are used sparingly but effectively.  Altogether, this text is only 135 pages in length, suggesting that the focus is truly on the practical information required by practitioners, not on theoretical concepts that can overwhelm.

The takeaway of these modules is that it is essential that archivists take proactive, systematic action right now to preserve digital objects. Archivists and public historians of all kinds know that data is lost by obsolescence and poor application of preservation standards. Those tasked with managing archives must create meaningful workflows now and stop postponing digital preservation, no matter how daunting or expensive such work can seem.

While I recommend this book to archivists with a bit of training and experience in digital preservation, I do not recommend it as a means to gain digital preservation expertise to cultural heritage caretakers who have had the title of “archivist” thrust upon them. These modules are neither designed for, nor directed to, novices. That stated, the recommended readings sections are useful to anyone wanting to know more about digital preservation. They are excellent core resources on digital preservation theory and practice, and also provide novices and/or smaller institutions with limited resources the vocabulary required to reach out to experts and form collaborative digital projects together.

***

Donna J. Baker is the University Archivist for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Prior to this, she was Head of Special Collections and Archives and curator of the Appalachia-Kentucky Collection at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.  She received her MA in History from Eastern Illinois University and her MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She can be reached at [email protected]

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Instructions Not Included: Breaking Down Organizational Needs

A fellow archivist disclosed that the most rational approach to archiving is to never treat it like a single-headed beast. You will never cut off the head in one swift motion, but you can take calculated jabs. Establishing an archive is overwhelming and in my two years with the Sazerac Company Archive (SCA), it has become apparent that “established” is a pipe dream. An archivist can only strive to be more stable.

Level one is to break down the complicated issues into smaller projects—and then think even smaller. Cataloging and organizing a photo collection is an easy objective to write down in a planner, but difficult to grasp in practice; place this task on top of competing priorities and suddenly a year has passed without much progress. With projects pushed aside for months to work on new assignments, often in favor of building brand histories or generating new materials for displays, I am continuously fighting my urge to complete tasks.

Officially established in 2014, the SCA is committed to exploring Sazerac’s history, culture, innovations, and leadership. A large portion of our work has been to research and accession materials into the archive for future use. The archives team has written approved policies, completed a range of objectives, developed programs, and nearly completed our objects catalog. As a corporate archive, our catalogs are rarely complete and ever growing. After nearly four years of work, we have found AASLH’s self-study StEPs course (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) to be a useful resource when guidance is needed.

StEPs Collections Standard 2: The institution legally, ethically, and effectively manages, documents, cares for, and uses the collections. Self-assessment questions and performance indicators are used to judge your progress.

StEPs acts as the ultimate handbook for institutions that ask one of two questions: “Why?” and “How?” – both of which I ask on a weekly basis. Broken into six sections, the program details actions to strengthen your policies, programs, and management. Additionally, each section includes basic, good, and better standards to achieve. Remember—break down the complicated issues into smaller projects—and then think even smaller. The handbook does not provide a pre-written collections management policy, but it does offer resources to build one and grants certificates for completing the standards. Thank you to AASLH for establishing “better” performance indicators and understanding that there is no “best” standard in our practice.

SCA utilized the Society of American Archivists as a resource to build a set of core values and code of ethics that best fit our corporate archive.

Do not treat your archive like a single-headed beast. Attack him from all angles and you might get the upper hand. The SCA has completed 37/44 basic standards in the “Stewardship of Collections” section. Our goal is to receive a bronze certificate by the end of 2018.

Place your bets now and check back here around December for an update!


Online Course: Basics of Archives

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

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Details:

November 15-December 15, 2017

15-20 hours to be completed anytime during the above dates.

Cost: $85 members/$160 nonmembers

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Full Online Course Description:

The newly revised Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices.

The course consists of five lessons:

  • Archives and Archivists
  • Acquiring Your Collections
  • Processing Collections
  • Housing Your Collections
  • Access and Outreach

The course is web-based and takes 15-20 hours to complete. There are no required times to be online. You may finish the course anytime during the four-week course period.

Who Should Take This Course:

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with archival materials.

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About the Instructor: 

Charles Arp is the Enterprise Content Manager-IT at the Battelle Memorial Institute. Previously, he worked for the Ohio Historical Society for thirteen years, ultimately becoming Ohio's State Archivist. Charlie has a BA and MA in history from Ohio University.

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