Category Archives: Advocacy

Thursday Is #AskAnArchivist Day!

Posted by Sami Norling, Archivist, Indianapolis Museum of Art and SAA Committee on Public Awareness


It’s the final week of American Archives Month and archivists and archival repositories around the country are getting ready to take part in SAA’s newest initiative, #AskAnArchivist Day. For 24 hours this Thursday, October 30, archivists representing every type of archives imaginable are encouraged to head to Twitter to answer questions sent with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Questions of all kinds are bound to be asked, ranging from the practical—What can I do to be sure that my electronic documents and images will be accessible in the future?—to the fun—How many archivists does it take to screw in a light bulb? But regardless of where on this spectrum a question may fall, each will give us a valuable opportunity to connect directly with the public. Not only will this give archivists another venue in which to promote our collections, but it will also give us a chance to pull back the curtain and talk more about who we are, what being an archivist entails, and the why and how of what we do on a daily basis.

The idea for #AskAnArchivist Day comes directly from the highly successful #AskACurator Day held on September 17 and now in its fifth year. This year’s event was the largest yet and the stats are nothing short of amazing: 721 galleries/libraries/archives/museums (members of the GLAM community) representing 43 countries took part and 47,546 Tweets were contributed with the hashtag by more than 13,000 unique Twitterers!

As the archivist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, I had the opportunity to take part in this year’s #AskACurator Day, joining multiple curators at my institution in providing answers to dozens of questions sent to and from our institutional Twitter account. My participation as an archivist was in no way unique—dozens (if not hundreds) of archivists took part in Ask a Curator Day as integral members of the curatorial staff in their institutions.

But this Thursday, October 30, is our day—Ask An Archivist Day. And while this first SAA-initiated #AskAnArchivist Day is not likely to match the impressive figures mentioned above, it is already shaping up to be an exciting day of archival outreach. As a member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, I can tell you that the initial response of the archival community to Ask an Archivist Day has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. More than twenty repositories already have signed up as participants and are listed on the main #AskAnArchivist Day page, while twenty-seven individual archivists and institutional Twitter participants have been identified on the AskAnArchivist Twitter list.

These lists will continue to grow as we approach October 30. To make sure that you and your repository are accounted for, simply e-mail SAA to let them know that you plan to take part. For archivists who haven’t had the chance to participate in American Archives Month yet, #AskAnArchivist Day is an easy way to get your repository and/or yourself involved! For those who have observed American Archives Month over the past 27 days by hosting events and workshops, writing blog posts about your work, sharing collection items via social media, and a variety of other outreach activities, what better way to end the month-long celebration of archives and archivists than with #AskAnArchivist Day?

For more information about Ask an Archivist Day, detailed instructions on how to participate, and ideas for promoting the event, check out the main #AskAnArchivist Day page on SAA’s website. Still have questions or need more information? Contact SAA HQ or share in the comments below.

The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives Challenge #2: Archives and the Human Face of War

We’re in the midst of American Archives Month, and I hope many of you are involved in activities that you’ll share with us so we can keep track of your efforts to raise awareness of the importance of archival records. (check out Challenge #1 and the submission forms at While that’s underway, it’s time to plan for Challenge #2, focusing on ways to connect to the commemorations of Veterans Day on November 11th and Pearl Harbor Day on December 7th.

The experience of war has a compelling interest for many people in the United States.  In fact, the Library of Congress Subject Headings categorize American history largely based on war (as opposed to the British, who use the reigns of monarchs!).  Our elected officials often draw attention to their war service, and their detractors point to those who did not serve.   Film, television, videogames, literature and history are only a few ways our society follows the many perspectives on war.  From the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of us have collections that reflect the stories and experiences of soldiers, nurses, and those “at home.”  These letters, diaries, photographs, songs, and oral histories provide very real connections and insights for many people.

These events provide us with another opportunity to raise awareness of our holdings and the value of archives.  So check out our next challenge: Please be sure to let us know what steps you have taken and what went well or what challenges were involved. We look forward to hearing from you!

Bits, Bytes, and Buzz: Electronic Records Day, 10-10-14

Let the cheering begin for the Council of State Archivists and its Electronic Records Day campaign on October 10, 2014 (10-10-14), and congratulations to all those who did their part in supporting this wonderful event. CoSA initiated this effort as part of American Archives Month four years ago, on the appropriately dated 10-10-10.  SAA and other professional organizations have joined CoSA in the effort, and this year Electronic Records Day has really shown what archivists can do to raise awareness.

Electronic records are challenging in so many ways—they don’t have the warmth of a document or photograph and they involve many technical complexities, so making an awareness campaign “user friendly” is a real challenge.  Still, virtually every state and territorial archives did something, as did many university archives, library special collections, and many other organizations. Check out a few of the “not archives” groups who got involved in promoting Electronic Records Day: the National Association of Secretaries of State; the National Association of State Chief Information Officers; the UN Archives and Records Management Section, the National Genealogical Society, the Marshall County Public Library, the Princeton Seminary Library, Iron Mountain and Laser Fiche.

That’s an impressive range demonstrating the energy that can be created around archives and archival issues. Huge applause to everyone who was involved—The wonderful distribution of information and the number and ways people and organizations got involved is clear evidence that “Yes we can” generate interest and energy around archival records.  It takes time, it takes tenacity, it takes creativity, but it can be done!

There’s plenty of time left in American Archives Month to join in and raise awareness of the importance and value of archives. Visit the SAA website for ideas, and let us know what you’ve done: We look forward to hearing from you!

Interested in more about what went on?  On twitter, do a search on #ERecsDay and you’ll see quite a range of links to blogs, Instagram, websites and more. Here are some links to a very random sample of the range of information and activities that took place 10-10-14:
For the core information on eRecords Day check out the CoSA website:

For a sample of blogposts (including some video and humor along the way):

Take Action for Archives!

For all of you who’ve made the commitment to participate in the “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” and for those who are still wondering just what this is all about (see the 9/3/2104 blogpost here), the first challenge opportunity is now live on the SAA website:

You’ll find suggestions for concrete actions to take in the next days/weeks to further our efforts to raise awareness of the importance and value of archives and archivists. Check out the suggestions, put your own spin on them, try them out and then tell us the results of your efforts.

Challenges will be issued periodically in the future focusing on different issues, times, approaches, or for particular groups within SAA whether Student Chapters, Fellows, or any of our roundtables and sections. Do one, do many—every action is another step forward in raising awareness.

It is an absolute joy and privilege to be part of a profession that can change lives, alter the path of policy, affect the economy, capture the minds of students, promote insight and understanding, and provide the information infrastructure for democracy. It’s time we let others know that this is what archives and archivists do. Join us in taking action for archives!

The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives

It’s really pretty simple. Archives change lives…sometimes in breath-taking ways, sometimes in quiet but essential ways. Nonetheless, every encounter that a user has with archives results in some increase or change in knowledge, some adjustment to a direction, some altered perspective, some affecting of the human experience. Archives have value for so many different people—our managers, our colleagues, our friends, the public, our users, potential users, and even people who may never directly use them.

I hope in the coming year we can work together to take some specific actions to raise awareness of the importance and value of archives in our lives, our organizations, our government, and our society. In my incoming presidential remarks at the recent Annual Business Meeting (, I issued a challenge to us as SAA members, as archivists, to spend a year “living dangerously” by taking some concerted actions to increase awareness of and advocate for archives. It’s not something that most of us have been trained to do, and it is something that for many of us is a bit beyond our comfort zone (hence the element of “danger”). Continue reading

With UELMA, Lots of Legislation Keeps Stuff Safe

This post was written by William “Butch” Lazorchak. Butch is a Digital Archivist for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress. Continue reading

Supporting NEH and IMLS

I came into work this morning expecting a quiet day when I saw an email with the subject line “NEH.” What I read made me cringe. It appears the House Budget committee, headed by former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, has submitted a budget that eliminates both NEH and IMLS. Granted this is the first salvo in the budget battle but it is concerning. AHA has written about NEH and ALA President Barbara Stripling has written about IMLS.

Both NEH and IMLS have supported archives programs through grants. Most recently IMLS provided funding in support of the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program which provides financial support, practical work experience, mentoring, career placement assistance, and leadership development to emerging professionals from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups. IMLS also supported A*CENSUS, the first study of the archival universe and its needs. Continue reading