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.