Archives matter. They are not just interesting facts and stories disconnected from current life. Whether for personal reasons, academic pursuits, educational uses, preserving rights, or ensuring transparency in government, the use of archival records have an impact. Every time a person uses archival records, something happens. Demonstrating the impact, the value, and the importance of archival records and the work of archivists is the focus of “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”.
So on August 16, 2014, in my “incoming presidential remarks”, I urged all of you, my colleagues, to spend the coming year (525,600 minutes) in taking on the challenge of endeavoring to show why archives matter. We have and will continue to suggest monthly challenges to provide ideas and options for how you might do that. Ideas of your own that you want to pursue are more than welcome. Any and every effort to raise awareness of archives and archivists counts!
Our hope is to draw attention to the ways we can take that extra step and talk about the value of archives, the importance of what we do, of what can be realized through the use of archival records. How are we doing so far? To date, 13 individuals have submitted stories and reported on outreach events that point to the importance of archival records. On October 30th, the Committee on Public Awareness initiated a highly successful #AskAnArchivist Day twitter event with over 100 institutions participating. Another 21 organizations have reported on their American Archives Month activities. If you have not yet shared information on your activities, please do so—it is a great resource for all of us to get ideas, examples, and inspiration for continuing this effort.
I promised at the SAA Business meeting that I would affix “bling” to my official gavel for each time some person/institution took an awareness/advocacy action. Here is what that looks like so far (typical archivist, I’ve balanced the bling on both sides, but you get the idea)
There will be more “challenges” offered to stimulate your thinking, and feel free to try any of the ideas we’ve provided on the website at: http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously. If you’re a member of a roundtable/section, a student chapter, or a regional archives group, think about how to engage your group. The amazing Michael Miller from the Military Archives Roundtable has been working to bring forward stories and activities from his cohort, and it would be great to see other group efforts as well.
Please be sure to let us know what you have done—there are places on the website to do that or just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ve enlisted Caitlin Brenneke, one of my sister graduates of the Wayne State University archives program, to help wrangle the information—she’s young, smart and energetic, so keep her busy!
In the past three months, I’ve heard many, many comments about the very real challenges faced by the archival profession. Again and again, people talk about the lack of understanding, the lack of respect, the failure of managers, leaders, stakeholders, and the public to value what we do. It affects employment, salaries, resources to do our work, the use of archival records, respect for our profession—you know the list. We can change that—it will take time for us to learn to explain and compile the evidence of why archives matter. Most of all, it requires us to have the will to make this change. If we work together, we can accomplish real and effective progress for our profession. So, I urge you again to contribute to “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”. The time is now, the choice is ours.