Happy Ask an Archivist Day!
That means that archivists from around the world (mostly U.S., but I got responses from one person in Canada and another in Ireland) were on Twitter answering questions tagged with #AskAnArchivist. I asked six questions and received a number of thoughtful and helpful responses to each.
I've included my questions and the archivists' answers below. Though I asked six questions, I've only included the ones that would be of most interest to my readers. I've also included links to each question in my Twitter feed in case you want to engage with me or check out the links people tweeted me.
Here's my first question:
#AskAnArchivist What can the average person do to preserve old family letters, scrapbooks, etc.? What materials are needed & where to buy?— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Great question! First thing I say to family and friends...please don't store in basement! Limit humidity/temp change and light— Lisa Snider (@archivesmatter) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Keep treasures where temp. & Rh are constant, like a closet in main part of house (not attic or basement). Use acid-free boxes— YellowstoneNPS (@YellowstoneNPS) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Get them into acid-free folders and boxes, then keep them in a stable environment. That's the very least you can do.— Historic Newton (@HistoricNewton) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Also, it's good to keep the materials in a temperature controlled environment— U of A Libraries (@UARKLibraries) October 30, 2014
I was actually inspired to ask this question since my roommate and I found a box of love letters from 1913 on one of our dumpster diving excursions. I wish I were joking, but at least they're now safely in my care.
#AskAnArchivist For organizations that don't have institutional archives, what do you say to garner support for starting one?— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@sheepeeh I guess I was thinking nonprofit, like a museum, but I'm open to hearing about others as well.— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque I think the place to start is to gather evidence of how similar organizations benefit from their archiv(es/ists).— Rachel Donahue (@sheepeeh) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Also, peer pressure. Don't most museums already have an archives? ;)— Rachel Donahue (@sheepeeh) October 30, 2014
I recently interviewed a librarian at a well established museum (post to come soon) who recently took the position and one of her goals as the new librarian is to set up an institutional archive--an archive with information about the museum itself, not just its contents, which could include records of major donors, member newsletters, publications written by the curatorial staff, and more.
#AskAnArchivist What are your thoughts on digital archives? The way of the future or not a viable option?— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Since I am a digital archivist I am biased! Future and present, all the way...In 5 yrs, it will be fully mainstream— Lisa Snider (@archivesmatter) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Way of the future. It's inevitable. (This is a personal opinion, though, and doesn't represent the opinions of others).— ArkHistCom (@ArkHistCom) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Already inescapable. Many collections are "hybrid," i.e. contain traditional & dig. materials.— Lauren G. (@laurenbgood) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Most records people make (correspondence, schoolwork, newspapers, etc) are now digital, so it's the future for sure!— Am Lib Assn Archives (@ALA_Archives) October 30, 2014
I was glad to hear of several people already working with digital or hybrid (both digital and physical) archives because I plan to go into digital preservation. Sounds like it's the way of the future to me!
#AskAnArchivist How do you decide which collections to digitize? Is it based on popularity, durability of items, or something else?— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Obsolescence & durability. If it's falling apart or about to be inaccessible, it's on the top of the priority list.— Rebecca (@8BitBecca) October 30, 2014
I asked this question a bit late in the day, so I'll update this post if I get more responses.
And my last (and most fun) question:
#AskAnArchivist What's the most popular item in your collection?— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@FDRLibrary That is SWEET. And that's the original car? Looks like y'all have taken spectacular care of it!— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@visitpama Interesting! Funnily enough, my boyfriend and I were wondering about the various indigenous peoples of Canada just yesterday.— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque The Mississaugas were relocated by the gov. to inhospitable land, thankfully another nation invited them to share their land.— PAMA (@visitpama) October 30, 2014
@fixedbaroque Flushing Remonstrance,1657, petition by citizens of Flushing, Queens in favor of relig. toleration frm the Dutch colony’s gov.— NY State Archives (@nysarchives) October 30, 2014
@SamiNorling That's really cool! I like that the samples of fabric are attached to the design plan. That's not something you see too often.— Mandy Shunnarah (@fixedbaroque) October 30, 2014