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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Closing October is American Archives Month

This is the last blog post for our Blogathon as we conclude the events and online activities that took place in honor of October is American Archives Month here at the Smithsonian Institution.

October is a time once a year where we can focus on the importance of the Smithsonian’s vast collections of archival and historical records and to highlight the many individual Smithsonian archival units responsible for maintaining these rich and complex documentary resources.  To do so the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections council set forth with this goal in mind: To unveil our hidden collections and share them with the public, while at the same time teaching the public how to take care of their own archival treasures.

First and foremost (and no news to our blogger readers) the Archives throughout the Smithsonian Institution participated in a 31 day Blogathon, hosted by the Smithsonian Collections Blog in partnership with: 

Sister Smithsonian blogs:
Archives of American Art Blog
The Bigger Picture, blog of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Eye Level, blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Affiliate, blog of Smithsonian Affiliations

Smithsonian Institution affiliate blogs including:
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, an Affiliate in Clewiston, Florida
Telluride Historical Museum, in association with the Pinhead Institute, an Affiliate in Telluride, Colorado
Montana History Revealed Blog, the Montana Historical Society Research Center

In addition to the Blogathon we decided to have a multi-pronged campaign, expanding from our individual Open Houses held the two years previous, we decided it was time to bring all 14 of us together in a big way.  The Archives Fair was conceived with the idea to attract both our professional peers and the general public.  Demonstration and Information Tables were set up for each unit, a Lecture Series was held for lectures discussing care, processing and research focusing on collections; and an inaugural Ask the Smithsonian program was born where people were allowed to bring in their own treasures and learn how to take care of them.  

For those who were not able to attend the Smithsonian Archives Fair, the Lecture Series was stream cast live and archived at the October is American Archives Month at the Smithsonian.  Additionally, Smithsonian paper conservator and an electronic records conservator were available virtually on the Smithsonian’s Facebook account, Thursday, Oct. 21 to answer questions the public had concerning their own paper and electronic archival items.  Questions ranged from "How can I stop the pinking of photographs?" to "How can I capture and preserve my Myspace profile?" were asked and answered in the forum.

Result in Numbers: 800 participants, 1,963 visitors to the Archives Month landing page for a total of 2,267 page views thus far, with 308 viewers of our Lecture Series the day of.  That puts us over 1,108 visitors both online and in-person for the Archives Fair!

Result in Commentary and Observation: It is my observation that we attracted a seemingly even amount of fellow professionals in addition to the general public.  Archivists from fellow institutions like the House of Representatives, Congressional Cemetery, and U of MD attended our fair and sought me out individually to express their profound gratitude for having an event like this. A staff member from the US Department of Commerce spoke to me at the conclusion of the Fair to say that we simply MUST hold this event every year, and in fact she would like to see opportunities to work with us MORE than once a year.  Potential workshops, archivist exchange programs, and other collaborative ventures were suggested. Members of the general public seemed unanimously pleased with learning more about archives, libraries, and special collections and could not convey enough their gratitude at having an opportunity to have access to our experts at Ask the Smithsonian.

In general, everyone keeps saying how amazed they are at how well things went for our first try, and I honestly think it is because we (archivists/librarians/museum specialist) are not only exceptionally organized, but we are genuinely invested in working together to get our collections and expertise out there. 

Thank you to those who attended (virtually and in-person) our first-ever Archives Fair! 

Rachael Cristine Woody
Freer|Sackler Archives


Archives preserve memories, tell stories, and solve mysteries every day.  Without them, questions would go unanswered, histories would remain untold, and new discoveries would be difficult to uncover.

The Smithsonian’s archival collections preserve and make available meaningful documentation in the form of original letters, data, research files, diaries, scrapbooks, rare printed materials, business records, photographs, maps, motion picture films, video and audio recordings, and other documents. They form the foundation for research, scholarship, publications, exhibitions, public and educational programs, and outreach.

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