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Monday, October 3, 2016

October is American Archives Month: Transitions

As the weather finally begins to cool down from the summer the activities in the many archives and special collections are just getting heated up across the Smithsonian in preparation for American Archives Month! For the sixth year in a row the Smithsonian Collections blog is running its annual blog-a-thon and providing exciting new posts every weekday in October.

Every year a theme is selected such as “Hidden Connections,” “Revealing Hidden Treasures,” and “True Stories.” This year’s theme is Transitions. In addition to being discussed October 5th at the 2016 Archives Fair, our contributing archivists, librarians and museum professionals will write about what transitions mean to them.  As a whole, the Smithsonian archival community has had an exciting year since last year October. The Smithsonian Online Virtual Archive (SOVA) has transformed how many of our finding aids, collection records and digital assets are discovered and accessed by the public. The Smithsonian Transcription Center completed its third year and now has almost 200,000 pages of materials completely transcribed, reviewed and fully text searchable. And of course, the most important event this year was the historic opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture whose archival collections can now be found both on the SOVA and the Transcription Center.

For the National Museum of the American Indian, this year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of our predecessor institution the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (for a brief history on the founding of the museum see this February post by Museum Specialist, Maria Galban). Materials from the MAI’s early years, including annual reports and George Heye’s correspondence, can be found digitized and available on the SOVA in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records as well as available for transcription (for those projects not already completed) on the Transcription Center.

For us in the NMAI archive center, the anniversary of the MAI has been more than just a time to reflect on the history of the museum and its collections. It has also been a time to re-emphasize and re-commit to the important museum and archival practices that have transitioned in the last 100 years to not only include Native American voices in the process of describing their own historic materials, but making collaboration between the archive center and Native communities a fundamental part of how we do our work.  Later this week, you’ll be reading a post by one of our summer interns, Nina Sanders (Apsáalooke, Crow) who will discuss her experience working with William Wildschut’s photograph collection taken mainly among the Crow (Apsáalooke) from 1917-1928. You should also check out this post by our other summer intern Kelsey Moen on her work with the Kimowan (Metchewais) McLain collection. McLain was a significant figure in the contemporary Native art world and a finding aid to his collection is now available online.

Remember to check back every day for new content and happy archives month!

Rachel Menyuk, Archives Technician
National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center

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