Neighborhood Matters: An Outreach and Advocacy Project by Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections

by Angela Lee

“Neighborhood Matters” is an outreach and advocacy project hosted by Northeastern University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections (ASC). This lunch time series aims at promoting diversity and inclusion by organizing a free public event; its goal  includes bridging campus and community. “Neighborhood Matters” first began in 2014 and is held at Snell Library on the Northeastern University (NEU) campus two to three times a semester. The project was proposed and led by the head of NEU’s Archives and Special Collections, Giordana Mecagni. “Neighborhood Matters” started out as the simple format of a Boston-specific documentary screening event; it has  grown into a more interaction-driven forum that encourages thought-provoking communication over the past six years.

The scope of this community-based initiative is confined to the city of Boston.  Within this geographical boundary, “Neighborhood Matters” sheds light on local history that is largely underrepresented through unique stories narrated by our neighbors. The project is an embodiment of NEU’s ASC, aligned with their collection policy to curate diverse historical records to preserve the history of Boston’s social movements. The individual voices captured by “Neighborhood Matters” bring insight and new perspectives to seemingly mundane places in Boston.

The project’s target audience includes local communities, as well as NEU members, but events are open to anyone who is interested in how actual neighbors have shaped and been shaped by Boston’s distinct neighborhoods. Not only does “Neighborhood Matters” encourage community members to appreciate their neighborhood more, but it also offers an opportunity to network. As a result, NEU’s ASC becomes a nexus of rekindled community spirit and identity.

According to NEU’s archivist, Molly Brown, the topic of each event is curated in response to current and socially significant issues that are worthy of public attention. Due to this adaptability, an event is planned a few months ahead of time, rather than on a yearly basis. Sometimes socially active figures reach out to NEU’s ASC and propose an idea for an event. For instance, Alison Barnet, who is a local author and a long time committed attendee of the “Neighborhood Matters,” suggested the recent event entitled “Once Upon a Neighborhood: A History of the South End from Alison Barnet.”

This author talk was held on February 11, 2020, and featured Alison Barnet as a special guest. Originally from New York, but now a resident of the South End since the 1960s when she was a transfer student at Boston University, Barnet has witnessed the ceaselessly changing landscape of Boston over the past half century.

This South End history writer shared her version of the Bostonian chronicle, which traces Boston’s legacy all the way back to the 1600s, based on her newest book Once Upon a Neighborhood: A Timeline and Anecdotal History of the South End of Boston. The event had a great turn out and a large number of elderly attendees, due to Barnet’s many personal allies who showed up to support her. While she recounted snippets of South End history, the audience reacted with fervent nodding or occasional sighs as a sign of empathy.

Following Barnet’s jovial reminiscing through her long-term residency in the South End, she presented video footage of her 1980s appearance on network TV. Barnet’s satirical performance in the skit addressed a looming threat of gentrification and displacement in Boston. Since the gentrified neighborhoods are still an ongoing battle faced by the city of Boston, her story is not limited to the past but resonates with all of us in the here and now. As the series’ self-explicit title suggests, neighborhood does matter. However, “Neighborhood Matters” asks us to consider why it matters, how a sense of neighborhood can be cultivated, and why it is important to stay connected with the people who live around us. The belief behind this outreach and advocacy project is that posing these questions makes a difference in our everyday life, while also demonstrating the tangible value of NEU’s ASC.

This grassroots empowerment is what has driven the “Neighborhood Matters” forward, resulting in enhanced social recognition of NEU’s ASC. Brown, NEU’s archivist, attributed the continuous positive feedback and growing number of loyal attendees as an indicator of the efficacy of “Neighborhood Matters” since its initiation. This gradual but steady effort contributes to increased community awareness, and its impact reverberates beyond NEU’s neighborhood.

Elizabeth Nagarajah, an attendee who is a Class of 1990 NEU alumna, described “Neighborhood Matters” as an invitation to all to reflect upon their society’s interconnectedness. As a Roxbury resident for nearly 40 years, Nagarajah is frustrated by the frequent marginalization of the Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park neighborhoods in the media. In her eyes, Roxbury is “a neighborhood full of families and people who care and love the area,” even though the neighborhood is “depicted as a crime infested area full of brokenness.” Nagarajah stressed the importance of people seeing more of these marginalized neighborhoods than what the local news displays, with the help of projects like “Neighborhood Matters.”

At the heart of NEU’s ASC’s achievement lies their proactive redefinition of their role as a social activist, as opposed to a simple institutional library and archives. NEU’s ASC has embraced their socio-geographical context as a means of garnering public support and earning advocacy. The more people realize the influence of their neighborhood through “Neighborhood Matters,” the more people commit to building a more inclusive community, supported by NEU’s ASC.

Meet Kate Boylan, Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives at Wheaton College

Kate Boylan, the Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives at Wheaton College, describes her job as having “all the irons in all of the fires.”  Among her many duties she oversees digital preservation, manages the Wheaton College Digital Repository, teaches instructional sessions, helps students and faculty incorporate digital initiatives into their scholarship, handles reference requests, hires and oversees staff and student workers, and engages in outreach and advocacy work.  She works and collaborates with Mark Armstrong, her tireless and fearless colleague and College Archivist/Records Manager, as well as Thomas San Filippo, intrepid Systems and Educational Librarian.  Boylan recently spoke with me about her path towards archives and digital initiatives and the different forms of outreach and advocacy she is involved with at Wheaton College.

Boylan attended Wheaton College as an undergraduate, majoring in English and film with a minor in music.  As a senior, like many college seniors, she did not know what she wanted to do following graduation.  However, thanks to childhood visits to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, she did know that she was interested in film preservation projects.  Following internships at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library as an audiovisual reference intern and an audiovisual digitization intern, she decided to attend Simmons College to earn her Masters in Library Science.  Subsequent positions at the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation Archives, the Simmons College Archives, a private school in Boston, and the non-profit organization Facing History and Ourselves gave her plenty of experience working at the intersection of libraries, archives, education, and digital resources.

In 2016, Boylan returned to her alma mater as a Digital Initiatives Librarian, working with faculty members to support their digital scholarship projects.  Digital initiatives and the Wheaton College Archives soon merged, and Boylan became the Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives.  As director, she is responsible for leading the important work of outreach and advocacy for the Archives.  Boylan focuses this work around forming relationships with the three main stakeholders of the Archives: the faculty, the students, and the administration.

Thanks to Wheaton College’s small size, Boylan is able to have one-on-one conversations with many of the faculty members to learn about their teaching and their research.  These conversations are instrumental in developing relationships with the faculty.  They help Boylan determine the needs and interests of faculty members, think creatively about how her department’s resources can help them succeed, and increase campus awareness of the physical and digital resources of the Archives.  She says that once a faculty member visits the Archives or starts to use a digital initiative, they begin to incorporate it into their work and to recommend it to their colleagues.

Her work building relationships with faculty members also helps Boylan connect with students.  When there is faculty buy-in to the archives, they tend to bring students into the archives.  In the last year, Boylan has worked with approximately thirty different classes, including instructional sessions about cultural heritage and primary sources, a First Year Seminar about Wheaton’s history, humanities classes, and STEM classes.  Boylan also points to student workers as an opportunity for outreach.  When they are interested in their work, they tend to tell their friends about it, and, in Boylan’s words, “moss grows fast on a rolling stone when it comes to students” and word of mouth.  Thanks to this kind of outreach, Boylan estimates that 26% of the student body engaged with the Archives last year.

Of course, Boylan’s outreach is about more than the number of people who come through the door.  It is about truly engaging those people with interesting, meaningful, and relevant projects and resources.  The digital initiatives element of Boylan’s work is a huge asset in this.  For example, a computer science class recently used the collections to develop a program that can help determine the authorship of literary works.  Currently, Boylan is working with the administration and the faculty to use technology to actively steward and document the College record as Wheaton redevelops its curriculum and works to build more inclusive STEM classrooms.  Additionally, the Archives recently received a grant to work with faculty and students to develop a workflow for creating, sharing, managing, and preserving their digital work.  These and other collaborations stand out as examples of how digital initiatives can help cultural heritage professionals connect with users in innovative new ways.

All of this outreach work means that Boylan has a strong foundation of support to lean on when advocating for the Archives.  However, no matter how strong a foundation someone has, advocacy work never rests.  Boylan is currently preparing to give a presentation about the Archives to the President’s commission in April.  Boylan is looking forward to this “huge opportunity” to show how integrated the Archives is in the college community and how “incredibly energized” everyone is to keep taking the Archives and digital initiatives to the next level.

Meet Sarah Burke Cahalan, Director of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton

by Emilia D’Agostino Pisani

The Marian Library is celebrating its 75th anniversary with events and exhibits throughout 2018. Events inspired by the Library’s rich musical holdings, feature a concert of medieval music interpreted for women’s voices and an early-music ensemble performance. An exhibit will document the history of the Marian Library honoring the founders’ vision and all of those who have served the Library. Another exhibit will feature materials from the Middle Ages to the present that will draw students and faculty from many disciplines throughout the University as well as theologians and scholars from around the world.

In 2016, Cahalan became the Director of the Marian Library that was established in 1943. The Marian Library and International Marian Research Institute (IMRI)  is a key component of the consortium of libraries at the University of Dayton; a Catholic university in Ohio that was founded in 1850 by the Society of Mary.

Cahalan realized she wanted to be a librarian while working in Harvard’s Weissman Preservation Center. She studied Folklore and Mythology as an undergraduate student.  After receiving her MSLIS from Simmons and a MA from the Courtauld Institute, she worked as a librarian at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D C for about five years. She enjoyed public librarianship outreach opportunities and community engagement. She wasn’t actively looking for a new job when she saw the Marian Library posting. It looked intriguing, so she investigated further and decided to apply for the position.

Being Catholic informed Cahalan’s interest in the Marian Library but, she doesn’t feel that one has to be Catholic to work with Catholic collections. Rather, what matters is an interest in engaging with the tradition. She sees so much of the human experience in the collection, such as holy cards that are worn with use and garden plans devoted to the Virgin Mary. The Library also acquires materials from traditions beyond the Catholic experience, for example, documenting the frequent appearance of the Virgin Mary in the Quran.

Cahalan is a tenured faculty member who reports jointly to the Dean of University Libraries. She is responsible for strategic planning, budgeting, marketing and administration of the Marian Library resources and services. She partners with other faculty and staff in the University Libraries managing the special collection library that supports research on, and devotion to, the Virgin Mary. The Library’s multi-language collection includes over 95,000 books and pamphlets, a stamp collection, crèche collections, medals, postcards and works of art.

Cahalan looks for opportunities to integrate the special collections with academic programs.  She understands that people find the library even if you don’t do the work, but that doesn’t mean that you should rest on your laurels saying “See? We have patrons.” She believes that the work is in building new and creative connections.

The Library IT specialist regularly updates information about services, acquisitions, special events and exhibits on the University website. The information often stimulates discussions about how specific materials might be of use for a class. Presently there are three special collections collaborating in a one-credit semester-long class. Cahalan hopes that this initiative can continue or become a module that could be connected to classes in other departments. The Library has a good relationship with the Campus Ministry, which has been a collaborator for chapel exhibits and has used rare materials in prayer sessions.

There is nothing as valuable as personal relationships. A number of instruction sessions and longer-term projects have been scheduled because Cahalan had coffee with someone or served on a committee. She sees it as part of her job to speak up about how important the collection is to the life of the University; she knows that “sometimes you have to be a bit obnoxious”.

A challenge for a religious collection is connecting with patrons who may not be interested in the devotional elements of the collection. An ongoing task is to ensure that patrons can use the special collection for classes in graphic design, music, art history and other fields of study. There are even connections to health sciences, for those who might be interested in exploring the relationship between faith and the healing effects of praying for a patient before a medical procedure.

The success of Cahalan’s librarianship begins with her interest in the Catholic tradition. She meets the collection’s advocacy and outreach challenges with an unabated determination to promote the relevance of the collections by integrating them into the University’s academic programs.

Meet Stephanie Noell, Research and Instruction Librarian at Savannah College of Art and Design

by Jennifer Skarbek

Stephanie Noell, a Research and Instruction Librarian at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has a diverse background that ultimately brought her into the academic library world.  With an undergraduate degree in philosophy, background in environmental philosophy and conservation, and 10 years of experience in theater, Stephanie found herself drawn to the Library and Information Science field through her undergraduate job in her university library.

While pursuing her MLIS degree, Stephanie decided to gain experience in multiple aspects of the field, and took courses in a wide range of subjects from cataloging to archives. Through her coursework, she was able to gain experience in the library world through volunteering in a fashion archives and working in a private publisher’s library in Seattle.

Stephanie was able to hone all of the skills and experience she had acquired to land her first official library job working in Reference at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she realized that she likes to focus on the user experience and customer service aspects of library work.  She next made the transition to special collections within the University of Texas at Arlington, and ultimately decided to take a position as an Art Librarian at Mountain View Community College in Dallas.

Following her desire to work with patrons to help them find what they need, Stephanie landed her current position as a Research and Instruction Librarian at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she is enthusiastic about being able to work with faculty and students to help them in their research and creativity.  A main aspect of her job that she truly enjoys is highlighting collections that either group wouldn’t necessarily know is there.  Not only does this allow Stephanie, who works predominantly with their comic book and graphic novel collections, to showcase collections that interest her, but she’s also able to highlight collections that students and faculty may not realize are available for use, or even know that the library holds these collections.

However, she does recognize the challenge and differences in work with faculty and students, which echo some of the challenges many LIS professionals are facing in their respective institutions.  Faculty, while supportive and aware of the library, may not always be aware of the library or librarians’ and how they can truly enhance their courses, and by extension the students’ learning.  Students, while aware that the library has resources to help them succeed, may not feel comfortable making the trip to the library, and even further may not feel comfortable approaching a librarian to ask which resources would be the most helpful.

That’s exactly where Stephanie comes in: Stephanie focuses a large portion of her work to building a rapport with faculty and staff through one-on-one sessions with students to discuss their specific needs, teach a class on information literacy and conducting research with the materials the library has to offer, and bolstering SCAD’s collection development program by bringing materials into the library that students and faculty alike are hoping to utilize in their work.

To even further develop a relationship with the SCAD community, Stephanie tailors an ongoing display of library materials to what would be interesting to the community as a whole.  Most recently, this included professional development resources for students who may be graduating soon and information on various campus events like their upcoming DeFINE Art event where alumni and internationally renowned artists visit for talks on campus related to their work.  Stephanie is able to highlight the related materials in the library’s collections through this display, and show students and faculty alike the wide range of materials that can be found in their collections.

The needs of her patrons are always on Stephanie’s mind, so she spends her time not working with patrons to process the library’s backlog of comics donations, including highlighting writers or characters from traditionally marginalized groups that students would be interesting in seeing, but also may not realize are kept in the library for them to use had they not been brought to the forefront.  By focusing on the materials students would be interested in seeing, Stephanie is able to spark their interest in materials they may not have thought to use before.  As Stephanie puts it, “getting a non-librarian excited about library resources is the best thing ever,” and that philosophy seems to shape the type of work and service she brings to the SCAD community.

Meet Lauren Goodley, Archivist at The Wittliff Collections

by Michelle Slater

Lauren Goodley is a professional archivist with The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. She has been in her current position for five years, and has taken on various projects, responsibilities, and collaborations; as her role continues to change and grow. In her position as archivist, she processes analog/paper archival materials, and has spearheaded a burgeoning digitization and preservation program for the archive and its parent library.

The Collection that Lauren works with, the Southwestern Writers Collection, was founded in 1986 by Bill and Sally Wittliff, which birthed the broader special collections known as ‘The Wittliff Collections’ or ‘The Wittliff,’ that resides within the Albert B. Alkek Library at Texas State University. Their mission is to collect, preserve, and share the creative legacy of the Southwest’s literary, photographic, and musical arts, while fostering the region’s ‘Spirit of Place’ in the world. The Wittliff Collection has three ‘pillars’ in its collecting scope: Southwestern Writers, Southwestern and Mexican Photography, and Texas Music. The Wittliff is open to the public with free admission, and welcomes visitors, tours and classes. The collection is available to statewide, national, and international researchers, and is also frequented by the student body and local community. Lauren shares the responsibility of teaching and hosting class trips at varying levels of education to the archives, as well as making visits to classrooms on campus and appearing at community events.

Lauren has always been in conversation with local histories, having grown up in Texas and completed several intern positions at local history sites. Lauren’s background in advocacy and outreach has a large bearing on her current work within The Wittliff, tying into their mission of lifting up Texas’s creative profile and identity. She achieves this by creating access to materials in the archive, as well maintaining relationships with local communities and users. She has collaborated on several exhibits using archival material as a form of outreach, and provides materials to other departments of the library/archives for their outreach programs as well. Through her role as archivist with The Wittliff Collections, Lauren contributes to the proliferation and preservation of Texas’s rich creative culture, in perfect harmony with her interests in local community building and advocacy. She conducts reference work for researchers, students, and journalists, and recently provided reference services for journalists and production companies covering the 25th anniversary of an important local event. Lauren’s reference work directly effects advocacy for the archives, lifting The Wittliff’s public profile as a ‘remembering’ institution in the local community.

One of The Wittliff’s developing outreach projects is with the Austin Film Festival, to preserve their conference recordings digitally in the archives. This partnership has provided the archives with valuable community material, and in exchange, Lauren advised the group in establishing records keeping standards for their materials. The goal of this project is to digitally preserve these community materials, and create equitable access online- which Lauren works to improve, in junction with the Library Programmer.

With the Southwestern Writers Collection, Lauren developed workflows and archival standards for efficiently and effectively digitizing materials in-house. She first addressed inconsistencies in the archive’s digitization practices, and with a student worker, created an inventory identifying at-risk items in their holdings to be digitized. The inventory is updated with all new acquisitions, includes previously processed digital materials as well. The standardized protocol makes the task of digitization easier to delegate to student workers. Lauren supervises these student workers and interns, as she oversees quality control, workflow efficiency, and that archival standards are up to date. This stewardship in caring for digital archival records contributes to The Wittliff’s longterm goal of preservation, and creates equitable access to its materials.

Within the broader scope of the library, Lauren created the Digital Preservation Working Group (DPWG), which meets bi-weekly and consists of herself, the archivist from University Archives, and members of the Digital and Web Services department. This group works to assess use and access of the digital materials of the archive and library, and manages a plan for the Library’s digital asset management and preservation, adhering to the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model. In forming this group, Lauren hopes to increase access as a means of outreach and advocacy, as materials are easier to find and use; and preservation, which ensures that access in ongoing. So far, the group has completed their digital preservation policy, which applies to all digital holdings of The Wittliff, as well as digital assets of the Library.

Meet Dr. Kenvi Phillips, the first curator of Race and Ethnicity at the Schlesinger Library.

Dr. Kenvi Phillips, curator of Race and Ethnicity at the Schlesinger Library.

by Sony Prosper

I recently met with Dr. Kenvi Phillips to discuss advocacy and outreach in the context of a curator working in a research library. Kenvi comes from a rich cultural heritage and history background. She received a bachelor’s degree in History. She then earned a master’s degree in Public history and doctorate in history from Howard University in Washington D.C. She has worked in the Anheuser-Busch tour center, the National Park Service/National Archives for Black Women, the History Factory, the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, and now works as the first curator of Race and Ethnicity at the Schlesinger Library.

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Schlesinger Library is a research library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. The library’s holdings date from the founding of the United States to the present and include more than 3200 manuscript collections, 100,000 volumes of books and periodicals, and films, photos, and audiovisual material. The material documents the lives of women of the past and present and reflect a strong collection of resources for research on the history of women in the United States.

Hired in 2016, Kenvi is leading the charge to ensure the Library’s collections are representative of a diverse group of women and reflective of the full American experience. The charge is part of an increased interest in diversity and inclusion on the Harvard campus in the past several years. A big part of her job is building relationships and trust on-campus, in the Northeast region, and across the country. She is constantly traveling to meet with potential donors, planning workshops and public programming events, and performing personal outreach.

Meeting with potential donors includes making them aware of the value of their material, offering suggestions for where to place material, and creating a relationship built on honesty, integrity, and respect. Part of making donors aware of the value of their material, Kenvi notes, is “including their voice and values in the way we classify collections in our care.” “We owe it to ourselves,” she continues, “our children, to do this work.” Touching on the memory of her grandparent’s materials being thrown away, Kenvi is also adamant on offering suggestions outside of Schlesinger Library. “Part of the job is making sure the donors place their material anywhere other than leaving them in a basement,” she remarks.

At the time of our conversation, Kenvi is working on multiple workshops, public programming events, and on-campus and off-campus outreach efforts. The first effort is a workshop in conjunction with Spelman College, a historically Black college and a global leader in the education of women of African descent in Atlanta. The second is a major public program in conjunction with the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists in Boston. The third is a concerted effort to talk with Harvard alumni of color to fill institutional holes. The fourth is an effort to attend other events throughout the various centers, institutions and programs – the Hutchins Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Boston Poet Laureate Program – in the Greater Boston area. Kenvi also performs personal outreach when attending local Juneteenth programs, public library programs, and other community programs.

When asked about the importance of outreach and advocacy, Kenvi harkens back to the 1960s and 1970s. She notes it was a period where questions like “why are we not talking about women’s history or black history” entered the mainstream. She continues “we partly did not talk about them because they were not present in the “mainstream” archive, we did not have the documents to support the existence of various groups, and so did not have the memory of these groups.” She continues, “it is important to collaborate directly with potential donors and place the evidence of their existence here at Schlesinger or elsewhere through outreach.”

When asked about a project she has recently done, Kenvi mentions the planning of “The Difficult Miracle: The Living Legacy of June Jordan,” a joint project with Columbia University. The project is a celebration and discussion with activists, poets, scholars, and the public of June Jordan’s work. The discussion will be followed by a poetry slam and reception. One of the goals for the event is to provide an opportunity for face to face contact with the community outside of academia. Hopefully, this event creates a space where “we can learn together,” Kenvi pauses, “and provide more awareness of our collections.”

Meet Bergis Jules!

Bergis Jules, University and Political Papers Archivist at the University of California, Riverside

by Jessica Purkis

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Bergis Jules, the University and Political Papers Archivist at the University of California, Riverside. Bergis manages UC Riverside’s institutional records, political papers collections, and African American collections. While supporting the university’s administration and community outreach efforts, Bergis documents campus history and builds collections around local, regional, and state political organizations in California. As part of his work, he is constantly reaching out and educating to build better donor relations and more diverse collections.

Bergis views his work in archives as a way to build ties between communities and ties between community members. He believes that archives and cultural heritage materials can bring people together, especially when those materials are “put into the hands of those who teach.” Without enhanced accessibility, some users might never encounter these materials (or communities) at all. To build ties, outreach and advocacy are essential. By creating a space for conversation, an archivist can build trust and discover a community’s particular needs. The most important aspect of any outreach or advocacy project, Bergis reminds me, is “putting people and communities first.” No matter the medium, digital or old-fashioned face-to-face, conversation comes first. Bergis believes that collaborating and conversing with smaller communities holding diverse materials is the best form of advocacy that an archivist can perform at a large repository. The best way to do this, he adds, is to learn to listen to the communities that keep the materials.

Because listening facilitates collaboration, Bergis suggests that listening itself is a great way to find new strategies for outreach and advocacy. An archivist can learn a lot from other projects by asking about what has worked and what hasn’t, and then seeing what spaces may be left behind that provide new project ideas. Bergis has had a lot of success learning about new projects through networks of archivists on Twitter. According to Bergis, following the networks on Twitter is a really effective way to find out about and collaborate on all kinds of projects, including grassroots archiving. Bergis himself is very active on Twitter, and can be found at @BergisJules.

In the past, Bergis has helped build collaborative communities around collections from underrepresented groups. He has worked at the Black Metropolis Research Consortium at the University of Chicago and also at the District of Columbia Africana Archives Project at George Washington University. At the BMRC, he was Project Director, and helped create a digital repository of collections documenting Chicago-area African American and African diasporic materials. Bergis wrote a grant to jumpstart the DC Africana Archives Project, increasing access to collections documenting the history of the African diaspora in the DC area. Both projects have been incredibly successful in enhancing accessibility to materials. More recently, Bergis has helped develop Documenting the Now, a tool for archiving tweets, to help document diverse perspectives on social justice issues.

DocNow is a tool and a community developed around supporting the ethical collection, use, and preservation of social media content.

Bergis therefore brings a long-standing commitment to community-building and diversity to his work at UC Riverside’s Archives, located in the UC Riverside Library. The library holds more than 275 manuscript collections, including personal, family, and organizational records. The university collects materials that document a wide variety of experiences in the US, particularly in the Inland Empire Region, an area in inland southern California east of Los Angeles. Some of the strengths of Riverside’s special collections lie in the history and culture of the Inland Empire region, Latin American history and culture, and ethnic studies, which document African American, Native American, Asian American, and Chicano/Latino experience.

UC Riverside currently spearheads the Inland Empire Memories consortium, a group of cultural heritage institutions located in the Inland Empire. Bergis is the Project Coordinator there. He writes grants and manages the program day-to-day in conjunction with the other member institutions. Because the consortium was established recently, right now Bergis spends much of his time listening to the consortium’s members, gathering data along the way about their projects and interests, their resources, and their ideas for later programs. Bergis is currently helping to facilitate the Sherman Indian High School Museum’s project to digitize some of its collections and provide its users with new levels of access.

In future, the Inland Empire Memories institutions intend to collaborate to share funding, develop access tools and programs for digital collections, and build relationships with other community institutions. The Inland Empire Memories mission is “to identify, preserve, interpret, and share the rich cultural legacies of the Inland Empire’s diverse communities” by enhancing access to cultural heritage materials. It emphasizes materials documenting “peoples and groups underrepresented in the historical record.” Increasing diversity in the archival record, I have come to find, is something of a theme in Bergis’ work.

It’s through listening that Bergis has had such success collaborating with others to promote access to a more diversified historical record. I expect that the Inland Empire Memories Consortium will become as active as the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and the DC Africana Archives Project in enhancing access to new materials. I hope to hear about many more projects from its members in the future!

Meet Ben Maracle!

Meet Ben Maracle!

by Allyson Sekerke

Ben Maracle is the former Outreach & Operations administrator at The Howard Gotlieb Center. The Center is a Boston University archival repository that specializes in contemporary public figures, and Maracle began working at the Center shortly after graduating from Cornell with a degree in communications. As a student, Maracle did outreach and administrative work for Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program. Because of his experience in outreach, Maracle said accepting the position at the Center seemed like the right move.

Although this position was historically administrative, Maracle ultimately became responsible for event planning and reforming the Friends of the Howard Gotlieb Center membership program. There are approximately 300 Friends of the Howard Gotlieb Center, many of whom have been members for over 30 years. One member even described this program as Boston’s best-kept secret, a notion that Maracle hoped to change. “If there’s one thing that I can do, it’s make something begin to get legs” Maracle said. According to Maracle’s statistical research, many Boston University students settle in the New England area after graduation. With that in mind, Maracle wanted to design a membership program that would attract students and keep them engaged throughout their professional careers.

Maracle has been restructuring the membership program and, with the help of an outside designer, developing new promotional materials. “In a sense, I have become an art director of the Friends program” Maracle said. Maracle has also introduced surveys to measure the success of past events and expressed his surprise that no previous attempts to collect data from event attendees had been made. “Just because you have 300 people, doesn’t mean you have 300 happy people” Maracle said. Having that data and understanding their return on investment, Maracle suggests, is critical to the continued success of the Center. The goal is not, of course, to make money, but to justify their existence to the university and ensure the university’s continued investment in the Center. As Maracle says, “our currency is people, people coming back.”

The Center, for example, is holding an event featuring Bonnie Timmermann, a legendary casting director, and at the same time, a Boston University communications professor is teaching an acting class. Ideally, Maracle says, the students in this course could come to the event and learn how “not to blow it” at an audition. “There’s a ton of students who would really get a lot out of it if they just new about it” Maracle said.

Unfortunately, educational institutions, Maracle says, are naturally the “slowest moving things on the planet,” and despite his vision for a reformed membership program, Maracle faced many roadblocks from the administration. The administration was resistant to change, and Maracle himself had little say over the Center’s programs, the majority of which are lectures and panel discussions. By the time they came down the “pipeline” to Maracle, the format of the event and the speakers had already been decided. Despite these limitations and despite the fact that Maracle left the Center in October 2017, he hopes he has made an impact on the Center’s future membership. “I’m really hoping,” Maracle said, “fingers crossed, that this actually works.”

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

by Jenny DeRocher

Rachel Seale has worked at Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives as an Outreach Archivist for almost two years. She moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, where she worked for six years as an archivist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At the Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives, Rachel is happy doing what she does best: outreach and education. Above all else, she enjoys working with patrons and students and teaching them about the archives and special collections. Iowa State University is in Ames, Iowa and holds a rich agricultural history. The university has notable engineering and agricultural programs. The Special Collections and University Archives holdings reflect this history, as do the exhibits Rachel plans. She works to connect the current university students and surrounding community to this history.

Rachel balances many tasks as an Outreach Archivist. She does program planning, teaches classes, coordinates exhibitions, plans meetings to collaborate with different departments in the library and at the university, does a few reference desk shifts every week, and manages the social media outreach. Rachel is on the Events Committee and is Secretary for Librarian’s Assembly for the University Library. She also serves as social chair for the Asian American Pacific Islander Faculty Staff Association at the university and is a new member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Committee on Public Awareness.

This variety of tasks works for her, but she acknowledges that she may not be the typical archivist. The exhibition program planning and instruction is the biggest part of her job and she works to make her classes interactive and fun for students. The exhibit coordination and occasional curation takes a lot of time and the department schedules exhibitions almost two years in advance. This part of the outreach is most important to her—she sees making connections with other people as an opportunity for the archives and her institution.

The public programs Rachel has coordinated have been well attended. The exhibition curators design an over-arching theme to an exhibit and then the programming is coordinated before, during, and after the exhibition is open to the public. Programming includes but is not limited to opening receptions and lectures that occur through the duration of an exhibition, surrounding its theme. A key goal is to collaborate with other institutions in the area, like the Ames Public Library or the Ames Historical Society. For example, the Ames Public Library hosted a lecture given by Professor Heidi Hohmann about the development of the Iowa State Parks System this past summer to correspond with an exhibit Rachel’s department put together. With limited parking, the campus can be inaccessible for the general public for events. However, by hosting events at the public library, her outreach events become more accessible and allow for creating valuable relationships in the community outside of the student body.

Rachel explained to me that her position didn’t exist at her institution before she was hired. She acknowledged the freedom she has with these circumstances. When she needs guidance she goes to her Department Head, Petrina Jackson, who has a background in outreach and instruction. She also asks her colleagues at her institution or at surrounding institutions for advice if she thinks their expertise is more appropriate. The openness at Iowa State is one of the reasons she was attracted to this position—making relationships and collaborating with people is very important both on a personal and a professional level for Rachel. This is good advice for those of us entering the field: finding institutions that are open to building your position around your expertise and passion will make both you and your institution more successful.

However, Rachel does also recognize how challenging it can be for institutions to prioritize outreach. It takes a lot of time and attention away from the other necessary work at the institution. From her experience, Rachel thinks her position and the field of outreach and advocacy is growing. In ten years, she sees her position splitting into two separate positions because her institution’s framework is growing, in part because of her successful outreach and advocacy. At the Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives, there is more programming happening, larger exhibits and opportunities available, more collections to work with (while everyone participates in outreach, her position freed up other archivists to focus more on growing the collection and also created awareness to donors), and more researchers. As the field of outreach and advocacy grows, and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) puts more research out on the field, Rachel believes more institutions will create positions like hers to promote their own growth.

As an Outreach Archivist, Rachel believes her job is to teach people about what the archives are and why they are important. She doesn’t just do community outreach and advocacy—she does it within her own institution. She enjoys dismantling tropes about the archives; for instance, she encourages people to touch and engage with the materials and to find a connection with the rich history held at the Iowa State University Special Collections and Archives. With successful programming and instruction, with these connections patrons and students feel to archival resources and the university’s history, it becomes easier to advocate for her repository and her position. This connection she has with patrons and students is what matters to her—more so than any connection she has with collections in her repository.


Meet Deborah Richards!

Deborah Richards, Special Collections Archivist @ Mount Holyoke College

by Julia Nee

Meet Deborah Richards, the Special Collections Archivist at Mount Holyoke College, a small liberal arts college for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts! A graduate of Simmons College with a MSLIS in the archives concentration, Deborah previously worked with the state legislature in Oregon. With a BA in History and Women’s Studies from Oregon State University and a MA in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, her interest in history, women’s studies, and activism still inform how she does her work as an archivist today. When she finally discovered archives, she realized she enjoyed research more than writing, and was hooked. Through her experiences as an intern at Houghton Library at Harvard University, student worker at Northeastern University, an archivist at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, and the Assistant Archivist at the Smith College Archives, Deborah has nearly 20 years of experience working in archives.

For the last four years, Deborah’s day at Mount Holyoke College is always exciting because of her various tasks and responsibilities as one of two archivists. She never quite knows who is going to email or walk through the door. On an average day she could be providing reference services, accessioning new materials, supervising student workers, working with donors, performing stacks maintenance, or overseeing the oral history project for LGBTQ alums. Interestingly, Deborah commented that while a lot of professional focus recently has been on digital materials and resources, digital work is the least time consuming part if her job. Deborah is usually up and moving around, doing something new, and enjoys the range of work in archives.

Advocacy and outreach work is very important to Deborah. She believes that information is kept in an archives is not just there to be saved, but is meant to be used. To achieve that end, archives have to create openings for their discovery. For Deborah, advocacy and outreach are very similar because she wants to promote her archives and its material just as much as everyone else’s archives and their materials. She says that it is a disservice not to do outreach. The most exciting advocacy and outreach project Deborah currently has in progress is the LGBTQ Alum Oral History Project. Recognizing the limited representation of LGBTQ history related to Mount Holyoke in the archives, the archives has interviewed over 50 alums to document their time on campus.

Deborah’s archives offers a variety of other advocacy and outreach programs at Mount Holyoke. First, the Archives and Special Collection is very active on social media, thanks mostly to student workers. The archives uses many platforms to reach the most people, including Twitter, YouTube, tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat. To further showcase some of their collections, the archive produces numerous exhibits, both online and in house. The archives hosts ‘Crafternoons,’ a monthly afternoon of crafts for students to get them through the door, make them familiar with the archives, and introduce history or archival materials. A recent craft was creating old-fashioned felt college pennants, and an upcoming activity is ‘Do It Yourself Tea Bags.’ The archives also has a project called Transform/Transcribe which involves crowdsourcing transcription of letters from the archives’s collections. This type of project shares what the archives has and tells volunteers and alums that the archives wants them to visit, help, and be involved. Additionally, Deborah involves the archives in other on-campus activities. The archives brings its button maker to campus activities like Mountain Day, to increase its visibility and network. The archives works closely with classes and professors and the Alumnae Quarterly for publications.

For Deborah, the best types of advocacy and outreach projects are those that involve the audience. She argues that if you let people actually get their hands on something or do something, they will be far more engaged. Some of her favorite projects from other institutions have been oral history projects, the CLGA’s walking tours, and the History Project’s Gayme Night (an evening of board games taken from the collection). She does recognize the challenges, specifically limited time, in creating a successful program. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes, time-consuming steps, rehousing materials for displays for example, so Deborah thinks it is essential to find small ways to do outreach, like the student directed social media and the traveling button maker. She is always inspired by what other archives are doing.