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.

KJ Rawson, Founder of the Digital Transgender Archive

KJ Rawson, Founder of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA)

by Erica J Hill

K.J. Rawson is the director of the Digital Transgender Archive, an online platform providing digital versions of transgender historical records, born-digital records, and holdings of other repositories around the world. Despite not having professional training in archival studies, he took several Library and Information Science classes in his graduate program. K.J. Rawson is a professor of Rhetoric, English, and Gender Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has a Master’s Degree from University of Colorado-Boulder in English Literature focusing on Queer Theory and Critical Race Studies. He received his PhD from Syracuse University in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric.

The inspiration for the archives began when K.J. met historian Nick Matte, at a conference and discussed the challenges they faced when researching transgender history in archives. These challenges include the repositories knowledge of their materials and the environment of the reading room. The archives addresses the barriers in terms of accessibility. Archives may have documents that pertain to transgender history, however, it may be difficult for one to travel to a physical location and find materials.

The DTA functions as a union catalog, virtually bringing together materials that are relevant to the understanding and study of transgender histories. As the collecting policy states, the term ‘transgender’ is used to refer to a “broad and inclusive range of non-normative gender practices.” As such, the DTA considers transgender as a practice rather than an identity, allowing the archives to include a broad range of trans-historical and trans-cultural materials. The focus is on materials created before the year 2000.

What is special about the DTA is that, although there are no physical archives, K.J. has created a lab where student volunteers work to digitize and describe materials. Students also participate in the archives’ social media presence. The posts highlight materials in the archives, including newly added collections. K.J. uses his network of archivists, professors, and researchers, whom he has met at conferences and speaking engagements, to acquire materials for the archives. He uses skype and email the most when working with collaborators.

With a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, he has hired a fulltime project coordinator to oversee the day-to-day activities of the archives. The College of the Holy Cross where KJ teaches, also supports the mission of the archives. By incorporating the materials from the DTA in his classes, he demonstrates its importance as an educational tool. Involving students in using the archives has led to more college support and feedback on the usability of the online platform and has helped streamline the functionality of the site.

The archives has a 10-member advisory board including individuals in the trans community who are located within and outside of Massachusetts. Part of the success of the archives is K.J.’s willingness to ask dedicated archivists and collaborators for their advice and insight. He believes that now is a good opportunity to make the resource available to educate people and organizations about the issues that transgender communities face.

The challenges of the archives include, meeting the expectations of stakeholders and completing projects with grant funding. While people from all over the world can access the materials online (provided they have a device), most information and description of holdings are in English. Efforts have been made to acquire collections in German, Spanish, Portuguese and several other languages. Another challenge involves acquiring materials without knowledge of who holds copyright. This prompted K.J. and his team to create a policy where materials that violate someone’s copyright will be taken down immediately. Direct materials from creators are preferred because of these copyright regulations.

The archives is an advocacy tool in itself to aid trans communities that are committed to education as a tool for social change. It exists to transform people’s perspectives of trans communities in history and present-day. It also has the capacity to inspire other archives to represent trans people in their own holdings. The possibility of physical exhibits based on the materials found online creates a push for users to advocate for the acquisition of materials related to trans history and culture. This push enables trans related museum projects to begin in non-exclusively trans institutions.

One project K.J. is looking forward to the digitization of a collection out of Berlin and establishing connections and relationships with archivists and trans community members in Venezuela.

To browse the Digital Transgender Archive, click here. To read K.J.’s research, including journal articles and a scrollable timeline of the history the term “transgender,” visit his website, here.

[edited from original posting, 11-11-17]

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.



Meet Andrew Elder!

Andrew Elder, Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Boston

by Julia Newman

Currently serving as the Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass), Andrew Elder recognizes the importance of outreach and advocacy within the archival field. His entry into the archives was sparked by an interest in activism and the ways history is constructed through the use of archives. He explains that he lacked the personality of a conventional activist and thus found a way to fulfill his interests through involvement with archives that provided communities an opportunity to document their own stories. Andrew’s personal and academic interests lead him to Simmons College, where he completed his Master’s of Science in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management. As a professional archivist, Andrew stays engaged with his work by dedicating his free time to community archives and volunteer organizations.

After moving to Boston, Massachusetts in 2006, Andrew began working with the History Project: Documenting LGBTQ Boston through an internship. He continues to support this all volunteer organization as an archivist, member of multiple subcommittees and a co-chair of the Board of Directors. Andrew explains that the History Project’s mission is to document and preserve the history of the community, but more importantly the organization is concerned with actively sharing their archival materials with members of their community and the general public. The History Project provides free and paid public programming, and Andrew remains involved in the planning and outreach integral to such programs. He is currently working on the 2017 HistoryMaker Awards, an event he helped launch in 2009 that was held on October 11, 2017. Andrew’s involvement with this event also includes script writing, design work and the never-ending struggle to balance the politics and mission of the organization. For some, his involvement with this organization would be enough to constitute a full-time position, but yet Andrew manages to find time for this work beyond the many requirements of his current position at UMass Boston.

Boston History Project

In August of 2017, Andrew transitioned from Digital Archives and Outreach Librarian to the Interim University Archivist at UMass Boston. This move required that Andrew shift some of his duties to other colleagues, but he continues to engage in outreach and advocacy in his current position. Although his average day now includes managing his department and attending meetings about library wide initiatives, Andrew continues outreach work through face to face donor visits and advocacy efforts in fundraising strategy sessions. Further, Andrew is also involved in the Mass. Memories Road Show, a digital history project supported by UMass Boston that offers communities throughout Massachusetts an opportunity to bring in photographs to be digitized and compiled into an open archive. This program demonstrates the services archives can offer to communities wishing to document their own history. In reference to community projects, Andrew understands the significance of remaining respectful of a community’s right to establish their own archive separate from formal institutions. Archives should work to support community organizations or archives through outreach and advocacy without imposing on these communities.

For Andrew, outreach and advocacy remain part of his personal and professional involvement with the archives. He stresses the importance of being an archivist that talks about archives in order to communicate the value of archival institutions, and to persuade others to see the value in their potential contributions to archives. Andrew views archival work as a public service for it also allows individuals the chance to gather more information about something new. Andrew explains that successful public programming surrounding the archives should allow for discovery, but should also be entertaining in order to hold attention and increase engagement. In outreach development, Andrew also states the value in communicating with other professionals in the field. He recognizes that archivists and other information professionals face numerous pressing issues on a daily basis, but reiterates the importance of a commitment to outreach and advocacy within archival work. This includes creating regular content, maintaining social media, working with volunteers and fundraising. Largely, Andrew encourages more individuals in the archival field to look beyond the archive for outreach and advocacy opportunities. 

Within the archival and larger information field, Andrew demonstrates the capacity of archivists to support outreach and advocacy work in their professional and personal lives. Although Andrew maintains a busy work life at UMass Boston, he continues to dedicate his time and energy to community-led archives and programs. He is certainly doing as much as he can to advocate for archives and demonstrate respectful outreach work.