January 9th at 8 PM (ET): #snaprt Twitter Chat on “2019 Archives Resolutions”

Please join the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals Section for the next #snaprt Twitter chat on your 2019 Archives Resolutions on Wednesday, January 9, at 8 pm ET. Join us to share your aspirations and goals for 2019 and to reflect back on 2018 – missteps, successes, and lessons learned.


We welcome everyone to join or keep up with our chat using the #snaprt hashtag on Twitter. The SNAP Roundtable Twitter account will pose questions such as:

  • What was your biggest archives success in 2018?
  • What is one misstep you made in 2018? What did you learn from that mistake?
  • What is one behavior you plan to discontinue/continue in 2019?
  • Do you have an archives bucket list? Is there anything on it that you hope to accomplish in 2019?
  • What resolutions do you have for 2019 related to your coursework? Career? Professional advocacy? Professional development?
  • What do you think is the biggest challenge facing students and new archives professionals in 2019? Suggestions for facing/overcoming that challenge?


If you would like to have a discussion topic included in this chat, please send it to @SNAP_Section on Twitter, submit it through the anonymous form on the SNAP chat webpage or e-mail the SNAP Senior Social Media Coordinator at coletw@jmu.edu.


There are no additional resources related to the upcoming chat.


Year in the Life: Rachel Fellman, part 10

A lot of changes are coming to the blog next year. Soon, we’ll be introducing our new team, which has already been discussing better ways to make this blog a plusher welcome mat for the archival profession. We’ll be introducing some features, cutting back others (controlaccess will become a rarer but more substantial post), and brainstorming some dream projects (it’s quite possible that nobody’s going to stop us from doing an advice column).

As for my Year in the Life post, I’ve been reading over my older entries, and I’m astonished by how little they have to do with my life now. Am I still wrestling with Greene and Meissner? No; on the contrary, I’ve become my department’s frothiest minimal processing advocate (though I still don’t like anything about the actual arguments and assumptions behind “More Product, Less Process”). What do I think about oral history technique? Still many of the same things, but I’m going to a training in March, and I look forward to having much more informed opinions! Is it a bit dangerous for an archivist to know their storeroom too well, risking a situation where too much of the catalogue is kept in a person’s head? The question is meaningless except in a very young facility, and I didn’t even realize it because I worked in one!

Part of growing up — personally, creatively, or professionally — is recognizing the times when you were asking the wrong questions. I feel that I’ve spent much of this year doing just that, and I wasn’t a new archivist when I started; I’ve been doing this kind of work since 2016. It’s not that these were the very wrongest questions (“Can I wear this costume from our collection for Halloween?”). They were useful at the time, and they had productive answers. But it takes time to recognize what’s really important: paying more than lipservice to diverse archival storytelling, having an avid intellectual engagement with the collections, making materials available on time without hurting anyone, striking a balance between laissez-faire and excessive mediation. These are the questions I’ll be living with in 2019.

Happy New Year (2018 January 1 – 2018 December 31)!

Year in the Life: Kara Flynn, part 12

In this month’s Year in the Life, Kara Flynn takes stock and bids farewell.

This month has really snuck up on me, and I can’t believe how quickly this past year has gone by! Documenting the last year of my work life for SNAP has been a great experience for me, and I hope it might have proved helpful to some of you.

When I first started writing for this series, I was just 6 months into my first professional position, a fledgling archivist/special collections librarian still feeling unsure of myself and the responsibilities I had taken on running a department as my first position out of my MLIS program. So much has happened since then! My friend and coworker in Special Collections left, and I went through the hiring process for the first time, I presented at professional conferences for the first time, submitted professional writing for publication and was published in the field for the first time, and started to feel more at ease in my new role.

When I look at the highlights from the past year, it can be easy to forget how much blood, sweat, and (yes, sometimes) tears it took me to get where I am now—so much more confident in my abilities, and excited for what the future of my career holds. But this year has been full of ups and downs. One of the hardest parts of this year was dealing with the burn out I was feeling given my immense to do list and my professional responsibilities both within my department, and as a University faculty member. I think in part my position here has been both a blessing and a curse—for all the opportunities I have been afforded here, I’ve also had to deal with the stresses that accompany running a department on my own.

Continue reading

Year in the Life: Rachel Fellman, part 9

I spent November starting my new job as a project archivist at the California Historical Society, where I have the honor of working with the Peoples Temple collections. I wrote a blog post there about the 40th anniversary of Jonestown, and about the relationship between archives and poison, which I think is all I have to say about my work at the moment. Instead, I’d like to spend this post talking a little about archives, art, and outreach.

Last week, I went to a preview performance of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia by the Shotgun Players, a theater troupe in Berkeley. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t bother learning anything about the play going in — I just knew that I liked Stoppard, and I liked Shotgun, and their website implied that the play was about the history of science and also involved a good deal of dancing around.

Arcadia did turn out to be about the history of science, but it’s also a very archival play. It’s set in two different timelines — in 1809 and the 1990s — and the modern characters are trying to figure out the story of the historical ones, using archival evidence. More than that, they’re struggling with things archivists struggle with: the meaning of archival gaps and silences, the urge to project and romanticize, the fugitive traces of great events across prosaic letters and books, and the recognition that just because a thing is old, it’s not necessarily valuable or good. I  hadn’t expected the play to include any realistic nods to my profession, much less a significant scene where two academics shout at each other while waving documents housed in polyester L-sleeves. It was oddly validating.

It also made me question why archivists struggle so much to explain our work to the rest of the world. After all, a whole audience was sharing this archival saga with me, and they seemed to appreciate it without needing any explanations at all. They could see what the L-sleeves were for; they could recognize what was at stake in the academics’ argument; they understood why a noble family’s habit of keeping Regency hunting logbooks in their bathroom might well lead to a discovery about Lord Byron. They also understood that the play hinged on what was missing from the records, how easy it was to be wrong.

I realized, at this point, that the problem of archival outreach has never been about explaining why archives are important, or how materials should be preserved. These are things that most people can guess. What we need to explain is simply that we exist, that archival labor doesn’t come from nowhere. Arcadia portrays every aspect of archives except for an archivist. Apparently, the two historians popped on those L-sleeves themselves.

This is, I suppose, realistic for two intrepid Romantic scholars combing through a half-empty country house (and stranger things have happened in the UK; that’s how they found that Donne manuscript!). I also don’t think that the play, which was three hours long already, needed another character to get between the two academics and their great questions (whether Lord Byron had visited the house; the identity of the hermit who’d lived on its grounds; whether or not they ought to make out). But I wish that people could imagine archivists as easily as they can imagine archives, and I really do see that as our primary outreach mission: letting people know, not that archives are important, but that archivists are also a part of the drama of history.

(Arcadia runs until January 6th, just as an aside, and if you live in the Bay Area you really ought to go.)

controlaccess: Relevant Subjects in Archives and Related Fields 2018-12-09

This is the weekly roundup of headlines in and around archives, including some library, museum, digital humanities, and information science things as well. If you see something we’ve missed, please email us!

SAA News

No SAA news this week.

Archives and Archivists in the News

Shuttering of provincial archive locations means ‘fewer of our stories being told’ by Bill Waiser. A passionate op-ed by a Canadian historian, mourning the consolidation of provincial archives in Saskatchewan. What looks at first glance like a bureaucratic adjustment is a real disaster for the University of Saskatchewan — whose materials are being schlepped 160 miles away to Regina — and for the status of archives as a breathing part of a local community. “Archives are like a laboratory where patrons work with primary sources to unlock and decipher the past,” writes Waiser. “[…] This reduced access will hinder, possibly even discourage, communities, families, and individuals from seeking details about their past and their place in the larger provincial story.”

Finding Zuckerberg: How FRONTLINE Amassed an Archive of the Facebook Founder by Patrice Taddonio. A profile of the archival research team for a documentary on Mark Zuckerberg; it’s interesting to me primarily for the casual broadness of its definition of “archives,” which encompasses everything from formal academic research to YouTube browsing to a scrape of Zuckerberg’s own Facebook page.

controlaccess: Relevant Subjects in Archives and Related Fields 2018-12-02

SAA News

Use of Non-government Email Accounts for the Conduct of Public Business

November 2-3, 2018, Council Meeting Minutes

Call for Pre-conference Workshop Proposals: 2019 Joint Annual Meeting


Other Professional Happenings

Directory of Archival Consultants Listing Price Reduced!

Apply for the 2019 Archives Leadership Institute

Archives and Archivists in the News

From Gates to Rockefeller, Wealthy Families Hire Personal Historians to Preserve Their Legacy

More than just a trip: pupils get rare access to Guardian archive

Greek-American genealogical experts join forces to support Greece’s archives

Billy Strayhorn Archive Acquired by Library of Congress

An archive honoring the voices and experiences of disabled people

Year in the Life: Kara Flynn, Part 11

In this month’s Year in the Life, Kara Flynn shines a beam into some ancient archival murk.

Before sitting down to write my post this month, I was going through some of my previous posts, and I realized that in most (if not all), I start off with some variation on what a busy time it is in Special Collections. . . But not this month! November has been a strangely quiet month—we’ve still had researchers and students in and out, but I get the feeling students have sequestered themselves in other areas of the library as they prep for their finals. This is not to say, of course, that we are at all lacking in projects to work on. As in any archives/special collections department, there is always more to do.

However, this quieter period in the semester has allowed for some real progress to be made on some more logistical projects. I (finally!) finished the processing project I assigned myself way back in July (I talked about it in this post) and the finding aid is now up online. Processing this collection actually sparked the idea for the pop-up event we will be hosting this month, “Cards & Cookies” (which I talked about at the end of my post last month) because of all the old holiday cards I found in the collection. This month, the Special Collections Assistant and our student worker have also been contributing to the processing of our back log, working on individual processing projects of their own.

Another big logistical project we’ve been working on since the beginning of the semester has been revamping what we call the “manuscript room,” i.e. our locked, temperature controlled archival storage area. While I wish I had taken some before photos, you’ll just have to take my word for it that this room was struggling before I got here. Continue reading