[Guest Post] Creating a Local Archives Blitz

Shae Rafferty, Karen Obermeyer-Kolb, Alix Norton, and Jean Hardy are all graduating with their MSI in May 2015 and are the officers for the UM-SAA chapter for the 2014-2015 school year. Jean will be starting his PhD program at Michigan in the fall, Shae is employed as an archivist at the Bentley Historical Library on campus, and Karen and Alix are still on the job market. Follow UM-SAA on Facebook and Twitter.

In October of 2014 a group of University of Michigan School of Information students celebrated American Archives month with public service and an exciting new event.  Shae Rafferty, one of the four officers of the University of Michigan’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists (UM-SAA), had participated in an Archives Blitz with the Yellowstone National Park Archives during her summer internship.  Yellowstone had just launched the program that year with the hopes of bringing in people for a prescribed period of time (i.e. a week) to work on important projects in archives that traditionally do not have access to a large staff or consistent volunteer base. Seeing how a significant impact can be made in short amounts of time, the UM-SAA student chapter reached out to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and organized an Archives Blitz of their own.


UM-SAA took the idea and adjusted it on a smaller-scale to fit the busy lives of graduate students at the School of Information.  The officers were excited about offering a new event for students that could be fun, professional, and engaging of the local community. Working with the availability of the Collections Manager at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, the first attempt at the Archives Blitz was set for October in honor of American Archives month. The event gave students the opportunity to spend part of their weekend putting to use their knowledge and skills obtained from archives and preservation coursework while giving back to an archives in the local community. The limited space of the storage room meant only seven volunteers would be able to participate and the sign up was filled in less than an hour of being posted!


Students divided up to work on a number of different projects.  In the span of four hours with the aid of personal laptops and Google Docs, students managed to create three finding aids for existing collections, improved the information available about the locations and descriptions of over 20,000 photographs and negatives, and created an inventory of approximately 40 maps in which they documented both their condition and dimensions (ranging from a few inches to over 30 ft long!).  Students also worked to appraise seven linear feet of newly acquisitioned materials and provided a preliminary inventory and suggestions for how to proceed with processing those materials.


The event was indeed an exciting success for all!  Students who were looking for great practical experience were thrilled with the opportunity and the Collections Manager of the Kelsey Museum was impressed with how much had been achieved. After the first event, UM-SAA officers received many inquiries of when the next event would be and so another event was coordinated. This second Archives Blitz saw a mix of some new student volunteers and some returning students who had the opportunity to pick up exactly where they had left off in October.


The current officers will be graduating this semester with hopes of seeing the new officers continue this program with the Kelsey Museum and perhaps expand the impact to other institutions on campus who are without sufficient staff resources.


2 thoughts on “[Guest Post] Creating a Local Archives Blitz

  1. Pingback: SNAP Blog Guest Post | SAA UMSI

  2. Pingback: SNAP Blog Guest Post « University of Michigan -Society of American Archivists

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