SAA 2015: Session 602, Beers, Booths, and Budgets: Collaborative Models for Outreach and Advocacy

In advance of the 2015 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

One of the major themes of ARCHIVES 2015 was “advocacy and outreach.” Much of that focused on how individual institutions, individual archivists, and regional associations could affectively reach out to their communities (and community leaders). Session 602, however, approached this call from a “bigger is better” approach, creating events in four cities – two crawls and two bazaars – that allowed repositories to work together to increase the footprint of their outreach efforts.

Though the panelists went in order from newest to oldest event, I think it makes more sense to group the types of events together, beginning with the Oregon Archives Crawl. Diana Banning, the city archivist for Portland, helped hatch the idea of the crawl to mimic a beer crawl, to bring in people who wouldn’t normally go to archives, but also to increase community awareness and strengthen ties among the institutions within the Portland and Willamette Valley area. Four large institutions within walking distance make up the sites to visit, and they host other institutions, who set up booths with information about their collections. A passport is created each year that crawl participants must get stamped as they visit the different locations. Only by having a fully-stamped passport can they be entered in drawings for prizes. The passport not only works to ensure the participants visit all the sites, it also includes information about the repositories that the crawl participants can take with them. The Oregon Archives Crawl manages to put on the event through in-kind donations and grant awards, so there are no out of pocket costs. This includes the cost of advertising in the local alternative weekly paper. Through informal polling, the Oregon Archives Crawl organizers have found that roughly a quarter of participants at each of the crawls have never been to any of the repositories before.

Archives within the Sacramento area also have their own archives crawl. According to Dylan McDonald, the Deputy City Historian and Manuscripts Archivist for the Center for Sacramento History, this is a case of “good artists copy, great artists steal.” One of the archivists involved with the Sacramento Archives Crawl went on the very first archives crawl in Portland and wanted to try a similar idea in her city. Like Portland, the Sacramento version has a passport, and crawl participants must have three of the four locations stamped before they can get the annual coaster set. According to McDonald, getting the coasters is competitive, because they are usually all handed out within three hours of the start of the crawl. Also like Portland,smaller archives can set up booths at the host locations to pass out information. The Sacramento passport includes promotional information about the repositories, a map to the different institutions on the crawl, History Day information, advertising space, and a list of donors. About 800 unique visitors come each year to the crawl.

Fundraising is a big part of the planning for the Sacramento crawl, as they pay for two buses to orbit the institutions on the crawl and for promotional items. The coasters are the largest cost of the promotional items, but this year, they are doing a drawing for two iPad Minis for students who correctly answer questions regarding exhibit information. One set of questions are geared toward elementary students and another set is geared toward secondary students. Finally, the money raised also goes toward snacks for crawl participants. The first year the crawl was held, they tried to have food trucks involved, but as they require a minimum amount of sales, it was better not to have them and instead opt for snacks. Each institution pays $50 to be part of the crawl. The rest of the budget, which runs about $5,000, is raised, mostly from businesses in the area. This requires lots and lots of follow-up. Further, publicity is done through a public relations employee at one of the institutions, and she creates a media preview, produces press releases, and handles media inquiries. They have not yet needed to pay for advertising.

The other type of collaborative event covered in this session was the archives bazaar. LA as Subject has sponsored the Los Angeles Archives Bazaar for 10 years. Liza Posas, Reference Librarian and Archivist at the Autry National Center, is the coordinator for LA is Subject, which represents 260 institutions in the Los Angeles area. The first year they put on the bazaar, it was as much for themselves as it was for the public. They got the opportunity to see what was in other collections in the area and visit with their colleagues. The second year, they started incorporating programming into the event. Now, there are panel sessions, Wikipedia Edit-a-thons related to Los Angeles history, consultations sessions, and more. LA as Subject has created a manual for the event, which also includes a volunteer guide. It became important, as the event expanded, to ensure everyone knew the expectations for repositories and volunteers. They have also learned that people respond to the tangible, so it’s important for every repository to have something – even if it’s just a promotional button – to let people handle. The LA bazaar also has pre-programming in the weeks before to get everyone ready for the main event.

Every year, the LA bazaar is held at the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California. The space gives the bazaar the feel of a signature event. The after party also celebrates the people involved in making the event happen, and they give out the Avery Clayton Spirit Award each year to a person who exhibits extreme dedication and energy to promoting LA’s history. Unlike the crawls, the LA bazaar uses social media and word-of-mouth advertising as they only avenues for publicizing their event, but they still have a large turnout.

The first annual Austin Archives Bazaar was held in 2014 at the Spider House, which is a theater performance venue. Kristy Sorenson, the Associate Director for the Library and Head of Archives and Records Management at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Daniel Alonzo, Digital and Processing Archivist at the Texas General Land Office, both serve on the board of the Archivists of Central Texas, the group who oversaw the Austin bazaar. The Spider House has an indoor space, an outdoor space, a coffeehouse, and a bar, which allowed for varied activities. Indoors, repositories set up booths, and the only requirement was that they couldn’t just hand out brochures. The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library brought recordings of the president speaking in the Oval Office for participants to listen to, the Video Game Archive brought old consoles so people could play games from the 1970s and 1980s, and the Texas Archive for Moving Image screened old home movies.

Meanwhile, the event planners wanted to bring in visitors who wouldn’t normally attend an event for archives, so they hosted a vintage photo studio. 125 people dressed up in old clothes and accessories to create “vintage” photos, which looked like cabinet cards. The Archivists of Central Texas created an oral history booth for the bazaar – and recordings made that day are now at the Texas History Center. Six local historians and writers gave talks on how they had used the archives in their work. Some of the archives had items for sale. The entire event cost $5,000, though the Archivists of Central Texas were able to get money from the Society of Southwest Archivists – who actually created a community outreach fund in response to this event – and SAA. The rest was raised from archival vendors and local businesses. Of the 47 companies and individuals approached for a donation, only 25 responded. The lesson was to ask lots of people. The most expensive piece of the bazaar was constructing the oral history booth. It needed to be soundproof, and they had to hire a sound engineer to do the recordings, as well as buy a digital recorder. After that, paying for posters and promotional items took up the rest of the budget. The Austin bazaar advertised in a local weekly paper, on social media, and by placing posters around town in coffeeshops and bars. They were able to capture attendees’ email addresses by requiring participants to register for door prizes. After the event, they emailed a survey, and the responses were used as part of a report back to the donors in hopes of encouraging future support.

These four events fostered cooperation amongst local repositories, as well as raised community awareness of the archival repositories in the area. All of the participants on this panel were eager to help colleagues looking to create similar events, so if your area is looking to set up a collaborative outreach event, reaching out to these panelists would be a great place to start.

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