The holidays are known especially as a season of sharing. But when you work with historical records, the concept of sharing what you have and what you know – and inviting others to share what they have and know – is carried out every day, every season.
And new ways of sharing are being put to good use. As archivists, curators, librarians and historians undertake work in and with archives, they are increasingly using blogs, tweets, facebook posts, you tube spots and other means to invite others to join them in this knowledge sharing and discovery process. The potential reach and the immediacy of such activities are creating entirely new ways of looking at how we share primary sources and research output, how we build new knowledge, and how we enhance public investment in these endeavors.
Using social media tools to assist in archival and research activities is an exciting development and represents an important, new frontier. This is especially true when such tools are put into play on an ongoing basis, as the work at hand is being undertaken. Incorporating the use of social media tools into work plans creates an entirely new dynamic with audiences by inviting a two way learning and discovery process. Customers/audiences have the potential of becoming partners/participants in core work as it happens. In sum, engagement is an important goal, and social media usage can be a key ingredient in making this happen.
In the spirit of sharing, here are just a few – a very few – examples of social media tools being used currently by NHPRC-funded projects. Although I am highlighting one tool per project, many of these projects use a combination of these tools to engage with interested followers:
- Guggenheim Museum – its “Findings” weekly blog began a few years ago as the archives carried out a grant funded processing project, and continues on with surprises from its holdings: http://blogs.guggenheim.org/findings/
- Appalachian State University – has a “Backlog Blog” devoted to sharing discoveries as they happen while reducing its backlog of unprocessed collections in the archives: http://appcollgrant.library.appstate.edu/
- John Jay Papers (Columbia) – uses a twitter account to talk about its work and engage interested parties: @John_Jay_Papers
- Walt Whitman Archive (U Nebraska) – the team of scholars makes regular use of twitter to send out its news: @WhitmanArchive
- Stanford University – the ePADD project at Stanford is an open-source software suite that supports the appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives. Project staff members are tweeting regular updates on this work: @e_padd
I think you get the idea! And in the spirit of sharing what YOU know, please post in the comments any other active social media endeavors that you are aware of…happy hunting. Thanks, and have a very merry and safe holiday season.
This week I want to point you to a few institutions or projects that have done some really great work and could help you to get your born digital archives off the ground or move it forward from a current stumbling block.
The Bentley Library at the University of Michigan has provided access to its digital curation workflows, procedures, and user manuals in a single easy to access web page. Because of the way it is set up, not only can you read and download the Bentley’s current procedures, you can see the evolution of them. So even if you cannot consider borrowing the current workflows for your own organization, you can see where the Bentley started and consider emulating its starting point.
In July at Digital Preservation 2014, I heard Jaime Schumacher from Northern Illinois University on a panel entitled Community Approaches to Digital Stewardship. She was speaking about POWRR, a project that she worked on along with personnel from the libraries at Chicago State University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Western Illinois University. I found the project inspirational in that it’s a group of medium and smaller institutions banding together to harness the economies of scale available to large institutions.
Finally, I want to highlight two of NHPRC’s grant projects. EPADD (Email: Process, Appraise, Discover, Deliver) is an open source tool that will allow repositories and individuals to interact with email archives before and after they have been transferred to a repository. In fact, there’s a beta site so that you can explore how the tool works, give the project feedback on your experience, and decide whether you might be able to integrate it into your institution’s work flow. PERTTS (Program for Electronic Records Training, Tools, and Standards) is a gateway site developed by the Council of State Archivists as part of its State Electronic Records Initiative. The site has a long list of resources that you could consider, and as the site is developed there is space for commentary by users on the usefulness of the resources.
What are your favorite new projects, tools or resources?
by Alex on November 12, 2014
The following article, which will appear in a forthcoming issue of UGA Libraries’ magazine Beyond the Pages, details a recently funded Access to Historical Records grant project to process and make available the records of the Georgia Democratic and Republican Parties. The records demonstrate the changing face of Georgia politics and present a microcosm of the shift from Democratic to Republican Party domination throughout the American south. Archivists at UGA also have taken steps to preserve the electronic records found in the Democratic Party of Georgia records as outlined in this Russell Library blog article from October.
The Party Is in the Papers: The Georgia Political Parties Records Project
In February of this year, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies embarked upon the Georgia Political Parties Records Detailed Processing Project. Funded by a generous grant of up to $58,777 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), this one-year project will organize and describe the records of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Georgia Republican Party. As the official repository of the parties, the Russell Library will provide researchers access, for the first time, to the records of two important institutions that have shaped Georgia’s political landscape.
For several months now,Russell Library project archivist Angelica Marini has immersed herself in these parties, tracing the parallel histories of the Democrats and Republicans through their records. The decades documented by these records(Republicans, 1970s-1990s; Democrats, 1960s-2000s) represent pivotal transition periods for both parties in the South. While the local Democratic base remained strong in the South throughout the 1960s, Republicans expanded their reach in the 1970s and started building political majorities in many Southern states.In Georgia, however, the Democrats retained control of the state legislature, constitutional positions, and local elected officials well into the 1990s.
“Processing the records of the two major political parties in the state has been an exciting project to work on at the Russell Library,”says Marini. “The records have revealed themselves to be mirrors of the parties themselves, showing major differences in party structures, strategies, and organizational processes.” What Marini is finding, based on her work with the parties’ voluminous files and her reading of an array of political tomes, however, is that these records demonstrate a desire on the part of both parties to engage more people in the political process.
The Democratic Party records illustrate a crucial, yet largely unexplored, chapter of their political history. Through correspondence, planning and strategy documents, and other material, researchers will see evidence of the party’s operations as they existed during an era of virtually unchallenged political control. The records are a twenty-year snapshot of a well-oiled political machine whose dominance was rarely in question.
The records of the Georgia GOP, on the other hand, show a party with a very clear direction. “When I started really getting into the records,”Marini says, “it became apparent that the GOP was focused on opening up the political system in Georgia. It was –as any political party should be — concerned with electing party members to office, but the major revelations come from the late 1980s and into the 1990s when the party really pushed to organize the state in grassroots campaigns.” The collection has numerous files illustrating county interactions with the GOP state headquarters, fundraising, political planning,and changing voter issues.
Because a collection often can appear chaotic in its unorganized state, the archivist works to learn more about the people, or in this case, the organization in question and survey the contents of all those boxes. “For me, the process always begins with researching the collection’s creator and studying any existing box inventories,”says Marini. “Documents like by-laws, organizational charts and correspondence have shown me how the parties functioned, the major players involved at all levels, and how to make sense of the records they created.”
The success of a project of this significance is in no small part due to the Russell Library’s ability to hire a professional archivist dedicated solely to the parties’ records. “External funding, whether from federal agencies, such as the NHPRC, foundations, or individuals is extremely important,”says Mat Darby, the Russell Library’s Head of Arrangement and Description. “This focus has allowed for a more in-depth understanding of these collections and will prove beneficial to future researchers.”
And when all is said and done, the records of the Democrats and Republicans will find an audience of researchers prepared to delve into these new resources. Ashton Ellett, a Ph.D. candidate in UGA’s Department of History, has been waiting patiently while the work to organize and describe the collection is completed.“I cannot begin to tell you how much these collections will help in the writing of my dissertation,” Ellett says.“My research explores the relationship between economic, demographic, and social change and the development of the Republican Party in Georgia since the Second World War. Suffice it to say that the materials contained in these two political collections will prove indispensable to researching and writing an accurate, insightful, and ultimately, successful dissertation.”
As the project draws to a close in January 2015,finding aids, or guides, to the Democratic Party of Georgia Records and the Georgia Republican Party Records will be available on line via the Russell Library web site. At that time, registered researchers can request material for research in the Russell Library Reading Room.
Angelica Marini, Project Archivist, and Mat Darby, Head of Arrangement and Description, Russell Library, University of Georgia
In the states and territories, the NHPRC is assisted in its work by a network of State Historical Records Advisory Boards (SHRABs). Utilizing funding from the NHPRC and local sources, many of these boards undertake projects that create resources to address records needs in their states. Although these resources may be designed to address the needs of a particular state, they are also meant to be widely shared. Here are a few examples of recent SHRAB projects:
The Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board created the Online Scavenger Hunt as a way to teach students how to find primary sources available online and get some practice interpreting what they find. Included in the hunt are letters, diaries, artifacts, and photographs documenting Ohio’s people and history. All of the items are housed at Ohio archival institutions that have made them available via their websites. This activity will also teach students how to recognize a primary historical source and investigate potential topics for History Day projects.
From a list of 25 items that can be found on one of a dozen websites, students are asked to locate a document, a photograph, and an artifact. They then report their findings on investigation sheets, which are submitted to their teachers. Look for Jacob Correll’s Civil War diary, a 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regimental flag, a photograph of women working at the Dayton Wright Airplane Company during World War II, and other items at http://www.ohrab.org/committees/wg-scavenger-hunt/.
The North Carolina Historical Records Advisory Board developed a series of online tutorials on the basics of handling and caring for family papers. Created in 2014, “The Care and Handling of Family Papers, Photographs, and Essential Records” tutorials were developed in collaboration with the State Archives of North Carolina. These five tutorials, which are each between seven and twelve minutes long, provide information about identifying and protecting essential family papers, performing basic paper preservation, sharing family papers, preserving photographs, and managing digital images. You are invited to view these tutorials at
In 2008, the New York State Archives suffered a traumatic incident of insider theft. Since then, the Archives has evaluated and improved its security and theft prevention practices. In order to raise awareness of security issues in the historical records community and assist others repositories with their own security improvements, the New York Historical Records Advisory Board sponsored the development of resources that provide information about preventing loss, responding to a suspected theft, and recovering records. These resources are intended for all historical records repositories, especially small and mid-sized archives, museums, libraries, governments, and other organizations that care for materials that document our nation’s history. A security presentation, “To Preserve and Protect,” and other resources can be found at http://www.nyshrab.org/about/about_projects_security.shtml.
During the Missouri Historical Records Advisory Board’s strategic planning process, seven regional meetings were held across the state, drawing participants from 89 institutions. The purpose of these meetings was to obtain information on issues faced by local records repositories, as well as strategies to address those issues. Of the myriad topics raised, a constant was the desire for the Missouri Board to provide guidance on various best practices, including digitization. In response to this need, the publication Digitization Guidelines for Small Historical Institutions and Repositories was created. Many sources were surveyed in the development of this text and are listed at the end of the document. This brief, 11-page publication may be accessed at http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/mhrab/MHRAB_Digitization_Guidelines.pdf.
In 1972, parents of African American children brought a class action lawsuit alleging that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment with a deliberate policy of racial segregation. The judge found that Boston schools had intentionally carried out a program of segregation and ordered the School Committee to formulate a desegregation plan. When the committee failed to present an adequate plan, the court assumed an active role and oversaw implementation of court-ordered desegregation in Boston public schools. As the plan was carried out, many neighborhoods in Boston were plunged into unrest.
The historical records documenting the history of Boston’s efforts at desegregation might well have been hidden from researchers were it not for several grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The first grants were awarded in the mid-1980s to help the City of Boston establish and develop a citywide archives and records management program. Over the years, the NHPRC has helped dozens of cities, towns, and counties start their own formal archives program.
In 2003 and 2005, the NHPRC awarded two grants to the City of Boston for its Public Schools Desegregation-Era Records Project to arrange, describe, and publish a Web-based finding aid to some 400 cubic feet of records relating to the desegregation era in city schools. Another grant went to to implement a city-wide archives and records management program, including the creation of a general finding aid to all 14,000 linear feet of records. The Guide to the Records in the City of Boston Archives is organized by department record groups. It provides historical information about each department and brief descriptions of their record series. Links are provided to available finding aids throughout the Guide. The Guide will be continuously updated as new finding aids are completed and new accessions come into the City Archives.
This past summer educators visited the National Archives at Boston to explore and examine primary sources related to desegregating Boston Public Schools. It was part of the National Archives annual Primarily Teaching summer institute.
These educators-turned-digitization scholars identified classroom-appropriate documents from the 1970s civil action court case Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. As a result of their work, teachers, students, and anyone interested in Civil Rights can now investigate 30 documents from this important case.
The documents they scanned, together with records from Chicago school desegregation, are now available online in the National Archives DocsTeach website.
This is a prime example of the powerful partnership of city government archives, Federal government support, and citizens engaged in making documents more widely available to the public. To find out more about National Archives resources for teachers, go to http://blogs.archives.gov/education/2014/10/17/boston-schools-desegregation-case/.
October observes both Hispanic Heritage Month and Archives Month, so I’m highlighting a recently completed project that speaks to both celebrations. The University of California at San Diego digitized the Herman Baca collection and, in the process, made some really great contacts with its outreach efforts.
Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
First some information about the Herman Baca and the collection he donated. He organized the San Diego chapter of MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association) in 1968 and served as its president through 1974. In the 1970s he organized the San Diego County chapter of La Raza Unida Party, a national third-party effort to increase the participation of the Chicano community as both registered voters and political candidates. Also in the early 1970s, Baca chaired San Diego’s Mexican American Advisory Committee (now the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee), a program of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and NEPSI, a narcotics education and prevention program. Baca also organized and served as the chairman of the board of Casa Justicia, a community-based social service agency providing support for undocumented persons dealing with immigration issues. In 1975, Baca founded the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR), a non-profit corporation organized to develop and improve the educational, social, and economic conditions of Chicanos by encouraging participation in educational, community, and civic affairs. CCR took on local and national issues like the fight for Chicano Park, police brutality, zoning, farm workers’ rights, the KKK, and even President Jimmy Carter’s immigration plan.
The collection documents his grassroots activities and events of the Chicano movement and includes correspondence; organizational documents (articles of incorporation and bylaws, membership documents, public relations materials, meeting minutes, fundraising materials, etc.) for the Committee on Chicano Rights, the Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA), and La Raza Unida Political Party; interviews; court case files; writings of others; newspaper clippings; video recordings; Chicano artworks; and photographs. The Baca collection, including a license to digitize and make the collection available on the internet, was donated to UCSD in 2004, becoming the first Chicano Activism archival collection in the special collections library. UCSD digitized more than 42,000 pages of documents, posters, photographs and slides as well as approximately 25 hours of audio interviews from the collection.
During the project to digitize this collection, staff at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library engaged in a number of outreach activities to publicize the work and the collection. They promoted the project through the usual means, such as press releases – which were picked up by local newspapers including La Prensa, and newer outlets like Tumblr (http://hermanbacapapers.tumblr.com).
Postcard front publicizing the availability of the Herman Baca Papers online.
They also created buttons, bookmarks and postcards using images in the collection. These were distributed on campus and at local festivals – notably at the Cesar Chavez Celebration Kick-Off Luncheon, at Chicano Park Day, and at the Palomar College Civil Rights Festival – where they also provided live demonstrations of the digital collection using iPads and a MiFi connection. This is the first time I know of that one of our grantees went into the community and did live demonstrations to encourage use of a collection. I don’t think it would work for all of the digitization projects we fund, but it’s an interesting idea that can be used to great effect.
It’s a great collection and I encourage you to check it out.
by Alex on October 1, 2014
Following on Kathleen Williams’ 3 September blog post “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Grantees,” I am posting some important tips for applicants.
- Contact the director of the NHPRC grant program to which you plan to apply. Even seasoned grant writers can benefit from having a phone conversation or email chat with the grant program director. Why? One, the program officer can point out ineligible activities or any changes to the grant announcement guidelines. Two, program officers can often provide you with a sample application similar to the type of project you intend to undertake. Three, program officers can candidly tell you whether the proposal you plan to write seems competitive, and if not, then help you identify ways in which you might strengthen your project.
- If your institution has a sponsored programs office, contact them early on in the grant writing process and let them know of your intent to apply. Sponsored programs offices generally have high turnover. Being on a personal name-to-name basis with a particular grant officer in the sponsored programs office can really benefit you when the time comes to submit your application or when problems arise down the road.
- Contact your State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB). Authorized under NHPRC regulations, SHRABs review grant proposals submitted to us from institutions in their respective states. Most SHRABs like to know of institutions that intend to apply. SHRABs can provide invaluable advice to applicants and in some cases even review the applicant’s materials prior to the formal application deadline. For more information, please visit the SHRAB webpage on the Council of State Archivists’ website.
- Submit a draft. Even former NHPRC grant recipients intending to reapply should take advantage of the opportunity to submit a draft for review by an NHPRC program officer. Why? Drafts are read and commented on by the director in charge of the program to which you will apply: someone who has read countless good and bad applications and can identify ambiguities and weaknesses within the proposal. Drafts should include a full narrative and budget. Also, program officers read and respond to drafts in the order in which they are received, and so you don’t necessarily have to wait until the draft deadline to submit. The sooner you submit, the sooner you will receive comments, leaving you more time to improve your application prior to the final deadline.
- Follow the instructions in the grant announcement. This may seem obvious and expected, but you would be surprised how many applications fail to follow the instructions included in the grant announcement. One common mistake applicants make is exceeding the 20 page maximum for your narrative or supplementary materials. In this case, we will either ask you to remove pages to get your proposal within the page limits or simply remove any pages beyond the 20 page limit. Oh, and yes, you must include resumes of project staff in your supplementary materials. No, they do not need to include a full vita of all professional accolades and experience. Annotate your resumes to include experience and education that demonstrates the staff person’s ability to perform the project work.
- Don’t wait until the deadline to submit your application. Each cycle most grant applicants wait until the deadline date to submit their materials to Grants.gov. Why not submit your proposal a few days ahead of the deadline to avoid any problems? If the deadline is Thursday, for instance, and you submit on the previous Monday, then you are able to contact the NHPRC staff, make sure that your materials have been received and correct any mistakes that have been made.
Fifty years ago this month, the National Historical Publications Commission (“Records” was added in 1974) met to make its first grant recommendation. (There is no visual documentation of this meeting, but I’m sure it looked something like the above image.)
The first meeting of the NHPC had been held on January 29, 1935, in Room 1755 of the New Department of Justice Building, which served as the temporary office of the Archivist of the United States while the National Archives Building located across the street was being completed. The meeting was chaired by Robert D.W. Connor, Archivist of the United States. Among the other Commission members in attendance were Dumas Malone, representing the American Historical Association, and J. Franklin Jameson, representing the Librarian of Congress.
At that meeting the following motion was approved by a unanimous vote:
“RESOLVED, That the National Historical Publications Commission should, after making plans and estimates, recommend to Congress that in any celebration of the sesqui-centennial of the adoption of the Constitution, one element should be a documentary historical publication illustrative of the origins of the Constitution, to be executed under the supervision of the National Historical Publications Commission.”
Although the NHPC continued to meet during the following years to discuss and offer encouragement to a variety of documentary editing projects, no Federal funds were appropriated to support these efforts until 1964, when Public Law 88-383 authorized the awarding of “grants to State and local agencies and to nonprofit organizations and institutions, for the collection, describing, preserving and compiling, and publishing (including microfilming and other forms of reproduction) of documentary sources significant to the history of the United States.”
At the NHPC’s September 11, 1964, meeting, the following motion was approved by a unanimous vote:
“RESOLVED, That the National Historical Publications Commission hereby respectfully recommends to the Administrator of General Services as Allocation #1 under P.L. 88-383 the sum of $39,000 for the continued support from October 1, 1964, to June 30, 1965, of the project for compiling and publishing a Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and First Ten Amendments, this amount representing three-fourths of a proposed annual budget of $52,000, and this allocation being conditional upon appropriations being made by the present Congress for the implementation of this legislation.”
In 1964, the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) was part of the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Administrator of GSA had sole authority to award grants, based on the recommendations of the NHPC. When NARA was created as an independent agency in 1984, the Archivist of the United States assumed that authority.
Not long after the NHPC’s meeting on September 11, 1964, Congress appropriated $350,000 to implement P.L 88-383, and the first grant was awarded to the Constitution Project, as recommended by the members of the NHPC. This grant of $52,000 covered the project’s expenses for an entire year. Approximately 5,000 grants have been awarded since Allocation #1.
Have you been watching “The Roosevelts” on PBS? Bully!
As many know, President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the National Archives, signing the 1934 Act that established both the Archives and the National Historical Publications Commission (later renamed as the National Historical Publications and Records Commission).
But it was President Theodore Roosevelt who actually started the whole process. In the 1880s and 1890s, the American Historical Association began pushing for a national archives and for a commission to “edit and publish” historical documents of national significance.
In 1905, Roosevelt established the Commission on Department Methods, headed by Charles Keep, to consider, among its many reforms, the care of Federal records and the publication of historical materials. Over the next few years, the Keep Commission researched and worked on recommendations, and by 1909, the Commission’s Report called for a national archives and a Commission on Historical Publications. Several bills were introduced in Congress, but they were not passed before the end of Roosevelt’s second term.
But that didn’t stop TR’s interest in archives and history. In 1912, he was named President of the American Historical Association, and his Presidential Address, “History as Literature” is oddly prescient and vital to this day. He said:
The great historian of the future will have easy access to innumerable facts patiently gathered by tens of thousands of investigators, whereas the great historian of the past had very few facts, and often had to gather most of these himself. The great historian of the future cannot be excused if he fails to draw on the vast storehouses of knowledge that have been accumulated, if he fails to profit by the wisdom and work of other men, which are now the common property of all intelligent men. He must use the instruments which the historians of the past did not have ready to hand. Yet even with these instruments he cannot do as good work as the best of the elder historians unless he has vision and imagination, the power to grasp what is essential and to reject the infinitely more numerous nonessentials, the power to embody ghosts, to put flesh and blood on dry bones, to make dead men living before our eyes. In short he must have the power to take the science of history and turn it into literature.
Made me think of the Internet and the role that historians play in using archives to tell the American Story.
As I prepare to receive our first applications funding Literacy and Engagements with Historical Sources (drafts due 10/1/14, final 12/4/14), I often reflect on my first experiments with trying to have college students use documents on the web in the 1990s. It wasn’t always easy for them. Undergraduates were not all comfortable on the web. The Library of Congress’s American Memory site had functionality issues then. Most importantly, I wasn’t aware of all the trouble they were going to have with the assignment. I just gave up at that point and turned to printed primary source readers.
As much as the grant announcement stresses projects that will engage students or other audiences, I think every applicant will have to take into account how those “teaching” the resource will need to prepare. Michael Federspiel in an essay “Focus on the Questions in High School,” published in Uncovering Our History: Teaching with Primary Sources, ed. by Susan H. Veccia (2004) explains how he gradually learned to introduce his students to primary sources on the web. He learned he could not just bring his class to the computer lab and let them explore American Memory. He first needed to demonstrate skills in his class, both in using the site and in analyzing primary sources. Then once his students realized that in most cases looking at one primary source would raise more question, he opened up broader questions. He focused the class on photographer Mathew Brady’s pictures of the Civil War, but asked the student to pick a topic, and then use the pictures to make a hypothesis. After refining this assignment until it worked well for students, Federspiel used it as model for other assignments. He would limit his students to a single website, but let them pick the topic, and form the hypotheses. He concludes that the benefit of these assignments is his high school students saw that primary sources are key to history and “demand interpretation.”
For the Literacy and Engagement program, we do not require projects that will be taught by in-person instructor. So I’m curious to see how applicants might mimic some on these lessons learned in the classroom in an environment that draws the public in but without a teacher to offer the first demonstration and later give help and advice. Share your thoughts here.
Of course, applicants may want to explore other ideas in this grant program and we welcome that. So join me for a webinar on Thursday, 9/11 from 3 pm to 4 pm ET. Simply click on this link:
Then, enter your name and email address.