#AskAnArchivist at Iowa State

As American Archives Month comes to a close at the end of October, the Special Collections Department here at Iowa State University, aka @ISU_Archives will be participating in a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 30, using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist.

If you have a Twitter handle, you can join in discussions about archives and special collections. Just send a tweet using the hashtag #AskAnArchivist to @ISU_Archives with your question and we will respond – even if it takes some time to go digging through the collections! If you prefer to use another medium, send your question via email to archives (at) iastate.edu.

No question is too silly, strange, or spooky (it is almost Halloween, after all) – the most eccentric or oldest or smallest bits of our collections, a specific question about the University that you have always wondered, or even what to do with your own historical objects, papers, or digital files. As folks who come into the reading room with reference questions can attest, we are always up to brainstorm ways to find a thorough answer.

Throughout the day, a number of Special Collections staff will be answering your questions – we’ll introduce ourselves as we pop onto Twitter.

  • Laura Sullivan, Assistant Head and Collections Archivist
  • Brad Kuennen, Assistant Archivist and resident audiovisual wrangler
  • Kim Anderson, Digital Archivist and electronic records wrangler
  • Stephanie Bennett, Project Archivist who has worked with ISU’s politics-related collections
  • Amy Bishop, Project Archivist with training in rare books
  • Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist and Iowa State alum

So let us know what questions you have about the work that we do here or the collections that we preserve and provide access to here at Iowa State. Looking forward to hearing from some Cyclones (or anyone, really!) via @ISU_Archives and #AskAnArchivist on Thursday!


Cy’s Birthday!

October 16th, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Cy’s debut.

Cy in front of Hilton Coliseum

Here’s Cy at age 21 (1975)(via Flickr)

Cy, a large cardinal, is the mascot for Iowa State University. If you’ve been in Ames recently you may have seen some of the 30 unique Cy statues placed throughout the city. CyclONE City, running through December 5th, is a community art project celebrating the town-gown relationship between Iowa State University and the city of Ames. Read more at the Iowa State Daily and the Ames Tribune.

We’ve got a brand new Cy exhibit on display in the Special Collections reading room. We hope you’ll stop by! In the meantime you can read about him through the virtual exhibit we made ten years ago in honor of his 50th birthday: Fifty Years of Cy: Our Mascot


Celebrate American Archives Month

Special Collections staff hard at work, RS 25

Special Collections staff hard at work, date unknown, RS 25

Every October is American Archives Month – a time to celebrate the work of archivists and the physical and digital items that benefit from our care. There are as many ways to celebrate Archives Month (or #archivesmonth, on Twitter) as there are archival repositories. Larger archival institutions have a full range of activities to showcase their work. The National Archives and Records Administration profiles staff members and favorite items throughout the month on social media. Smithsonian Institute Archives covers its work through a number of virtual and in-person opportunities. Here at ISU Special Collections, we celebrate by working: accepting university records and donated materials relating to our collecting areas; working with donors; processing materials; answering questions from the wide variety of folks who enlist our help; educating students through tours and classroom talks; and providing access to our collections through our website and Reading Room.

The Society of American Archivists, our professional organization, is observing Archives Month, of course. The association president, Kathleen Roe, recently wrote a blog post and asked the question “Who have you met on your journey through archival records?” She posed her question in reference to people whom she met through the historical record – such as the faculty and staff, students, and alumni whose collections we hold.

Special Collections Open House

The Special Collections reading room and exhibit space in 1971, RS 25/3

But as I sit in the Reading Room with a researcher hard at work and one of our student workers making preservation reproductions, I think of the meaningful interactions and lessons that I learn from the living people that I interact with in and around the archives. For example:

  • Students of all ages, from middle school on up to retirees who are curious about something and have the time to pop in. And of course academic scholars from ISU as well as other institutions who seek the rare and unique information that we hold. Even the questions that they ask, about the archives or about their interests, teach me lessons about my work all the time!
  • Our student workers, who bring their perspectives and questions to work every week. It’s nice to hear what student life is like in 2014 when I’m used to fielding questions and handling materials that are often older than today’s students.
  • Donors who generously hand their memories, or their loved ones’ memories, over for care-taking. It is a privilege to assess a lifetime’s worth of accumulated materials and process them to allow others to benefit from all the knowledge within.
  • Colleagues who have fielded my questions, encouraged and mentored me, introduced me to other archives colleagues in their network, and so on and so forth through the six degrees of separation between me and Kevin Bacon. No, wait, between me and famed archivist Theodore Roosevelt Schellenberg.
  • Archivists of the wider world who I meet through graduate school, or at regional conferences, or at the SAA Annual Meeting – which was held with two other records-centric organizations this year. There is an unending supply of new people to meet, share stories with, and learn from.

Much appreciation goes out to all those who make our work as archivists possible – especially the archivists ourselves. You can celebrate American Archives Month by coming by to see our new exhibit on Homecoming, doing research, or checking out all the resources we have available through our [newly updated] website!


A New Staff Member in Special Collections

Hi! I’m Kim and I’m the newest member of the Special Collections team.

Kim standing amongst collections

Me with some of our collections

I started in August as a new Archivist. I’ll be serving as the archives lead on digital materials as well as doing general “archivist stuff.” It’s an exciting time – we’re preparing to get a formal digital records program established. It will take some time to get everything in place so keep an eye out in our blog to see the latest developments. Digital records (sometimes used interchangeably with “e-records,” “electronic records,” or “born-digital”) are things with archival value that are originally in some digital form – e.g. e-mail, databases, web sites, Word documents, etc. The Library of Congress has some tips on how to maintain your own digital records: http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/records.html

I’m a California transplant. I grew up in the Central Valley and foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I’m personally familiar with agriculture and rural life – so I’m seeing some familiar sights around Central Iowa. My high school was surrounded by orchards and berry fields. When I was little we had goats, ducks, and chickens and I ordered my school clothes out of a Sears Catalog at the general store/post office in Coarsegold. My mom grew up in Lee County, Iowa where my grandpa had a farm and raised corn, soybeans, and hogs. Even though I’m a Californian I grew up hearing all about Iowa and now I live here! I recently inherited my aunt’s recipes – six recipe boxes crammed full of hand-written recipe cards many of which she collected from the Donnellson (Iowa) newspaper. So, I’m bringing a little bit of Iowa back to Iowa with me. (Speaking of which, did you know we have a fabulous Iowa cook book collection?)

I’ve been around archives and libraries for a while now. I got my first library job in 1995 as a student worker in a curriculum library at Northern Arizona University (NAU) but switched to NAU’s Special Collections and Archives (SCA) two years later. At SCA I got to do a little bit of everything – processing manuscript and photograph collections, conservation (and preservation work (phase boxes, rebacking books, and more!), exhibit design and construction, and working with people – learning from donors, assisting researchers, and supervising students and volunteers. I’ve mostly stayed in Special Collections or University Archives except for a few brief stints at law libraries and police records.

I earned my B.A. in Humanities (minor in Anthropology) from NAU and my MLIS from University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). I love university life and campus histories and I’m happiest being part of the rhythm of college campuses. While at UCLA I worked as historical researcher for a book project on UCLA’s history and served as author of the history of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. I also worked in the UCLA University Archives. I completed my time at UCLA when I earned my doctorate in Information Studies in 2011. My dissertation “Appraisal Learning Networks: How University Archivists Learn to Appraise through Social Interaction” received the ALISE/Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation award in 2013. I also spent six weeks in Australia last summer as a visiting scholar at Monash University and study abroad instructor learning about e-records and the Australian records continuum. My doctoral focus was archival studies and my sub-specialization was in the History of Science and Technology so working at the Special Collections at Iowa State is a perfect match for my interests!

Kim with Rosella

Me with a crimson rosella along the Great Ocean Road

For the past few years I’ve been serving as Archives Program Director and teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the archival studies area within the MLIS program. I’ve made the decision to return to practice and am very enthusiastic about the possibilities of this position. It’s a great team here. I hope you will visit us and see what we’re up to.


Archivists Go to Washington

Last week, thousands of archivists descended upon Washington, D.C. for a joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists (COSA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). Every four years these national organizations convene in our nation’s capital to learn and share knowledge. I was able to attend the conference as a member of SAA, as were assistant department head Laura Sullivan and one of my fellow project archivists, Stephanie Bennett. The following are, in my opinion, some highlights of the conference.

IMG_1279

The conference program for the 2014 joint annual meeting of COSA, NAGARA, and SAA.

Attending educational sessions is one major reason we attend conferences. The sessions that struck me the most this year were “Getting Things Done with Born-Digital Collections,” “Talking to Stakeholders about Electronic Records,” and “Taken for Granted: How Term Positions Affect New Professionals and the Repositories That Employ Them.” The first two discussed the challenges of electronic records, which is a hot topic in the archives profession right now. The session on term positions was particularly relevant to me since I am currently in a term position, meaning that my employment here ends after a certain amount of time. That session discussed the positive and negative impacts of short term positions, as well as possible solutions and compromises to the problems term positions create.

Some notes I took during a session. Fast writing does not make for good penmanship...

Some notes I took during a session. Speedy writing does not make for good penmanship…

Another big reason we attend conferences is to meet other archivists and to network. Happily, I found two friends from grad school right off the bat, and it wasn’t long before I found other IU-Bloomington alumni, including those that I’d never met. I also met lots of people who graduated from other schools, and it was great to learn about different experiences and their current work. I even got to meet some famous people in the world of archives, which was really exciting for a new professional. In the end, it was wonderful to catch up with old friends and meet new.

 

Yours truly in the Library of Congress reading room.

Yours truly in the Library of Congress reading room during the All-Attendee Reception.

A couple other highlights of the conference were the All-Attendee Reception and a variety show, “Raiders of the Lost Archives.” This year’s reception was held in the Library of Congress Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building. That is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen, and absolutely lives up to its hype. They opened the reading room up to us, which is only opened to the public twice a year. I could not have been more excited to be there. After the reception, a sketch show was performed – of which I was a part – back at the conference hotel. It was a reboot of “Raiders of the Lost Archives,” which was a sketch show performed in the 1980s and 1990s. The shows included skits and songs full of archival humor (yes, it’s a thing), and it was a blast to be involved. This year’s recording may be available on YouTube in the near future, but don’t judge my performance too harshly – keep in mind we had very little rehearsal and it was at the end of a long day. But really, overall I think the show went well; we received some wonderful comments and it was good fun.

The joint meeting this year was a great experience, and I hope to attend next year’s SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio!


CyPix: Anniversaries

It is official – the three Project Archivists who arrived last summer will all be celebrating a one-year work anniversary at Special Collections in the next month or so. To celebrate the occasion, I give you a photo from this March 1948 luncheon celebrating the 90th anniversary of Iowa State College (University)’s founding. For more information on the 90th Anniversary collection, see its finding aid.

The University celebrates its 90th anniversary in 1948

The University celebrates its 90th anniversary in 1948  (RS 0/11/5, University Photographs Collection)

Our one-year anniversary is not quite as noteworthy as the University’s 90th; we will probably commemorate ours with high-fives. But we have been hard at work here and would like to share some of our accomplishments.

The Project Archivists’ primary duty is processing collections, which is to say, arranging, describing, and housing collections and creating finding aids and other outputs that allow people to find items in our collections more easily. In the past year, we have worked with 28 collections and have processed approximately 960 linear feet of materials. To imagine this more clearly: a banker’s box sized carton equals 1.3 linear feet. So we have handled roughly 740 cartons of materials this year. Whew!

When processing, we frequently rehouse materials to condense them or weed items that are present in duplicate or have minimal research value in order to free up space for new collections. So far, we have “found” 150 linear feet through processing; 115 record cartons can now fill that space. And more “found” room is on its way as we continue our work! Archivists get very excited about shelf space, so this is a coup for Special Collections.

Bennett, Bishop, Olthoff - the Project Archivists

Stephanie Bennett, Amy Bishop, and Whitney Olthoff in the Special Collections Reading Room

 

In addition to our processing duties, the Project Archivists have also published nearly 75 posts on this blog; tallied around 600 hours on the reference desk helping patrons; attended a Midwest Archives Conference meeting together; and presented at an ISU librarian meeting.

Now on to year two! Since we are acclimated to the administrative processes involved in our work and have become more conversant in Iowa State’s subject areas and institutional history, it promises to be another banner year. Watch this space for more posts about the wonders that our collections contain and the work we’re doing to make them more accessible to the university community, Iowa, and the world.


An Archivist in Conservationland

On June 6th, I attended the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium’s SOS (Save Our Stuff) conference with colleagues Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Mindy Moeller, Conservation Technician. Mindy’s take on the conference can be found on the Preservation Department’s blog, as well as a feature by Hilary on the taxidermy session. I’m here to provide an archivist’s perspective on the conference. Being an archivist, I know a bit about preservation and conservation, but I am not trained in and therefore don’t perform the intensive preservation and conservation work that some records need, so I was interested in learning more about the view from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

The first session I attended was “Thinking Inside the Box” lead by Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator, of the Iowa Women’s Archives. All of the creativity and effort that goes into boxes made for storing items that require special housing is amazing. I imagine it would be a fun, but challenging, task. During the session, we got a brief tour of the archives and were given a chance to look at all of the different rehousing solutions that have been created for the IWA over the years. Some were quite intricate and highly specialized, and others were “make-do” solutions (for example, storing plaques in record center boxes or creating housing for a large, fragile photo from archival cardboard). In both cases, a great deal of creativity and resourcefulness was clearly involved. Below are some examples of the more intricate solutions created.

A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.

A box made to keep this geisha doll and her enclosure safe.

A box specially made for this pin.

A box specially made for this pin – note the piece created to stick the pin through.

Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.

Special housing created for a Daytime Emmy.

The next session was “Taxidermy Care and Cleaning” with Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History. This one I attended out of sheer curiosity. I have never worked with taxidermy animals, and I suppose I’m not likely to unless I someday work in a museum. All the same, it was fascinating, and the best part was we got to do some hands-on work on cleaning some animals. We learned about equipment used, equipment and chemical solutions not to use, how to use equipment, and ideal and non-ideal conditions for storing taxidermy animals. Should taxidermy animals ever come into my possession, I now know how to care for them! Below are examples of the specimens we got to work with and the cleaning that was performed.

An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.

An attendee vacuuming a small mammal.

Bird feet ready for cleaning!

Bird feet ready for cleaning!

My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.

My attempt at cleaning dust from the eye of a bird.

Finally, I attended a session entitled “Mold Incidents and Response” presented by Nancy Kraft, Head of Preservation and Conservation at the UI Libraries. This was particularly practical for me since mold is something I have come into contact with and likely will again. While I already knew a bit about mold in books and archival materials and how to handle them, I didn’t have a good grounding in how they are actually treated. Again, unless it’s something simple and not too risky, we outsource preservation work to conservators, as they are trained to deal with these things. It was interesting to learn a bit more about what actually goes on and how things should be handled. Some topics covered were the proper initial response to mold, identification of mold (for example, active or inactive), how to get rid of mold, how best to choose a vendor for treatment if needed, and some basic safety precautions. There were no examples of moldy items passed around – a bit of a health hazard – so a photo of mold found on library books in another university is featured below.

Moldy books found in Longwood University's Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from http://library.longwood.edu/2013/03/18/mold-in-the-basement/

Moldy books found in Longwood University’s Greenwood Library in 2013. Photo from http://library.longwood.edu/2013/03/18/mold-in-the-basement/

Overall, I think the conference was valuable even though I don’t personally perform these duties, at least not to the extent conservators do. In our increasingly collaborative field, it’s important to know about and understand what the people we commonly work with do and their opinions on issues. This helps us to better communicate with each other and to prioritize issues to be resolved. Someday I may be the only archivist at a small institution with an even smaller budget, in which case I may find this information especially useful, for example in determining questions like the following: What can I reasonably do myself? To whom should I outsource things that I can’t do? What’s a creative and cost-effective way to solve this preservation problem? We archivists always have preservation in mind when we organize and make materials accessible, but conservators greatly help us to extend – and often save – the lives of our materials.


New Exhibit Highlights Iowa Pioneers in Cooperative Extension

May 8 marked the Centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, or Agriculture Extension Act, passed by the United State Congress in 1914, creating a nationwide system of cooperative extension services that provide outreach activities through land-grant universities.

Perry Holden seated at a desk covered in papers and ears of corn.

Perry Holden, circa 1903-1912, seated at desk with papers and ears of corn. University Photograph Collection, Box 1360, Folder 6.

In celebration, the Special Collections Department at the Iowa State University Library put together a small exhibit on Extension pioneers in Iowa before and after the Smith-Lever Act. Iowa, in fact, was a leader among the states in Extension activity. In 1906, the Iowa General Assembly appropriated funds to establish a Department of Extension at Iowa State College eight years before Smith-Lever, but the earliest activities that would become the Cooperative Extension Service began even earlier. Let’s look at the stories of two Iowa pioneers in Extension work: Perry G. Holden and Jessie Field Shambaugh.

Perry G. Holden, known for his energy and charisma, has been called the “father of Extension in Iowa.” At the recommendation of a former colleague, he was hired by Iowa State College to teach a trial section on corn as part of a short course offered to farmers on new agricultural methods. The committee did not believe farmers would be interested in such a boring subject as corn production, but when Holden arrived with his charts, demonstration materials, and engaging personality, the farmers demanded more! When President Beardshear got wind of this, he hired Holden as a full-time professor of agronomy, and he was able to continue his outreach activities to farmers.

Holden is perhaps best known for his “Seed Corn Gospel Trains.” He used the train cars as traveling exhibit and lecture halls to reach masses of people, demonstrating his methods of testing seed corn in order to improve crop yields. Stopping in designated rail stations, he brought the research of the university out to the farmers where they were. The first tour began April 18, 1904, making 50 stops between Gowrie and Estherville. By his own estimate, Holden lectured to three thousand people during his first tour. The trains drew such large crowds that sometimes the train car windows had to be opened so that people outside the cars could listen.

Group of farmers stand on tracks outside a train car, while a man lectures to them from the platform.

Oat Train stop in Waukon, Iowa, 1911. Overflow of farmers who couldn’t get on the train were lectured by Paul C. Taff, later Assistant Director of Iowa State Extension Service, while he was still a student at Iowa State College. University Photograph Collection, Box 1364, Folder 2.

In 1906, Holden was appointed the first superintendent of Extension, a post he held until 1912 when he left to run for governor of Iowa. During his tenure, he established the three main branches of outreach that formed the core of early Extension work in Iowa: demonstration farms, short courses, and education trains.

Portrait of Jessie Field Shambaugh as a young woman, holding a bouquet of flowers.

Jessie Field Shambaugh, ca. 1906-1912. RS 16/3/60, Box 2, Folder 4.

Jessie Field Shambaugh, or “Miss Jessie” as she was known to her students at the Goldenrod School, is regarded as the “Mother of 4-H.” Born in 1881 in Clarinda, Iowa, Shambaugh began her teaching career in 1901 at the age of 19. The Goldenrod School in Page County, Iowa provided her the opportunity to innovate in something she felt passionate about – rural education for rural children. While at Goldenrod School, students took courses related to farming and homemaking. This practical approach to education garnered enthusiasm in the community and among the students. At the school, Shambaugh organized “Boys’ Corn Clubs” and “Girls’ Home Clubs,” and as county superintendent in 1906 she expanded these into the regular curriculum for 130 rural schools. Goldenrod School is credited as being the “birthplace of 4-H.”

From these boys’ and girls’ clubs came the 4-H clubs. In 1906, Shambaugh created the three-leaf clover pin to encourage children to participate in Junior Achievement Shows. Each leaf contained an “H,” which stood for “Head, Heart, and Hands.” Like 4-H, the 3-H motto was “Learning by Doing, to Make the Best Better.” Not long after, a fourth leaf was added, with its “H” standing for “Home.”

Tents among trees at the Boys Farm Camp.

Boys Farm Camp, set up by Miss Jessie Field, 1910. University Photograph Collection, Box 1349, Folder 3.

Jessie Field Shambaugh held the first Farm Camp in 1910. This was the forerunner to today’s 4-H camps, and was for boys only. The following year, she held the first girl’s camp, the Camp of the Golden Maids, as the girls thought they should have the same opportunity. Each of these camps focused on different roles in rural life. At Farm Camp, the boys judged corn and horses, took classes in grain study and rope tying, practiced military drills, and played baseball. The Golden Maids cooked, sewed, and learned how to keep a proper home. Today, 4-H clubs and camps are coeducational and the boys and girls have the same opportunities open to them.

Cover of program booklet for "Third Annual Iowa Boys and Girls Club Contest" showing a drawing of a boy in a corn field and a girl in a kitchen.

Cover of the “Third Annual Iowa Boys and Girls Club Contest” program booklet, 1912. RS 16/3/56, Box 1, Folder 16.

These are just some highlights from the exhibit. We hope you stop by Special Collections to see the full exhibit!

To learn more about Extension collections in the Special Collections Department, visit our University Archives Collection Inventory page for Extension as well as our Extension subject guide.

 


Aspects of the Archives Profession: Conferences

In the last few months, I have been trying to provide some flavor as to what exactly we archivists and Special Collections staff do here at Iowa State in our pursuit of making primary documents available to researchers and other interested people. (Like you, web reader!) I introduced the concept of “processing” collections and described the Digital Repository @ Iowa State University and its many features.

Consider this another spice to the flavor profile of Archivist: we attend a variety of professional meetings, which can vary from a lunchtime webinar that is organized by a professional group such as the Society of American Archivists (SAA) or the American Library Association (ALA) all the way to a professional association’s week-long annual meeting that encompasses continuing education courses, sub-group and business meetings, learning lunches – activities that are familiar in professional associations of all kinds. Laura wrote in 2011 about the Consortium of Iowa Archivists meeting (yep, the CIA) that she and department head Tanya Zanish-Belcher attended at the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Conferences come in many forms: there are state- and sometimes city-based groups to join – the Boston Librarians hold a monthly get-together, for example; regional groups such as the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) or New England Archivists (NEA), which are frequently more formal than local groups but have more flexibility than larger ones; national groups, such as SAA or ALA; and even international groups and events, like the International Council on Archives or the annual Open Repositories conference.

Our hotel room had a lovely view of the Kansas City, though we spent most of our time in conference rooms

Our hotel room had a lovely view of the Kansas City, though we spent most of our time in conference rooms

This past week, our regional organization, the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC), held its annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, and a number of Iowa State staff traveled down. Our Head of Preservation Hilary Seo and Conservator Melissa Tedone held a half-day seminar entitled “Soot, Mud, and Mold: Beyond the Basics of Salvaging Archives Collections,” to help archivists plan for and respond to disasters. Collections Archivist Laura Sullivan and Project Archivist Amy Bishop both had duties as members of the Education Committee, which provides a variety of learning opportunities for Midwestern archivists. I presented as part of a panel under the title “Part Theory, Part Therapy: Archival Management Lessons from the Trenches,” examining the tools and techniques that archivists use to manage the collections and employees under their care.

So that’s what conferences are like – but what do we do there? Why are they meaningful? I asked Amy and Whitney these questions.

Amy writes: I enjoy professional archives conferences because I love to hear about all the innovative things that my colleagues at other institutions are involved in – and get inspired by them! At MAC, I was inspired by the ways that archivists are using digital humanities to engage users with archival materials. Digital humanities (DH), broadly defined, refers to the intersections between computers and the humanities discipline. In an archival context, DH projects can be anything from digital exhibits to visualizations of historical data. For example, speakers from Concordia College in Minnesota described a collaboration between the archivist and a history faculty member that engaged students in historical research in order to create projects to share with the whole community. Students ran a “history harvest,” in which alumni brought in artifacts that the students digitized, researched, and presented online as the Concordia Memory Project. What a great way to engage students with the historical materials in our collections in a meaningful and exciting way!

Whitney says: For me, MAC is about meeting other archivists at different experience levels and with different backgrounds; catching up with archivists I already know; and attending sessions, of course. Two were of particular interest to me: “Improvisations of Processing: Confronting the Unforeseen in Large Processing Collections” and “Managing the Syncopations of Socially Connected Collections.” The session on large processing collections was particularly relevant as that is precisely what ISU’s project archivists primarily work with. The presenters detailed their experiences with mold, water, fire, and controversial items in their collections (i.e., guns) and how they handled such unexpected challenges. The social outreach session got me excited about possibilities for future projects, such as rephotography. Between the opening reception, held at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum, and a restaurant tour – I opted for delicious Jack Stack Barbecue – I had plenty of opportunities to meet fellow archivists and learn about their experiences. MAC was a great way to connect (or reconnect) with others and the profession in general, to learn, and to get excited about archiving – both its present developments and its future.

MAC meeting in Kansas City

I devote one notebook to each conference I’ve attended – they always end up full!

My answer? Conferences within the discipline allow me to learn from fellow archivists in order to better understand the tasks and concerns that I face in my daily work, as well as long-term issues. Sessions cover topics like effective and efficient use of social media by archives; dealing with unforeseen issues common to large processing projects; establishing and managing oral history projects; and addressing electronic records workflows. Quite a one-stop education, all covered in three days! As archivists, we are responsible for the day-to-day operations of our repositories; maintaining care for the collections that are already under our care; and preparing to care for records people create today: emails, websites, Instagram accounts, etc. Conferences allow me to not only work better now, but to learn how to work better moving forward. I can’t think of a better way to spend a few days bi-annually.


Call for Applications: Summer Digitization Project Internship – Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Intern

Through a generous grant from the Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship Grant Program, the Special Collections and Preservation Departments of the Iowa State University Library are offering a summer internship. The Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship is a full-time, 10-week project position to develop a digital collection on Iowa State’s early Extension movement and create content for an interpretive website.  We will be accepting applications through Friday, April 18th.  For more information, please visit our website:

http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/about/news_items/internship.html