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Speaking from Experience: Uses and Users of the Archival Record Presentation for the World Bank Information Solutions Group October 16, 2001.

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Presentation on theme: "Speaking from Experience: Uses and Users of the Archival Record Presentation for the World Bank Information Solutions Group October 16, 2001."— Presentation transcript:

1 Speaking from Experience: Uses and Users of the Archival Record Presentation for the World Bank Information Solutions Group October 16, 2001

2 Overview Changing tools and methods Changing customer Smithsonian Institution Archives approaches Suggestions for the World Bank Archives

3 When I first entered the archival field... It was the olden days.

4 Things were simpler, life was slower

5 The day of the curator as a scholarly hermit is past. Kenneth Duckett, Modern Manuscripts, 1975 (p )

6 What Archivists Do Identify/appraise Acquire Arrange and Describe Preserve Make Available.... If theres time, Promote

7 Outreach was not a known term for archives There was public education Or public service Or public awareness

8 Public Service consists of... Exhibits Publications –Repository Guides –Finding Aids –Microfilm publications –Circulars, brochures Tours Friends Group

9 Public Service.... Presentations Media exposure It is sometimes difficult to determine whether the press release... is intended to serve its nominal function or to enhance the reputation of the curator.

10 Preferred Users 1.Scholarly researchers 2.Institutional staff

11 Others/General Public Unfamiliar with archival processes Often arrive unprepared Need a lot of assistance Fewer psychic rewards

12 Scholars, yes!

13 In-house Staff, okay

14 Others, do I have to ?...

15 Questioning the status quo.... Elsie Freeman, In the Eye of the Beholder: Archives Administration from the Users Point of View in The American Archivist, Spring 1984

16 Misassumptions About Users That archivists are oriented toward users. That we know who our users are That we understand how research is done That we provide adequate help in doing it Freeman, Spring 1984

17 Freeman on Users.. My proposition... would turn our administrative, descriptive, reference, and training practices upside down.... we must begin to think of archives administration as client-centered, not materials- centered. We must... learn... who our users are; what kinds of projects they pursue, in what time frames, and under what sponsorship; and most importantly, how they approach records. p.112

18 Keeping Archives (Australia, 1987) User Education and Public Relations –Exhibitions –Publications –Publicity –Seminars and Workshops (convert novice users into competent researchers) –Community Support Groups Friends and other fundraising mechanisms

19 Managing Archives and Archival Institutions (1989) Chapter on Public Programs Public programs are an essential element of a healthy archival program. The enormous effort expended to acquire, describe, and make resources available merits an equally strong commitment to facilitating use. p. 227

20 Subject Indexing for Archives (Bureau of Canadian Archivists, 1992) Archivists increasingly must serve a heterogeneous clientele with diverse needs and expectations. p. 23

21 The American Archivist, Fall 1995 The success of an archival program, of the archival profession, depends on the extent to which we can make our archives... into peoples archives. (Eric Ketelaar, p. 454)

22 Uses and Users of Smithsonian Institution Archives What is the Smithsonian Institution About SI Archives Uses and Users

23 Smithsonian Institution James Smithsons bequest Founded August 1846 Receives both Federal and trust funds Primarily a scientific institution for its first one hundred years

24 Smithsonian Institution Largest cultural complex in the world –sixteen museums and the Zoo –Astrophysical Observatory (MA) –Tropical Research Center (Panama) –Environmental Research Ctr (Chesapeake Bay) –Center for Folk life and Cultural Studies Many other programs

25 Smithsonian Institution Archives Documents the Institution through –22,000 cu. ft. of records and personal papers –oral history program Provides services through –records management program –National Collections Program

26 Staffing base of 27 Archivists Archives Specialists Historians Conservators Collections Management Specialists Technicians Administrative staff

27 Organizationally, Consists of four subdivisions: –Archives –Institutional History –Technical Services –National Collections Program Reports to Chief Technology Officer

28 SIA Tools for Service On-site assistance Finding Aids/Guide Specialized dbases Website SIRIS Reference Loans for Exhibition

29 Tools for Internal Service Fact checking Exhibitions In-depth research Publications –Annals –Collection Statistics Guidance

30 Tools for External Service Talks to outside groups Fellows Methodology online Publications –Henry Papers –Collection Highlights


32 Integrated Online Catalog

33 Guidance

34 SIA online exhibits

35 Smithsonian Scrapbook This Day in Smithsonian History Expeditions: 150 Years of Smithsonian Research in Latin America Bairds Dream: History of the Arts and Industries Building

36 150 Years of Smithsonian Expeditions in Latin America

37 Service to Archivists


39 SIA reference for FY 2000 SI-related: 912 (466 on site) Non-SI: 2,591 (335 on site) 1,737 From 1997, a major increase in non-SI users (SIRIS searches in archives and manuscripts database: approximately 60,000)

40 Why New Users? Technology

41 How to add more new Users? Technology + Knowledge

42 Apply Technology to... Tools for accessing records –Finding aids –Links to other resources

43 However, –In a world of electronic mail, computerized information databases, and the World Wide Web, a traditional finding aid leading to boxes and boxes of archival records appears both primitive and intimidating.... Todd Welch in Green Archivism.... The American Archivist, Spring 1999, pp

44 Apply Technology to... Sets of records –Significant groups of documents –Illustrative examples of records –Cohesive collections

45 Provide Access to Archival Knowledge Where institutional information is What the relationships are What the decision-making process is Who the knowledgeable parties are What the history is

46 We must think in terms of institutional information Not historical records

47 We must simplify access to institutional information

48 To do this right, we must... Clearly identify the intended user Create simple, clear methods of access Organize and present information, not pointers to raw materials Target key constituencies within or outside of your organization.

49 For the World Bank Archives Lessons in development Role of records in nation building Topical conferences open to the public

50 Bring people to the archives Bring archives to the people

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