Archival Collections Online: Reaching Audiences Beyond The Edge of Campus (SAA09: Session 405)

The Archivist's Life, 23 May 1954Expanding Your Local and Global Audiences (Session 405, SAA 2009) shared how three institutions of higher education are using the web to reach out to new audiences. While the general public may still hold close the stereotype of archives as of rooms full of boxes of paper (not so different from this Duke image on Flickr: “Mattie Russell, curator of manuscripts, and Jay Luvaas, director of the Flowers Collection, examine the papers of Senator Willis Smith in the library vault.”), the presenters in this session are focused on expanding peoples’ experience of archives beyond boxes of papers locked away in a vault. They are using the web as a tool to reach beyond the walls of their reading rooms and the edges of their campuses.

Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript & Special Collections Library (RBMSCL) : Lynn Eaton (Reference Archivist)

While I didn’t find my way into this session until the start of the next speaker’s presentation, Lynn was kind enough to share with me her personal printout of her presentation slides. The links below and any associated commentary are based solely on my own interpretation of the various screen-shots included.

University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Digital Collections: Tom Sommer (University and Technical Services Archivist)

UNLV has experimented with new technologies as they appear. Tom made a point of saying that when they started seeing others provide a feature on their websites, UNLV would find a way to try it out. A great example of this is the addition of a tag cloud and google map to The Boomtown Years collection listed below.

Marist College Archives and Special Collections: John Ansley (Head, Archives and Special Collections)

Marist first launched their website in 2001 to raise awareness of their collections. They also used listserves and the on-campus newspaper. Utlimately their best tactic was working one-on-one with professors whose interests intersected with their collections. This led to contact with special interest groups. Working with the special interest groups led to new tag and metadata values for their collections.

My Thoughts

The archivists at all three of these educational institutions have tried new things and worked hard to share their materials with people beyond the traditional range of a reading room. The promise of the web, and all the tools and techniques it supports, is still being uncovered. It will be up to innovative archivists to keep discovering ways to push the envelope and welcome new audiences from all the corners of the globe.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dukeyearlook/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As is the case with all my session summaries from SAA2009, please accept my apologies in advance for any cases in which I misquote, overly simplify or miss points altogether in the post above. These sessions move fast and my main goal is to capture the core of the ideas presented and exchanged. Feel free to contact me about corrections to my summary either via comments on this post or via my contact form.

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Posted on 25th August 2009
Under: access, archival community, interface design, learning technology, outreach, SAA2009, virtual collaboration, web 2.0 | No Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

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