Tiny Archives Project Post Zero: A Premise
Welcome to Tiny Archives Project on archivisteria.com!
If you’ve found your way here you may be an archives professional, amateur, student, or even a curious bystander! Maybe you work in or volunteer at your local historical society, or you have historical materials of your own that you want to preserve and study. Whatever your status, you were likely searching for some how-to information on preservation, collections management, fundraising, what to do about curled up old photos, and the like.
Where I'm Coming From ... And Where You Might Be, Too!
Over the course of sixteen years of working in museums, libraries and archives I’ve learned a lot, not only in classrooms and workshops, but on the job and through my own pursuit of new skills and information. When I don’t know how to do something I’ll go after books, websites, colleagues and other sources that will help me figure it out. I often work alone or in very tiny organizations, so I end up doing much of this on my own. It can undoubtedly be risky in a field where you’re dealing with unique, sometimes one-of-a-kind historical items, but I never take action beyond what I feel I can safely do without posing a threat to any document or artifact.
There are thousands of other archives professionals in the same boat. You get some degree of training in theory and practice (through a formal education program, on the job or as an intern or volunteer), but you certainly don’t get it all from the very start. Perhaps you find yourself in a place where not only do you work with collections, but you also have to raise money, set up a data management system, supervise volunteers, design and execute exhibits, or even move your institution from one place to another!
Having had to kind of ‘make things up as I go along’ in my own job, I have realized you can do a lot with just a little. All it takes is research, creativity, and time. I took one grant writing course in graduate school after spending years never pursuing special project money and now I regularly apply for and win small grants for preservation projects. To complete those projects I looked at what other institutions were doing, read a lot of project reports, purchased supplies and dove into rehousing massive image collections on a few hours a week. When I describe these things to others in similarly small archives, they seem enthusiastic but dubious about their own ability to do the same.
|An Archivist in her natural habitat|
In the true spirit of sharing, I’ve set up this site to try to help the many folks I’ve met over the years who feel they don’t know where to begin on projects they think they should do or have been told to fabricate out of thin air. I am in no way an expert in every area of archives, but I think I can offer road maps for a few Tiny Archives Projects that you, as an archivist, student, volunteer or enthusiast can do. These monthly project posts (and probably some quick tip posts, too) are meant to be step-by-step, small but scalable, minimal in their need of funding and expertise, and easily understandable - with citations for deeper resources if you want them. I also hope each post becomes an open forum for questions and comments about what has and has not worked for you and your institution!
I personally have always wanted a site where I could find simplified information and project ideas all in one place. In my own research I tend to wander around the web, partially reading studies and reports that quickly seem too complex with technical requirements beyond my means. I then abandon ship thinking it’s just all too advanced. I also love to articulate the how-to of things, and this is a good way to practice.
So find a project that sounds interesting, read through a few of them, try stuff out and get back to me as to whether you thought it was a success or not. I’ll try to keep adding new tips, tricks and full-on projects as I find them or try them myself. We can all try to make our own Tiny Archives better places!
Now It's Your Turn!
What do you think? Are you all in? Add your voice in the comments section and tell me what you would like to learn! Perhaps you'd like a quick tutorial on a simple project or just a pep talk to get your started. Let's make this blog helpful for everyone - share your stories, questions and advice today!
Note: You might be thinking Tiny Archives Project dot com would have been a better url for this site since that’s the overall gist of what I’m presenting here, but who knows where they site may go (humor, interviews, institutional highlights?). Plus, I think archivisteria.com is funny and kind of reflects how my job makes me feel sometimes.