What’s the C&U Section up to in 2021?

Post by: Michelle Sweetser (Head, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University)

As the current chair of the College and University Archives section, it is my honor to work with both section and Steering Committee members throughout the year to provide resources and services that benefit our members. As a group, we chose to focus our efforts on three large projects this year, in addition to continuing our blog and hosting weekly coffee chats to bring us together in conversation. Those three projects are:

  1. A landscape study (survey) of college and university archives settings to collect baseline data on the profession.
  2. An update to and revision to the Guidelines for College and University Archives, which was adopted and endorsed in 1999.
  3. Hosting a series of free webinars on topics of interest to section membership.

Others will report on the second and third projects in the coming weeks, but I write today to share background on the survey project and to invite you to participate. Section leaders first considered a survey last year, in response to my observation that there were no recent, comprehensive data about college and university archives. For a period beginning in 1949, the section conducted semi-regular surveys of its members, but they were discontinued well before the terms of current section leaders. There have been other efforts to survey academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada in the intervening years; (1) however, this data has not been collected in a comprehensive manner for nearly two decades, a period during which the professional landscape has changed significantly.

Nearly all of these previous surveys predate the rapid growth of digitization and digital preservation systems; the wide-scale online delivery of finding aids; the use of institutional repositories for dissemination of university scholarship; the emergence and development of professional standards such as EAD and EAC-CPF (and in some cases, possibly even the adoption of MARC at the institution); a growing emphasis on data management for faculty data; the use of the Internet to publish many standard reports and university publications; electronic records and email management; collection management systems; content management systems; equity and inclusion work and evolving campus histories; and many other practices that have significantly changed the landscape of our work.

We sought support from the SAA Foundation last year but were unsuccessful in our effort to secure funding for research assistance. Section leaders remained committed to the project and after presenting about the project briefly at the section meeting last summer, we developed a working group comprised of at-large and steering committee members who have met regularly throughout the fall to develop the survey instrument. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to these colleagues – Tamar Chute, Elizabeth James, Ann Kenne, Jane Metters LaBarbara, Krista Oldham, Emily Reiher, and Karen Trivette – for their input and perspectives and their ongoing commitment to reporting on and sharing the survey’s findings.

Ultimately, our hope is that this survey will benefit you, our section members, by providing benchmark data that can be used to more effectively advocate for yourself within your institution and by section leaders to advocate on your behalf. We anticipate the data will allow for a greater understanding of the job responsibilities and competencies required to serve as a college or university archivist and to demonstrate to newcomers opportunities for professional growth.

We aim to share our research results with the archival community through the section website, publication, and presentations. We hope to have significant participation from the C&UA community and encourage you to participate in the 32-question survey. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, it is anonymous, and all records will be kept confidential. Please don’t delay: the survey will remain open through February 5, 2021.

[1] See, for example, Nicholas Burckel and J. Cook. “A Profile of College and University Archives in the United States.” The American Archivist. Fall 1982, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 410-428. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.45.4.a77534258450710x; Association of Research Libraries. University Archives in ARL Libraries. SPEC Kit #107. September 1984. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015071453198; Don Skemer and Geoffrey Williams. “Managing the Records of Higher Education: The State of Records Management in American Colleges and Universities.” The American Archivist. Fall 1990, Vol. 53, No. 4, pp. 532-547. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.4.x50632186v6j2775; and Bessie Schina and Garron Wells. “University Archives and Records Programs in the United States and Canada.” Archival Issues. 2002, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 35-51. https://minds.wisconsin.edu/handle/1793/46020

Meet Steering Committee Member: Elizabeth James

This is the final post in our series highlighting the recently-elected Section leadership.

Elizabeth D. James is the current Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University. She earned her Master of Science in Archives Management at Simmons University. Her work focuses on maximizing access to archival materials through accessible description, processing, and digitizing of materials and making use of non-traditional platforms to encourage access by diverse users. Her research interests vary, but primarily focus on computational approaches to using archival collections for discovery and analysis, the impact of memory organizations on local communities, and scalable approaches to managing digital archives.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

As an undergraduate history major in search of work, I somehow used my skill at origami to leverage my way into a job in my university’s preservation department building phase boxes for rare books. To my surprise, I enjoyed reading and handling the books much more than I expected. This job led to another position in a special library and archive on campus that exposed me to prints, rare books, exhibit curation, and archival materials–needless to say, thanks to some wonderful supervisors and colleagues, I was hooked! However, I had heard tales of how competitive and difficult life in the archives professional could be, so I worked for a year as an AmeriCorps service member at a house museum before I finally decided to apply to and attend Simmons College (now Simmons University).

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

Like many, even though “digital preservation” composes half of my job title, much of my work involves hefting around and addressing legacy issues with physical material. Digital preservation is something that all too often falls by the wayside, especially in smaller institutions, so I was excited to finally have my proposal to implement a low-resource intensive digital preservation program using open source tools and my own programming knowledge approved.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

Since learning Python, I have been using it for various projects at my institution related to digital preservation, data visualization, and data cleanup and migration. However, one of the things that I’m most excited about is creating learning resources and conducting instruction on how our collections can be explored and used as data by undergraduate students to expand our traditional instruction program.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

In addition to my work with digital preservation, I am also responsible for all manuscript collections at my institution. Currently, I’m processing a large, early 20th century collection of business records created by an industrial company that manufactured coal, salt, and chemicals. This means I spend some of my in-person work time covered in coal and other mystery substances. I have never been more thankful for the COVID-19 induced mandated practice of indoor mask wearing at my workplace!

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

One large project the steering committee will be working on is initiating a review of the Guidelines for College and University Archives. I’m excited to work on this project because I feel that it is an opportunity to update the Guidelines to be indicative not only of the current college and university archives field, but the desired future. I’m particularly enthusiastic about providing multiple ways for college and university archivists of all kinds to contribute to this work.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

As an archivist in Appalachia where the archives community is dispersed at best, I’m a huge fan of collaboration and creating virtual communities within the archives profession. I’m always interested in talking to individuals doing similar work, so please reach out if you’ve read anything here you find interesting!

Meet Steering Committee Member: Angel Diaz

This post is the third in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

Angel Diaz (she/her/hers) is the University Archivist at Penn State University. In this role since 2018, she identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community. She earned her MLIS from the University of California Los Angeles. She served on the 2020 SAA Annual Meeting Program Committee and was Co-Chair of the Archivists and Archivists of Color Section (2016-2018). She is a participating member of Project STAND and is a current fellow in the Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program (2020-2021).

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

As many people do, I started working with archival materials through an undergraduate internship–at the California Historical Society. I helped organize their extensive California newspaper collection by county. Not only did I love learning about the state, but found myself thinking a lot about why we were keeping and organizing the newspapers in this way. However, even while working there I had no idea one could become an archivist. I started working as a middle and high school humanities teacher. A short time later, my friend took on a job at the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley), told me she was going to get her MLIS, and invited me to study for the GRE with her. It was an exciting jump to a new profession. In our graduate program, I found my place learning about how archivists can facilitate engagement and learning with historical materials to audiences of all ages and communities.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

It’s taken some planning and extra work but I have been pleased with some recent collaborative outreach and engagement efforts, including shifting from developing a physical exhibition to a digital exhibition and zine workshops for student organizations. The zine workshops have all taken place on Zoom, but a small group of colleagues and I have been able to prepare physical zine supplies packets that we mailed to the students to have ready for the meeting date. The packets include paper, sample zines, and reproductions of archival materials for the students to cut up and include in the zines they create. We invite specific student organizations and base the theme of the zines on that group’s mission and focus. The workshops provide a space for creative thinking, while highlighting collection materials and making a connection with leaders from student organizations.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

I am very excited about a student-led oral history initiative currently taking place. It started with a seminar course I was embedded in last spring. Students in this course took on research projects with University Archives materials on their chosen topic around Penn State history. One student conducted research on African American student activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was eager to learn as much as she could on the topic. I provided archival materials and other resources, and the professor put her in touch with a Penn State alumnus who graduated in 1970 and had been active in various social and political efforts. The student interviewed the alumnus for her research paper and through the conversation learned of additional African American alumni who had also been activists on campus.

At the conclusion of the course, the student reached out to me to share that she wanted to speak to the other alumni in order to bring more resources for our collections. We quickly developed an oral history project she could take on–and I was able to advocate for a paid position for her to do this project. The work would all be done remotely over Zoom because this all started alongside the pandemic. We met regularly to discuss best practices and methodology, utilized her existing research to develop interview questions, and even conducted practice interviews. The interviews will be added to the University Archives collections for research access. This oral history project has been a wonderful initiative to be a part of because it is wholly based on the student’s interests and goals. Watching her interviews are such a positive experience because I see her genuine interest in hearing from each participant and that in turn brings ease and great topics into the conversation.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

This is not a new challenge to anyone, but there is so much to do as a University Archivist. I work in collaboration with the Office of Records Management to support handling of university records coming in from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Penn State is one university with 24 campuses) in both physical and digital format, support research and access to materials during the pandemic, am always looking for ways to engage students with archival materials, and am in a tenure-track position so scholarship is an expectation. It’s a balancing act that I have yet to figure out.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

It seems like this steering committee hit the ground running this year! I’ve been happy to participate in some of the Coffee Chats organized by Karen Trivette. These weekly meetings are a great way to come together as colleagues to share challenges and successes presented to us throughout the COVID work environment and to also just chat about our work generally.

The steering committee is also starting the process of revising and updating the Guidelines for College and University Archives. The last update was in 1999, so we’re due for an update! Lastly, since it looks like our remote work and social distancing will last for some time, we have been looking into providing a series of virtual learning opportunities on a variety of topics for section and organization members.

Meet Steering Committee Member: Sandra Varry

This post is the second in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

Sandra Varry is the Heritage & University Archivist at Florida State University where she collects, manages, and provides access to FSU’s archive and manages its Heritage Museum. She holds an MFA in Photography from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and an MLIS from the University of South Florida. She became a Certified Archivist in 2013 and Digital Archives Specialist in 2014. She is a recent past chair of the Visual Materials Section of SAA, and a past President of the Society of Florida Archivists. She taught traditional and digital photography for 13 years before becoming a full time archivist, specializing in historic photograph collections.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

As a young photographer I worked with found objects and texts in my personal work, and had a passion for the history of photography, creating exhibits, and teaching. I decided to merge my love of teaching with libraries and made my way into the archives in 2009. It was a great fit, and as a university archivist I immediately began working with a very large photograph collection. Preserving and providing access to image collections and records has become my passion. I regularly give presentations and workshops on preserving scrapbooks and photographs, digitization, and working with digital photography and prints.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

As with a lot of institutions, moving ourselves online has been a major undertaking. I feel we made quick work of creating a framework for communication, expectations, and how to manage staff and researcher needs while staying safe. We are very fortunate to have the resources we need to do this well. We are now able to begin accepting collections again building on the basis of these new procedures and processes.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

We have a lot of digitization projects in our queue, but I am really interested in giving better access to our negatives that don’t have accompanying prints – we often have requests that require us to review them. There are many engaging bodies of work in those negatives that could be more easily used and shared.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

We are extremely busy – all of the time, so there are a lot of projects that end up down the list of to do’s. The challenge is to constantly leverage our resources (time/staff, etc.) to stay on top of things and not allow too many  to become “someday” projects.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

I am very excited that we are taking on updating the section’s standard for College & University Archives. It’s a good resource and the updates will allow for broader adoption and support for all types of institutions. I also look forward to our online webinar series and continued coffee chats.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

I’ve been in academia for twenty years, with almost ten in archives. I am always learning something new from those around me and the collections I work with. It’s one of the things about our profession that I love.

Call for Campus Case Studies

Hello fellow archivists,

The leadership of the College & University Archives (C&UA) Section is very pleased to remind you of an exciting publishing opportunity through SAA as administered by this section. Writing a Campus Case Study is a wonderful way to test the SAA publishing waters and develop your ideas.

The C&UA Section Steering Committee would like to encourage you to consider this publishing opportunity. “The submission process for a Campus Case Study is designed for ease and flexibility of use and obligates authors only to a minimum of required information for submission.”

In fact, if you have been considering publishing via an SAA vehicle such as Archival Outlook or The American Archivist, a Campus Case Study might be the perfect gateway to test your idea, theory, or thesis. We even provide the rubric for evaluating your submission in order to encourage and facilitate your success.

Please feel free to contact any member of the C&UA Steering Committee to learn more about this exciting opportunity. Names of Committee members can be found on the Section website at https://www2.archivists.org/groups/college-and-university-archives-section.

Thank you for considering this opportunity and we look forward to your submissions!

Meet Steering Committee Member: David McCartney

This post is the first in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

David McCartney (he/him/his) is the University of Iowa archivist, a position he has held since 2001. He received the MA in history and MLS in library and information science in 1998, both from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is immediate past president of the Midwest Archives Conference and has been a member of the Section since his first year on the job at Iowa. Before entering the archives field, David was a reporter for radio stations in Alaska and the Midwest; his undergraduate degree in journalism is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

In the summer of 1992, when I was between warehouse jobs, I drove around the Midwest to repositories that held papers on Carrie Chapman Catt, the woman suffrage leader and founder of the League of Women Voters. Catt grew up near my Iowa hometown, and the idea was to prepare a bibliography or some kind of catalog of her papers for visitors to consult at her to-be-restored 1866 farm home. I visited a half-dozen archives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and by the end of that summer, I was hooked, thinking, Hey, this is pretty cool work they’re doing. The resulting catalog, such as it was, was my pre-Web introduction to collection-level description. In fall 1994 I began graduate studies at College Park. My mother should take the credit (or blame) for my entering the field, as she founded the non-profit that restored the historic house, a project that really sparked my interest in public history. Check out the museum’s web site at http://catt.org for more information.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

While not purely recent, it has been a continuing effort since 2012 to document the life of a former student, Stephen Lynn Smith (1944-2009), a white man from a small Iowa town who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi in 1964 and, later, an outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam. Steve burned his draft card in our campus union in 1965, the second in the nation to do so after such protest became a federal crime, and the first to do so on a college campus. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but over the last eight years I have reached out to individuals who did, including his widow, their children, and his brother. As recently as last month, I conducted an oral history interview related to his time on our campus; to date, we have 20 interviews. There is more about this project – a deeply-moving personal as well as professional experience – in this article that appeared in Archival Outlook in 2017: https://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=376049

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

We are looking forward to collaborating with Iowa Freedom Riders (IFR), a group that formed following the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis. IFR organized protests, both on campus and throughout Iowa City, during the summer, and we look forward to documenting their activity. My unit is also working with staff from the Old Capitol Museum and the university’s Office of Strategic Communication in documenting spray painted messages left on campus and downtown buildings. The Old Capitol – Iowa City was the state’s first capital, from 1846 to 1857 – is our campus’ central landmark and a traditional site for protest. It was here that IFR held its first protest in late May. A recent article in Library Journal describes our effort to document their work: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=university-of-iowa-to-create-archive-of-black-lives-matter-protesters-spray-painting

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

Capturing and preserving university-affiliated web sites was a challenge that we were able to address to some degree thanks to support from the Internet Archive. But once that challenge was met, the expanding and evolving social media environment took its place. In essence, preserving and managing born-digital content is a challenge for all of us. I am fortunate that my colleague, Daniel Johnson, our digital preservation librarian, is looking into protocols to support this initiative.

More fundamentally, though, I believe our profession’s worth and legitimacy are being challenged. Too many individuals in our field are not sufficiently compensated for their professional services – unpaid internships undermine all of us – and often the value of our work goes unrecognized. Institutions and corporations must understand that it is in their legal and cultural interest to maintain a robust archives and records management program. Our challenge is to continually advocate for our profession to ensure its rightful place in commerce and culture.

What projects do you envision the Section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

The committee is planning a series of free webinars for our members touching on a variety of topics, such as creating institutional histories and how to offer instruction using primary sources. These sessions will be especially useful as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We are also looking forward to updating the Guidelines for College and University Archives (https://www2.archivists.org/book/export/html/14800), reflecting changes in our profession over the last 20 years since the last review. More from the Section on these initiatives very soon!

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

The steering committee is always open to ideas and suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of us, and we’ll share with the group at our next meeting. Plus, we always look forward to hearing from and meeting our members!

Fashioning a College’s Celebrations and Milestones: The Fashion Institute of Technology Turns 75!

Karen Trivette, Head of Special Collections and College Archives for the Gladys Marcus Library at the Fashion Institute of Technology-SUNY, provides an overview of the Institute’s 75 year history.

Seventy-five years ago this past September, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a community college within the State University of New York (SUNY) system, was founded by fashion industry visionaries and innovators, Mortimer Ritter and Max Meyer. These two men were instrumental in establishing fashion-centric education first at the high school level. However, after World War II, they soon realized that the American fashion industry needed an even more sophisticated trained and skilled workforce. This was due in part to the fact that veterans returned from the war with a need for skill-building opportunities. Also, the children of fashion industry leaders desired to go into other professions rather than continuing family legacies in the fashion trades; this left a sizable vacuum in the workforce. Meyer and Ritter set out to fill this training need as Ritter declared, “What is needed is an MIT for the fashion industries!” Thus, the idea of the College of FIT was born.

FIT Students Holding “Picket” Signs Displaying the Majors Offered, circa 1969

The College began in rather humble infrastructural circumstances, consuming the top two floors of the Central High School of the Needle Trades, now the High School of the Fashion Industries, located on Twenty-fourth Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues in Manhattan. In its beginning, the College supported approximately one hundred students, ten faculty, and four majors: fashion design, millenary, textile design, and scientific management. This last major offering encompassed engineering courses as related to the development of better equipment for the fashion industries.

Prestige followed FIT all along its developmental path; in 1951, FIT became a college of the State University of New York, which itself only began in 1948. In 1957, FIT was accredited by the Middles States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation and then in 1984, it was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Growth has always been a part of FIT’s master plan; by 1959, the student body had quadrupled to four hundred and the campus, having outgrown its original location, moved to its current address of Seventh Avenue at Twenty-seventh Street. The campus was strategically well-placed, adjacent to New York City’s famed Garment District just north of FIT. The first, and still the main building, now named the Marvin Feldman Center, was designed to support 1200 students across all aspects of student life; within another five years, it was supporting more than 4000 students.

Growth again forced FIT to take on a new and expanded physical plant in 1972 when FIT added six more buildings, all of which helped to define the campus between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and across Twenty-sixth Street to Twenty-eighth Street. At its peak, FIT would ultimately support nearly 12,000 students and more than 1000 faculty, all within a city block.

Once again, by the mid-1970s, growth affected the College as FIT began conferring Bachelors degrees. Today, there are about forty majors available to undergraduates; these are offered by the schools of Art and Design, Business and Technology, and Liberal Arts. Some programs were ground-breaking, such as Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing while others were the world’s first, such as Toy Design. By the early 1980s, FIT was also conferring Master of Arts degrees – quite unconventional for a community college! Today, in its School of Graduate Studies, FIT confers the Master of Arts degree across three programs; the Master of Fine Arts degree across two programs; and the Master of Professional Studies degree across two programs.

The College is, and always has been, a welcoming institution, especially for the unconventional student, as is evident by a student body that is, and always has been, diverse and inclusive. Matters of import not only include diversity and inclusivity, but also sustainability and innovation all the while nurturing unconventional minds across an equally diverse array of curricula.

One aspect of the College that has not changed much over time is the strength of its relationship with the creative industries. From conception to inception and certainly today, industry leaders have played a critical role in FIT’s founding and continued success. As we plan for various modes of celebration for our 75th anniversary, which will extend well beyond September 2020, the College is undertaking such projects as:

  • An annual report commemorating the unconventional past, present, and future of FIT 
  • A series of historical timeline panels, modularly designed in eight segments, one for each decade, to be exhibited either together or separately across the campus
  • A large-scale exhibition of fashion sketches (and associated garments) representative of Max Meyer’s work in the women’s coat and suit industry for A. Beller and  Company

The FIT Library unit of Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) and its holdings have been tapped extensively in the preparation of and for these projects. Historical photographs, such as those included in this post, are being placed throughout the annual report as they highlight important historical milestones across the history of the College. Various archival records and photographs have been exhaustively culled and curated to populate the timeline panels, which collectively measure seven feet by thirty-eight feet; each panel is seven feet by roughly four feet. The A. Beller and Company fashion sketch collection (1915-1929), one of the nearly 500 manuscript collections in SPARC, is the main source for content for the large-scale exhibition. Materials will be featured in a large, newly-renovated, glass enclosed campus space, which faces the heavily populated Seventh Avenue. This placement is particularly fitting as Seventh Avenue is also known as Fashion Avenue given its prominence in the nationally landmarked Garment District.

In an effort to mirror the College’s original innovative and forward-looking spirit, SPARC is embarking on twenty-first century endeavors such as archiving the College’s website and is planning to collect, preserve, and make accessible fashion designers’ websites, too. SPARC is also about to make its first foray into augmented reality as it experiments with technology that will further breakdown barriers and allow for greater and more meaningful access to materials and for as many constituents as possible.

Today, in its diamond anniversary year, FIT is led by Dr. Joyce F. Brown; with her influence, FIT is poised for more growth, prestige, and innovation. New curricula are regularly being added to the program offerings, attracting an even more innovative faculty and diverse student body. As recently as November 2019, FIT was rated the number one school for Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising from Fashion-Schools.org in its rankings of the top 50 Fashion Design and its top 50 Fashion Merchandising programs in the country. An influential element in the ranking was most probably the very recent accreditation of the FIT Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Also, under Dr. Brown’s leadership, FIT is planning to build yet another new academic building on the existing campus block, specifically on Twenty-eighth Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It will host a myriad of functions, not the least of which is providing much-needed additional classroom space.

As earlier stated, innovation is and has always been an important aspect of the College’s founding ethos and ongoing spirit. To further innovative efforts, and drive home the point that innovation is part of FIT’s DNA, in 2016, the FIT/INFOR Design and Technology Lab was established to reflect the original mission of the College and to help fashion various future endeavors. “The FIT/Infor DTech Lab is FIT’s on-campus innovation lab where students, faculty, and industry partners collaborate to advance new ideas, solve real-world problems, and inspire interdisciplinary research” (https://dtech.fitnyc.edu/#about1). The FIT/Infor DTech Lab’s goals are to:

  • enhance learning 
  • engage industry 
  • envision the future 
  • empower entrepreneurs

These goals, indeed the broader acts of enhancing, engaging, envisioning, and empowering closely mirror the College’s original objectives established by its founders 75 years ago. All members of the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York community are excited to celebrate this important year for the College. We hope to share the celebration as much as possible with those outside the immediate FIT community as well.

For more information, please visit https://news.fitnyc.edu/2020/03/15/celebrating-fit-at-75/

Meet Steering Committee Member: Krista Oldham

This post is the second in a series highlighting our elected section leadership.

Krista Oldham is the University Archivist at Clemson University, where her responsibilities include overseeing the acquisition, description, and preservation of University records, as well as supporting and promoting their use. Additionally, Krista is responsible for assisting in developing and managing a comprehensive, institution-wide records management program. She earned a M.I.S. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and earned both a M.A. in History and a B.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Prior to starting her position at Clemson, Krista worked at Haverford College as the College Archivist/Records Manager for Quaker and Special Collections and at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Special Collections as the Senior Archivist and the Senior Archives Manager. In addition to her archival work, Krista served as Co-Director of the Arkansas Delta Oral History Project, an initiative led by the endowed Brown Chair in English Literacy. She is a co-author of The Arkansas Delta Oral History Project: Culture, Place, and Authenticity, which was published in 2016 by Syracuse University Press.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

I believe my path to becoming an archivist will be familiar to many. I think that I had always wanted to be an educator of some sort. I had a love for history and when it came time for college I had it in my mind that I was going to become a professor of history.  I earned both a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. I was enrolled in the Ph.D. program in History and after I wrapped up a good bit of my coursework, I came to the realization that I did not enjoy it anymore, that the career path to become a professor no longer interested me, and that I really loved working in the archives. At that point I had been working at the University of Arkansas Special Collections, first as a reading room assistant and then as an assistant archivist, for about six or seven years, and decided that being an archivist was what I wanted to do. I then enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where I earned my M.I.S.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

In the year that I have been at Clemson, the archives have prioritized building relationships with different groups (institutional and student-led) on campus. We are now beginning to see the payoff for our efforts, as those relationships are deepening into partnerships. This translates to our seeing an influx of records being transferred/donated to the archives; we are becoming the “go-to” people to provide content for events and exhibits; and we are now becoming collaborators on a variety of research initiatives. Essentially, people are recognizing the value of the archives and how it can help them do their day-to-day work and help advance scholarly conversations. I believe that relationships and trust take a lot of time to cultivate and it is really important for us, as a unit, to continue in this vein.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

Our Digital and Preservation Archivist started in early May, and in filling this new position we are poised to begin laying the groundwork for a robust digital preservation program. Over the course of the next few months we will begin drafting digital preservation policies and procedures, identifying tools and technologies needed, as well as what storage infrastructure will work best for Clemson. It will be very exciting to see our piecemeal approach to digital preservation be coordinated into a more holistic one.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

I think the biggest challenge that I face is one that we are all familiar with, and that is that there are so many records that I am responsible for and there is only one me. Fortunately, I have great colleagues in the archives and in the libraries who help acquire some of the records and/or connect me with records creators. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier I have spent a lot of time building relationships and part of the payoff is having a network of folks to keep me in the loop of what is going on so I can make sure I am making the connections that I need to ensure records are finding their way into the archives.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

I am very excited to work with our section chair Benn Joseph and the rest of the Steering Committee. I think the committee has identified a couple of different projects to undertake, but COVID-19 has really shaken things up for everyone and it will/has had an impact on our Section’s priorities. I am extremely proud of the way that our Steering Committee has responded to COVID-19. The weekly C&U Coffee Chats where individuals can discuss strategies for carrying out their core duties from home, can learn new ideas and approaches, and can simply connect with others has been hugely successful in responding to the needs of our Section. While this pandemic has devastating and disruptive in so many ways, I think it has provided us an opportunity to connect more deeply with our Section than ever before, and I think the conversations that have come out of the discussions have given the Steering Committee some ideas on new priorities or new directions in which to take the Section.

C&U Archives Section Election 2020: Candidate Bios

Note: Ballot goes live June 30, 2020!


Karen Trivette


Associate Professor Karen Trivette is the Head of Special Collections and College Archives in the Gladys Marcus Library at the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York (FIT); she is the first incumbent to hold this position and has held the post since 2008. At FIT, she supervises four staff members, oversees the care and provision of over 6000 linear feet of special collections and archives materials, and administers a robust internship program. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in Art History and graduated With Distinction. She earned a Master of Library Science from the University at Albany-State University of New York with a concentration in Archives and Records Management. After graduation, she became a member of and reinstituted the University at Albany’s chapter of Beta Phi Mu, the international honor society for Library and Information Science Master-level graduates. She has worked primarily in art archives and art libraries except for a three-year post at the New York State Archives for which she advised practitioners/constituents throughout New York State on matters of archives and records management. She has presented at many local, national, and international archives conferences and has written and/or edited many publications on topics ranging from fashion forecasting history to archives facility renovation. She also has planned or worked with colleagues to plan many exhibitions focusing on or augmented by special collections and archives materials.

Candidate Statement:

As SAA’s largest membership section, the College and University Archives Section is entitled to ask for equally large ideas from its leadership. I write to you today to ask for your vote to be the section’s next Vice Chair/Chair-Elect and to demonstrate how together we can conceive of not only large ideas but also how we can create dynamic opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s members.

Tomorrow’s members will not be like today’s. They will be ever more diverse, they will insist that the section be more inclusive, and they will be rightfully obsessed with matters of equality. They will force their impatience with the status quo to work for the section rather than against it. We must be ready for these exciting changes and challenges to come.

At the heart and soul of the section’s creative and truly progressive future is its leadership, which must cast the widest net possible for a truly collective participation and, by extension, inspired ideation.

Since this is a demanding leadership position, I would like to stress my current and past leadership roles, especially within SAA. I have served on the Editorial Board of SAA’s journal, American Archivist, since 2016. I am the Guest Editor of its upcoming issue dedicated to design records. Also, over the last year, I have served the C&UA section as a member of its Steering Committee. Along with C&UA colleagues, I have co-hosted weekly “Coffee Chats” as an online forum for participants to discuss a wide array of matters in common and those especially associated with managing various demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have welcomed as many as 38 colleagues to the forum and after many weeks of gathering, the chats are still going strong and helping many during this difficult time.

From 2016 to 2019, I served the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. in successive leadership roles: Vice President, President, and Past President. Since 2019, I have been ART’s representative to SAA’s Regional Archival Associations Consortium.

I am the Vice Chair and Board member of the Access to Memory (AtoM) Foundation as well as the Chair of the AtoM Foundation’s Roadmap Committee, which is charged with developing the third incarnation of AtoM, an archives management software program.

I also have been very active in leadership roles in my home institution. In 2008, I founded and since then have chaired the FIT Library’s Disaster Preparedness Team. I have chaired the FIT Faculty Senate’s Library Committee, and guest-chaired the Senate’s Committee on Academic Standards.

Lastly, I am very excited to apply the solid leadership lessons I learned from being a member of the 2018 Archives Leadership Institute cohort to the operations of the C&UA Section.

I would be thrilled to blend my leadership experience with my creative and welcoming spirit in the service to SAA’s College and University Archives Section. I would be honored to join Michelle Sweetser, your Chair-Elect, in moving the section forward and in fresh and bold ways. Thank you for your vote.


Helena Egbert


Helena Egbert joined the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University Libraries as their processing archivist in April 2020. From 2016 to 2020, she worked at Oregon State University’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Egbert started there as an undergraduate and continued through the completion of her graduate studies to process collections and provide reference services, concluding with a grant-funded project as a processing and public services archivist. She holds an undergraduate degree from OSU and an MLS from Emporia State University. In her new position, Egbert will lead efforts to describe department holdings and oversee collection management.

Candidate Statement:

Hello! I am Helena Egbert, and I am running for the Early Career Professional Position seat of SAA’s College and University Archives (C&UA) Section. From the beginning of my experience in archives I have been lucky enough to work in public universities. I began as an intern working on processing projects at Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC). Over my time at SCARC I was given progressively more responsibility, cumulating in being hired on a grant to process the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine Records (LPISM). As a processor one of my jobs is to create order out of chaos. During creating this order, I often get the chance to see much of the material up close, which I love. It still feels a little bit like cheating that this is my job! Another essential element of my job is describing material, an essential part of making everything findable. Despite not being as visible position to the public, I think this position is essential to providing access to material, one of my passions. One of my driving inspirations for working in a public university setting is the commitment to providing access to all different kinds of people: students, faculty, local community members, and international researchers. In April I became Kansas State University’s Processing Archivist, a dream position. I believe I would bring a valuable perspective and energy to the C&UA section. I would be interested in helping in the administration, operation, and technical work of initiatives that C&UA undertakes in the next year. In turn I think C&UA section could guide me in finding opportunities to become involved with valuable and interesting research in my field.

Elizabeth James


Elizabeth James is the Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University where her responsibilities consist of conducting and supervising processing, collection management, reference services, teaching, outreach, and digital preservation planning–or, as she usually calls it, all of the “ands” in archival work. She earned her M.S. in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives Management from Simmons University in 2018 and her B.A. in both History and History of Art from Yale University in 2015. Professionally, she has been a member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) since 2018 and currently serves as a Junior Blog Editor for the Student and New Archives Professionals Section. Outside of SAA, she is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and serves on the Finance Committee of MARAC.

Candidate Statement:

As an archivist in a state with few archivists and no extant communities for local archivists to exchange ideas, I am acutely aware of the importance of shared spaces where learning and growth is fostered between group members. These types of communities are doubly important for early career individuals. With many archivists facing a distinct lack of local professional communities, I want to help foster a collaborative environment that ensures that institutions and individuals of a variety of backgrounds, resource levels, and degrees of experience feel fully represented and heard. Though the range of work within college and university archives is vast, the ability to work within so many discrete areas fosters unique opportunities for collaboration between the institutions that the College & University Archives Section serves. I want to further the goal of collaboration and community support by contributing to the broader professional community by serving as an Early Career Professional on the College & University Archives Section Steering Committee.


Zach Brodt


Zach Brodt is the University Archivist & Records Manager at the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s Archives & Special Collections. Prior to becoming University Archivist in 2015, Zach spent five years as Pitt’s University Records Manager and one year as their labor collections project archivist. He is also a Pitt alumnus, having earned a MLIS and a BA in History and Classics from the University of Pittsburgh. As University Archivist, Zach created a Student Organization Records Toolkit to help student groups preserve their history and offer the archives as a resource of expertise in addition to traditional roles of storage and access. He also joined Project STAND to share information about student activism at Pitt. Zach is a member of SAA and MARAC and has presented at several conferences. In addition, he is a member of the Pennsylvania Historical Association and has served on numerous university committees. Beginning last fall, Zach was appointed as the archivist for Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity and has served on their National History and Archives Committee since 2015.

Candidate Statement:

I look forward to the opportunity to serve as a member of the College & University Archives Section steering committee. Throughout my career, I have welcomed any chance to learn from the collective wisdom and experiences of my colleagues and the C&UA Section has been a valuable resource for me since becoming a university archivist. With this in mind, I hope to work toward promoting activities in which section members can learn from each other’s successes and failures. I am also interested in encouraging networking within the section to foster collaboration in existing initiatives as well as new projects and grant-seeking ventures. These outlets of sharing information have become more important than ever during the ongoing pandemic in which university archives find themselves scrambling to support online learning and distant researchers while also facing budget cuts and hiring freezes. It would be an honor to serve our community of archivists and I greatly appreciate your consideration.

Angel Diaz


Angel Diaz is the University Archivist at Penn State University. In this role, she identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community. Before coming to Penn State, Angel was a processing archivist at UCLA Library Special Collections. Her research and scholarly interests include representation within the profession and historical repositories, and labor issues in the archival profession. Angel has been an active member of SAA since the start of her career nine years ago, including serving as co-chair of the Archivists and Archives of Color Section from 2016-2018. She is a co-founder of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective and a current fellow in the Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program. Angel received her MLIS from UCLA and MA in Education from the University of San Francisco.

Candidate Statement:

I enthusiastically put my hat in the ring as candidate for a Steering Committee Member role in the College & University Archives Section. This section has been a valuable resource for me as an archivist processing faculty collections and as fairly new University Archivist engaging in collection development and outreach. I have appreciated the discussions on the listserv, reading the campus case studies, and the contributions to the Academic Archivist. Along with documenting university history, I am heavily involved in promoting student engagement with archival materials and learning about the range of activities C&UA members are involved in has greatly supported my own work. As the world adopted to a dramatic change in our personal and professional environments, so have C&UA. We have seen collecting initiatives change form, our ideas and perspectives about the stories we preserve and share have evolved, and we have expressed concerns about how we can carry out our work as the pandemic continues. As a member of the Steering Committee, I hope to facilitate further discussion and sharing of resources, as well as to support advocacy for our community as we continue to weather our new reality. I am heartened by C&UA members’ display of collaboration and initiative and I look forward to supporting within the role of Steering Committee member. Thank you for your consideration.

Virginia Hunt


Virginia (Ginny) Hunt is the Associate University Archivist for Collection Development and Records Management Services at the Harvard University Archive (HUA).  At the HUA, Ginny oversees both the strategic development and implementation of University records policies and curation of the historical collections that make up Harvard’s primary repository of university and personal archives including Harvard faculty papers, university records with long-term historical significance, and other Harvard-related material from the 17th through the 21st centuries.  Prior to this appointment, Ginny was the Assistant Archivist at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Library of Medicine and Curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum.  She has also worked as an archivist and preservation specialist at the Congregational Library in Boston, the Houghton Library and Schlesinger Library at Harvard, and was a consultant for the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board.  Ginny has been involved with SAA in various capacities since 1995, including serving on the Steering Committee and as Chair of the Acquisitions and Appraisal Section (2013-2015), Standards Committee, and is currently serving on the J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award Committee.  In the last 20 years Ginny has written about and presented on ethics and diversity in archival collection development programs, records management and archival appraisal for analog and digital materials, outreach and promotion for college and university archives, and best practices for collection documentation.  She is currently on the faculty of the Society of American Archivists Continuing Education Program where she teaches Fundamentals of Acquisition and Appraisal.  Ginny holds a BA in Communications from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MSLIS from Simmons College and an ALM in Museum Studies from the Harvard University.

Candidate Statement:

I am excited and honored to be submitting my nomination for Steering Committee for the College and University Archives Section of SAA.  As a member of the C&U Section for nearly 25 years, I am well aware of the complicated yet enriching work that college and university archivists and records managers engage in to balance the administrative, legal, cultural, privacy, and historical needs of their home institutions. We provide scholarly resources for researchers studying the disciplines taught, research carried out, and individuals who have inhabited or interacted with our institutions over time.  Having worked in educational and/or C&U archives most of my career, I am passionate about promoting and shining a light on the diverse, rich, and seminal scholarly and historical resources in our institutions’ records.

For the uninitiated, college and university archives are often seen merely through the lens of a home for yearbooks, sports teams photographs, or institutional administrative files.  However, as we know, our collections are so much more, rich and robust with information on local, national, and international history.  College and university archives hold the unique ability to “document the now” as it is happening.  Because our core work is to collect and preserve the records of our educational institutions, at any given time the materials we collect are a reflection of the scientific, political, literary, and intellectual discoveries and innovations that could potentially have a profound impact on the way future citizens may eventually live, work, and understand the world.  Educational institutions are also social microcosms of the larger world we inhabit:  artistic, cultural, and political demonstrations unfolding on campuses become incubators for larger movements leading to changes in national and international policy, laws, societal norms, and social justice. Our ability to connect the information in our own institutions’ documentation and records with unfolding current or near future events allows us to raise awareness that the work we do to collect and preserve our institutions’ collections and records provides unique insight into the foundations of influence on national and global actions that were conceived of at our colleges and universities.

College and university archives are now entering new frontiers: serving as data repositories, homes of massive web archives, platforms for innovative digital projects, and incubators for social justice collections documenting and embracing diversity and inclusiveness reflected in movements and initiatives in which our home institutions are engaging.  C&U archives are also expanding to support community archiving projects to serve as centers for preserving the history and culture of previously undocumented individuals and communities where their institutions are situated, and, as such, providing an important, if not always flattering understanding of the history of the institution and its surrounding community.  All of these reasons exemplify why supporting the work of C&U archivists and their collections are exciting to me.  As a member of the Steering Committee, I would hope to serve our Section membership in exploring these types projects, promoting collaboration within our membership and other Sections with similar diversity or social change initiatives to leverage resources to do this work, and focus on our common goals to better meet the challenges of being an archivist in the 21st  century will entail.

David McCartney


David McCartney, C.A., is the University Archivist at the University of Iowa, a position he has held since 2001. His responsibilities include collection development, description, access, instruction, and preservation, and he serves on a university committee that reviews and continually revises the institution’s records management program. He received a M.A. in history and M.L.S. in library and information science, both from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before returning to his home state of Iowa, David was employed by History Associates in Rockville, Maryland, as an archivist for Montgomery County, Maryland. Prior to that he was a contract employee in the Records Division of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. He is immediate past president of the Midwest Archives Conference and has presented at SAA and AAUP conferences on documenting student activism.

Candidate Statement:

The College and University Archives Section is our hive-mind for professional guidance and insight. It would be a privilege and honor to serve as a member of your Steering Committee.

The Academic Archivist blog, the Section’s annual meeting and associated topic-driven program, and our daily email dispatches are all tools we rely upon for such guidance and insight from our colleagues. Whether we work alone in a small repository or with others in a large organization, or whether we are new to the profession or experienced: All of us benefit from these interactions.

I would look forward to working with the Committee’s leadership and with our Section members to help implement programming that serves our collective needs via these tools. In the COVID-19 pandemic era, I would be particularly open to suggestions which would enhance remote participation and foster conversation specific to challenges presented by the current public health crisis.

Although we serve institutions of higher education with a wide range of missions and purposes, we share common threads of service that include institutional memory, collection development, access, outreach, preservation, and legal concerns. I would be honored to contribute to the Section as a member of the Steering Committee and to help continue its vital work.

Thank you for your consideration.

Elizabeth Scott


Elizabeth Scott is the Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in Pennsylvania where she is responsible for the University Archives and Special Collections, the University Art & Sculpture Collection and the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection. Additionally, part of her job responsibilities also includes librarianship where she provides reference, teaches library instruction sessions, and is a liaison to various academic departments on campus. She holds a B.A. from Dickinson College in history and English, an MLS from University at Albany, SUNY, and is a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists. She is pursuing a second master’s degree in Professional and Digital Media Writing in the English department at ESU.  

She has been a member of SAA for over twenty years and was a recent peer-reviewer for the Teaching with Primary Sources Case Study publication led by the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section of SAA. She has held leadership positions on the Academy of Certified Archivists’ Board and was the Regent for Outreach from 2014-2018. Additionally, she is also involved with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and currently serves as a Member-at-Large. From 2016-2019, she was the Co-Chair of the Communications Committee, served as the Program Committee Co-Chair for the Spring 2019 conference and is serving as a Co-Chair on two task forces.

Candidate Statement:

I am Elizabeth Scott and I am running for a member’s seat on the Steering Committee of SAA’s College & University Archives (C&UA) Section. I am an Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to ESU, I was the Archivist & Records Management Librarian at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Additionally, I have worked as a project archivist in various other academic archives.

One of my research interests is academic archivists and tenure. Last year, my colleagues and I presented at the 2019 SAA conference with a panel presentation entitled “Leading with Tenure and Promotion: Navigating the Dynamics of Power, Research, and Service in the Archives Profession.” I am very interested in continuing research on the tenure-track process for academic archivists in the field.

According to the 2017 WArS-SAA Salary Survey, approximately 39% of archivists and records managers are employed in academic institutions which means there are a lot of us out there! If elected as a Steering member, I see this opportunity as a way to give back to the C&UA section which I have looked to for advice and information and as a way to help advance the agenda of all academic archivists. I would be very interested in helping with the landscape survey of college and university archivists in order to better understand the make-up of our group. Being such a large percentage of archivists, it is important to learn what we are facing in academia with supported data. Having been involved with other organization’s leadership, I would be a dedicated and active member of the Steering Committee. I look forward to the election and thank you for your consideration!

Lisa Stafford


Lisa Stafford is the Special Collections Librarian at Prairie View A&M University; John B. Coleman Library, where her responsibilities include preserving, planning, organizing, managing activities and programs in the Special Collections, as well as supporting and promoting their use. She earned a M.L.I.S. with an Endorsement of Specialization in Legal Informatics and a B.A. in English from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to starting her position at Prairie View A&M University, Lisa worked at Fort Worth Public Library, Verizon Corporation and Spherion.  In addition to her archival work, Lisa served as a Director of Research and an Information Specialist.

Candidate Statement:

I welcome the opportunity to serve and make a difference as a member of the Steering Committee of the SAA College and University Archives Section.  Over the past year, I have welcomed the Section’s inspiration and guidance, especially during the COVID-19 global health crisis, on how to advocate, preserve and apply best practices as we move forward into the future.  It will be imperative in the new economy to be united and to employ activism for our profession and our collections and identify on our campuses those archives that continue to support the mission and vision of our institutions.  I believe strongly that the College and University Archives Section brings together a community of practitioners with a singular goal:  to promote the exchange of ideas and provide opportunities and encourage professional growth among its member. I am committed to give back to this Section by serving on the Steering Committee.  I would actively advocate for and listen to our member’s interests and needs and help develop innovative programming and resources in support of College and University Archives Section’s mission as a member of the Steering Committee.  I would be humbled and honored to be selected as a Steering Committee member and promote collaboration among all members.  I would very much appreciate your vote!  Thank you for your consideration!

Sandra Varry


Sandra Varry is the Heritage & University Archivist at Florida State University where she collects, manages, and provides access to FSU’s archive and manages its Heritage Museum. She holds an MFA in Photography from UNC at Chapel Hill, and an MLIS from the University of South Florida,  and is an Associate University Librarian at FSU. She became a Certified Archivist in 2013, a Digital Archives Specialist in 2014, and attended the Archives Leadership Institute in 2015.  Sandra is currently the Immediate Past Chair of the Visual Materials Section of SAA, and a past President of the Society of Florida Archivists (SFA). She has also served as a founding member and later chair of the College & University Archives Section of SFA. She taught traditional and digital photography for before becoming a full time archivist, specializing in historic photograph collections.

Candidate Statement:

I look forward to the opportunity to serve on the Steering Committee of the College & University Archives Section. My current interests lie in the complexities of campus histories and building inclusive archives, salary advocacy, and the preservation and accessibility of visual materials. I am especially interested in the section’s plan to conduct a survey on college and university archivists to better understand the landscape of our profession. These topics are as important as ever given current world events, and our ability to leverage our knowledge and skills as archivists will inform our professional work into the future. I feel strongly that we have to be diligent in exploring ways to increase engagement in the profession by creating inclusive opportunities for all of our members. In a time when the travel and funding are in question, and the demands on our time are increasing we must better address the needs of our colleagues. As a long time member of the section I have found it an invaluable resource in navigating the challenges of institutional archives. My career in academia has spanned just over twenty years, with the last ten in university archives. In parallel I have participated in state and national professional associations because I believe it is essential both to contribute to the profession and continue to learn from the diverse perspectives and experiences of those in our field. I would love to continue to be of service as a member of the C&UA Steering Committee.

COVID-19 Work Continues: A Behind-the-Scenes Perspective

undefinedAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to effect people across the world, archivists continue to find ways to collect stories and document this unprecedented and historical event. For the past few months, there’s been a lot of public facing outreach work happening at many archival repositories and other cultural heritage organizations and institutions. This public facing work and development of projects would not be possible without all the efforts of many who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to create and implement documentation, questionnaires, web pages, and collection tools to ensure this pandemic is part of the historical narrative. For this blog post we interviewed Cat Phan, Digital and Media Archivist at the UW-Madison, to learn more about her work related to the UW-Madison Archives’ Documenting COVID-19 Project.

Cat Phan (she/her) has been the Digital and Media Archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison University Archives since December 2016. She is responsible for caring for and managing the image and audiovisual collections of the Archives and leading the development of the born-digital archiving program.

How has COVID-19 affected your work and lifestyle?

Like many others, I’ve been at home these several weeks and fortunately, have been able to work from home. It’s been an adjustment for sure, setting up a home office where there is none, creating new routines to manage work and home life in the same space, trying to focus on work while so much uncertainty looms. Lots of my work continues remotely although a lot of projects and general work have been put on pause without access to our physical collections. But I’m grateful for a supportive workplace and colleagues.

Are you able to maintain any level of normalcy related to work or home? If so, what does that look like for you?

One of the best new routines of my “normal” work day is checking in with my co-workers daily at the beginning of the day. It’s been nice to see their faces and chatting — about work or otherwise — to maintain some of that social work environment even if it’s not quite the same as seeing each other face to face.

Can you tell us about what role you see archivists, specifically digital and media archivists/electronic records archivists, etc., playing during this global pandemic?

It’s so unusual to have this shared upending experience that continues on for such a long time and archivists are seeing this opportunity to capture these experiences in the moment. Outside of those with whom we are at home, our interactions with each other are primarily digital. In addition, many of the ways in which we document ourselves, the artifacts we leave behind that say something about us are now digital – video chats, text messaging, social media, digital photographs and videos, etc. The skills that digital archivists have developed to understand and capture digital information and records are definitely being put to use as we work to document the pandemic.

In early April, UW-Madison Archives launched the Documenting COVID-19 Project. What was your role in the early stages of the project?

We were fortunate to have good models out of the gate ahead of us to follow. I can’t give enough credit to Katie Howell at UNC Charlotte and the other archivists who worked quickly to start documenting the COVID-19 experiences in their communities. After reviewing other similar projects, I set up a web page and a Google form to collect submissions, heavily based on models from other institutions. Working with my Archives colleagues and the UW-Madison Libraries communications staff, we then created an outreach plan to announce and continue to spread the word about the project to our university community.

Walk us through the documentation you created, the tools you used, other examples you consulted, and how long everything took to prepare to publicize the project.

In addition to UNC Charlotte’s project website, we did a quick search to see what other institutions — including which of our Big Ten Academic Alliance colleagues — had also launched a project. Along with UNC Charlotte, we also ended up modeling ours on Michigan State University’s project as well. After consulting these early projects, we followed their lead and set up a web page as a home base for the project explaining the goals and how to participate. We then also set up a simple Google Form to collect the submissions. Google has a question option that allows users to upload files as long as they log in with a Google account — a fine option for us as the UW-Madison is a Google Apps campus. The Google Form can create a Google spreadsheet with all responses and the uploaded files get saved to a separate directory that Google creates. I have a student who is downloading submissions to our local network drive on a regular schedule. It took us about two weeks from initial discussion to launch, working on this maybe a couple times a week. Most of this was working through the various options and decision points (e.g. copyright implications, tools to use, etc.). Once we decided on our plan, it was very quick to implement.

What challenges and support did you receive during the creation and development process?

Our entire archives team helped advise on various decision points, for example our Head of the Oral History Program, Troy Reeves, and the University Records Officer, Sarah Grimm, aided in crafting the release form and putting together our questionnaire prompts. I relied heavily on Katie Nash, our University Archivist, and our Libraries’ communication team, Natasha Veeser and Jari Xiong, to advise and work out the outreach plan and we continue to do so as the pandemic continues to affect our community. Many others across the UW-Madison Libraries and across campus — liaison librarians, our partners in the multicultural centers and more — have been key to helping us spread the word.

Did any past experience prepare you for this moment and type of work involved?

I’ve never put together an open online submission form like this so that’s been exciting. I can see various other ways to use this for archives donations. My work on our standard born-digital acquisitions was helpful in thinking through the agreements we would need to require and the types of files likely to be received. My colleagues’ work for the Oral History Program (release forms!), electronic records management, and working with our copyright expert in our campus legal department on various forms in the past really gave us good grounding for putting this together as well.

Do you have any ideas for other types of documentation archives can create (besides forms, surveys, questionnaires, etc.) to capture COVID-19 experiences and stories?

I’ve been seeing lots of really creative prompts to help people engage in reflection and documentation which doesn’t come too easy for everyone. Two of my recent favorites are from cartoonists with links to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 2017 UW-Madison PhD in Curriculum and Instruction graduate Ebony Flowers’s “My Last Encounter with Pandemic Parenting,” and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity in the Art Department Lynda Barry’s “Documenting All the Small Things That Are Easily Lost” both appear in the New York Times Diary Project series, “An assignment for all of us to help capture an extraordinary time.” Not that archives should start hiring cartoonists (though wouldn’t that be wonderful) but this type of thing could be useful in archives outreach work that’s about helping the community start to think of themselves as historical subjects and creating documentation about their experiences.

What are some lessons you’ve learned so far? Is there anything you would do differently or recommend for other Archivists/repositories when trying to do something similar?

One of the things I keep thinking about as this experience continues on for all of us is if, how, and when to remind people of the project and encourage participation.  When is it good to say here is a way you have to make your voice heard and your story remembered and when do people just need the space to experience what they’re experiencing?

Anything else you’d like to say? 

Hope everyone takes care and stays well!