I Spy: A glimpse into the Stasi Museum and Stasi Records Agency in Berlin, Germany

By India Spartz

In June 2017, I joined faculty from Union College on a study tour of Berlin, Germany. We attended lectures about global issues, sustainability and human rights. This included visiting numerous sites in East Berlin, including the Stasi Museum and the Stasi Records Agency.

Stasi background
The Stasi, or the East German Ministry for State Security or Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), operated from 1950-1989 and served as the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as the DDR. This secret police organization included professional officers and a network of citizen informants (Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IMs) who actively surveilled and documented the lives of East German people. Many IMs were former resistance fighters who were blackmailed by the Stasi to spy on their own family and friends.


STasi Entrance
The Stasi Museum entrance in Berlin, Germany. Image courtesy the author.

The Stasi Museum
We started our tour at the Stasi Museum, which is situated inside the former Stasi headquarters building and compound. The museum retains much of the original 1960’s décor and once inside, visitors get a sense of what it might have felt like to visit Stasi headquarters in the Cold War era. The focus of the Stasi Museum is to address the question of ‘how the Socialist Unity Party (SED) managed to keep millions of people in East Germany under control for forty years.’ Educational exhibits and guided tours reveal methods of Stasi atrocities around espionage and surveillance through special cameras, bugs, burglar’s tools, and devices that secretly opened letters.

The Stasi Museum foyer allows groups to gather and learn about the Stasi surveillance apparatus, designed to control the people of East Germany.


The Stasi Records Agency
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the East German regime went with it. Although the Stasi dissolved in January 1990, it was between these two events that Stasi authorities ordered the destruction of thousands of personal files that had been gathered by surveillance and informants. The Stasi packed bundles of files into large paper sacks and shipped them to nearby incinerators and shredding plants.

East German citizens protesting the removal of Stasi archival records, January 1990. Courtesy of Bundesarchiv Bild, 183-1990-0116-01

Concerned East German citizens witnessed these activities and began protesting the removal or destruction of the files. This act of defiance was an important step for many East German residents to collectively resist the authoritarian DDR dictatorship that had controlled them for more than four decades. This resistance led to the passage of the Stasi Records Act of December 1991, which created the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records or the Stasi Records Agency (BStU) to safeguard and preserve the files for the public. By 1992, East Germans could apply to view their own files for the first time ever. Although the files are restricted, researchers may apply to the BStU for access. In addition, scholars and journalists may use them to study the history of the DDR.


The Stasi Records Agency archive facility

Susan Ludke, Chief Information Officer at the BStU at the Stasi Archives. Image courtesy the author.

The Stasi Records Agency archive is also located inside the former Stasi compound. We entered the facility through an innocuous basement door located next to a parking lot. Guided by two BStU employees, including Susan Ludke, Chief Information Officer, we were escorted through a narrow hallway onto a secure elevator that took us to an archives research room containing thousands of typed 5×7 index cards.

The index cards show categories such as name, date of birth, education, occupation, surveillance officer along with notes reporting illicit activities. A file number is stamped at the top and a handwritten archive number is listed separately. Because the Stasi files contain personal information, researchers are required to apply to the BStU beforehand to access the files.



The index cards show categories such as name, date of birth, education, occupation, surveillance officer along with notes reporting elicit activities. A file number is stamped at the top and a handwritten archive number is listed separately. Because the Stasi files contain personal information, researchers are required to apply to the BStU beforehand to access the files. Image courtesy the author.

Preservation and storage

The Stasi files are kept in original folders (non-archival) and organized by file number. Image courtesy the author.

After we saw the research room, the group was taken via an elevator to a large, secured climate-controlled room filled with files sitting on rows of compact shelving.

An exhibit in the stacks described efforts of citizen activists to rescue many documents shredded by the Stasi. Bags of shredded documents have been preserved with hopes of restoring these documents in the future.


An exhibit in the stacks described efforts of citizen activists to rescue many documents shredded by the Stasi. Bags of shredded documents have been preserved with hopes of restoring these documents in the future. Image courtesy the author.

After the tour I wondered why I found the Stasi Museum and Stasi Records Agency so fascinating and significant in the unification of Germany. Yes, it demonstrates the madness of massive spy operations and espionage in authoritarian regimes. But I was also struck by the power of citizen activists to save the archive from destruction. These efforts prompted a unified German government to pass legislation that ensured the Stasi files would be preserved for future generations. As an archivist, I’m moved by the power of the people to transform and save such an archive. They took an archive born of a dictatorship and transformed it into a valued public resource that is helping Germany heal its painful past.

For information about the Stasi Museums see: www.stasimuseum.de

For information about the Federal Commission for Stasi Records see: http://www.bstu.bund.de/EN/Home/home_node.html.

India is the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Union College in Schenectady, NY. She holds an B.A. from the University of Alaska (her home state), MLIS from UC Berkeley, and M.A. in Museum Studies from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She’s a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and serves on SAA’s College & University Archives Steering Committee.


Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

A Common Video Preservation Scenario: A researcher requests a copy of a show held in your special collections. It’s a university production from the 1970s, a unique recording on ¾” tape. This tape is an “at-risk” item, because the inherent vulnerabilities of magnetic based media. What do you do? Do you send it out to a vendor, or do you digitize the tape in-house? Where possible, it’s best to digitize at-risk items in-house. It’s faster, it’s more economical over the long-term, and you can maintain your own quality-control standards.

Source: Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

Archiving the Aftermath of a Tragedy: Preserving Expressions of Condolence and Humanity

by Georgette Mayo

Card: “Prisoners in Solidarity Are With … Mother Emanuel 9.” Photograph by author.

The horrific tragedy which took the lives of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Charleston, South Carolina) parishioners and adversely affected five witness survivors on June 17, 2015 shook the world. Individuals, families, organizations, members of all denominations, and even the incarcerated have reached out to the victims’ families, survivors, and congregants to express their sympathy. Tangible evidence is continuously sent in the form of cards, letters, flowers, posters, paintings, books, art work, quilts, and prayer shawls express an outpouring of love, concern, and sympathy.

Members of the Charleston Archives, Libraries, and Museums (better known as CALM), volunteered their time and archival skills to organize, relocate, and inventory the numerous gifts.    A Memorabilia Subcommittee was established to define a collection policy and processing procedures. CALM’s mission in part is to “preserve the history of the moment for the future, help tell the story to others and through the use of the collection, contribute to building a better, stronger, more united community.”

The first task was the maintenance of the temporary public-initiated memorial outside “Mother Emmanuel.”  CALM members worked on a daily rotation basis to remove gifts of stuffed animals, posters, candle, balloons, Sweetgrass roses, and fresh, and artificial flowers. Days of torrential rain with flooding presented constant challenges in retrieving and preserving items, many of which sustained damage.  The large shrine which spanned the length of the church was discontinued two months later due to upkeep and time constraints.

Love Letter
Quilt: “A Love Letter from Dallas to Charleston.” Photograph by author.

The second ongoing task was to sort and catalog the countless cards, letters, emails, textiles, and artwork sent in the mail. The City of Charleston provided two rooms at the Saint Julian Devine Community Center, an after-school children’s facility, for provisional storage of the donations. One room, holding cards and letters, along with 400 shawls and quilts, comprised 1,000 feet of space.  Artwork and large memorabilia were contained in the second room.  Prior to inventorying, CALM members researched various collection policies and best practices of sites of massive tragedy, including Sandy Hook Elementary and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Our volunteerism commenced in the evenings after our daily archival positions.  We divided duties with one group processing the correspondence and another working with the shawls and quilts. The abundance of prayer shawls received was mostly made by church “Shawl Ministries.” We indicated the measurements of the piece, fiber content (wool blend or acrylic), design type (knit or crochet), and donor name, if indicated.  The article was photographed and the information was saved on a computer database.  Cards and letters were individually noted on the database with sender and date. The final step was packaging items in archival acid free boxes and labeling for long term storage. When the donations outgrew the Center, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston donated temporary space for the expanded holdings. Considering the future, the Mother Emanuel desires a permanent location with a professional archivist to maintain their collection. Naturally, adequate and ongoing funding will be needed for the Church to fulfill its goals.

Mother Emanuel commemorated the first anniversary in 2016 by displaying a small temporary exhibit of prayer quilts in a City of Charleston building located close to the Church. This year, the Church, with the assistance of Brockington and Associates, a cultural resources consulting firm, installed “The Light of Hope,” an expanded exhibition incorporating memorabilia and various portraits of the Emanuel Nine.

Lessons learned:  It is crucial to understand and provide the family members, parishioners, and members of the clergy time and space to decide how and when they want to handle their donations. In times of grief, it is challenging to make decisions, much less rational ones. If anything, we realized the virtue of patience and sensitivity.

While CALM members organized and inventoried the initial massive amount of Mother Emanuel’s donations with the goal to preserve history, it is ultimately the Church’s decision to do as they want with the materials.   The Avery Research Center, along with numerous and vested repositories in and around Charleston are capturing images and documents from the days, months, and years that followed this tragedy.  One example is the online digital exhibit: “A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel Church,” which highlights the outpouring of expressions of condolences locally and worldwide.

The Emanuel Nine:  DePayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman Singleton and Myra Thompson.

Georgette Mayo is currently the Processing Archivist for the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. She received her BA in African American Studies (Phi Beta Kappa) and master’s degrees in Library Science and Public History, with a concentration in Archival Management from the University of South Carolina.

From the Chair

Hello Members,

The C&UA Steering Committee is excited to see many of you next week in Portland.  In the meantime, I write with some important news and updates from the Steering Committee: 

Election results are in.
We had an impressive and robust ballot, which is a real testament to the strength of the section. Congratulations to the following individuals who were elected:

Vice Chair/Chair-Elect: Ellen Engseth
Steering Committee: Christy Fic, Tracy Jackson

Also, a big thank you to all the candidates. We really appreciate your willingness to serve.

The section also passed the proposed changes to the standing rules.

I also want to thank Carrie Daniels and Benn Joseph, this year’s nominating committee.  Carrie, Benn, and Cynthia Ghering will all be rotating off the steering committee and have each contributed a great deal of time and energy to the section, so please join me in thanking them for their service.

Annual Meeting reminders
Please plan to join us for the C&UA Section Meeting on Friday, July 28 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm in Room Oregon BR 201 of the Oregon Convention Center.

We will dedicate the majority of the meeting to an interactive and facilitated discussion about faculty papers, a topic relevant to almost all of us.

I’d like to thank in advance our facilitators for this discussion, Dainan Skeem, Cory Nimer, Ruth Bryan, Christine Weideman, and Amy Allen.  All have contributed thought-provoking blog posts to the Academic Archivist about aspects of faculty papers.  Before attending our meeting, please take a moment to read these posts, as well as to reflect on your own experiences working with faculty papers. We hope the session will be as participatory and inclusive as possible, so come prepared with questions and comments to share.

To get you started, here is a preview of the questions the facilitators will help us tackle:

  • Why a policy? (Christine)
  • Is the policy meant to document the institution or the faculty member? (Cory)
  • Does it allow for both proactive and reactive collecting? (Dainan)
  • How a records schedule helps (or doesn’t help) as an appraisal tool (Ruth)
  • How to maintain donor relations after saying “no” to a potential donation (Amy)

C&UA Custom Calendar for SAA
Finally, to help highlight SAA meeting activities directly related to academic archivists, the C&UA steering committee has put together a custom calendar.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  There are many other great sessions that touch on, relate to, or impact our work. The custom calendar is only meant to be a place to start for those interested in academic archives.

I hope those of you who can attend SAA have a great time in Portland. Safe travels to all, and I look forward to seeing many of you at our section meeting.

All best,

Kat Stefko is Director of Special Collections & Archives at Bowdoin College and current chair of the College & University Archives Section of SAA. She has held library and archives positions at Duke and Harvard universities, Bates College, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Reflections of a Department Head

By Christina Zamon

Providing feedback at a staff meeting at Georgia State University. Photo courtesy the author.

One year ago I accepted the position of the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Georgia State University. Although the title was similar to the one I held at the time, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Emerson College, the differences in duties and responsibilities were vast. Emerson College is a small liberal arts college in Boston with a total student body of 4,100 and two satellite locations, while Georgia State University is an R1 research institution boasting 52,000 students and six campuses. At Emerson College, I started as a lone arranger for six of my nine years there, but gained two staff employees and a student worker by the time I left. However, we were all considered staff in the Archives and Special Collections department. At Georgia State University, I am a non-tenured faculty member, my six direct reports are also faculty; I supervise an additional five staff employees and a multitude of student workers, GRAs, interns, and volunteers. Despite being well aware of the differences not only in the institutions and regional culture, I was most nervous about taking that leap from big fish in a small pond to becoming a tiny fish in a very large ocean. How was I going to be successful making such a big leap?

Upon reflection on this last year I found that I have used the following keys to success.

  1. Know your limits. I find this one difficult sometimes but I have gotten better over the years and learned this lesson the hard way being a “lone arranger” for many years. I came into a department that needed a total refresh in many aspects and in my quest to prove my worth jumped headlong into many new projects and initiatives. I had to work to both slow myself down and manage this self-imposed workload in conjunction with my daily administrative duties.
  2. Relate to Your Employees. One thing that has helped me tremendously is my ability to relate to my faculty and staff. As I came up through the profession I held many of the positions that my faculty and staff currently hold. When talking to them about performance, initiatives, goals, etc. I use my experience to relate to their daily workload and any issues or struggles they may have. Sometimes they just need to be reassured that the task at hand is not impossible or that you really do understand the issue they are facing. This provides them with confidence in your leadership and helps you both to push past any barriers.
  3. Make Your Expectations Clear. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This also goes back to the issue of confidence and trust in your leadership ability. It is difficult but you need to hold yourself accountable for what you say to your employees. If you say, “we are going to take on x initiative,” then make sure that you set the wheels in motion and work with everyone on your team to complete the task. Be sure to do the same when speaking on an individual level about performance issues or goals.
  4. Include Everyone. Every department has one or more employees that are not the greatest team players, those who say “why can’t we just do it the way we’ve always done it?”, or“it works fine the way it is, why do we need to change it?” This can be frustrating but sometimes the employee(s) aren’t always wrong. Drastic change may not be needed, and instead you may just need to tweak it, or even should leave it alone. The most important thing is to listen to those folks and find a way to either incorporate their ideas or help them to adjust to the changes. Steamrolling through doesn’t address the underlying issues, and only creates more problems down the line.
  5. Make Friends with Building/Facilities Managers. This has always been a critical relationship in any archival facility, but it is just as critical if not more critical as the head of the department. Although your employees may have established connections, it is best that you establish your own relationships, particularly at higher levels. This is essential not only for the maintenance of your own spaces and facilities, but also when it comes to organizing events and activities across a campus or campuses.
  6. Look at Every Challenge as an Opportunity. This one can be very difficult but it has always paid off for me. If an employee leaves, whether they were your best or worst employee, this gives you an opportunity to review and restructure the position if necessary. It may even give you the opportunity to restructure the department. That leak or flood that just waterlogged 12 boxes of records? Maybe this gives you some leverage in getting a new space or takes care of the quarantined records because now insurance will pay for the document cleaning.
  7. Create Documentation. As archivists, we know how important documentation is, but sometimes we forget how important it is in the administration of our own departments. I have instituted quarterly reviews for my employees for two reasons. First, it forces us to sit down and review their progress on a quarterly basis rather than once or twice a year. Second, it allows the employees to reflect on the last three months and to keep track of their own progress. By collecting these quarterly reviews over the course of the year, it is much easier for your employees to hold themselves accountable for their goals and remember all of the things that they have done over the course of the year. It also helps you to write a more accurate annual review without the extra effort. Documenting your own work helps you to hold yourself accountable for your actions (or inaction).
  8. Keep It Fun and Say Thanks. We do serious work but we can’t always take ourselves so seriously. I try to reward my employees with something fun every once in a while just to boost morale. This doesn’t mean going all out and spending tons of money. Simple gestures such as providing coffee and donuts one day, or taking an hour or two on a quiet day before a holiday to watch a movie (archives appropriate, of course!). Creating a positive and collegial atmosphere goes a long way to improving morale and productivity.
  9. Understand What Your Employees Do. This is similar to what I wrote under “relatability,” but in this case, keep on top of current trends in the archives world.  Just because you are a manager doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to do the daily work of an archivist. Archives in the 21st century are rapidly changing due to changes in technology and laws. There is a lot to keep up on and you need to be responsible for understanding the latest trends and the ins and outs of how a variety of processes work. If you don’t understand them then how can you truly measure the success and progress of your employees who are engaged with or should be engaged with the latest developments in the field?
  10. Take Time for Yourself. We all have weeks where we get so wrapped up in our work that we fail to take time out for ourselves. Find something that will take your mind away from work on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. Maybe take a day trip, or even a day to do something that you’ve always wanted to do that is non-archives related. I schedule a day off once every other month and plan an activity with one of my children so that I can get some one-on-one time with each of them, and do an activity they like to do and don’t have to share with a sibling.  It gives me some time off and it provides them with a lifelong memory.

Of course there are other key elements that are necessary to the job. The usual suspects such as time management, personnel management, and budgeting, but these are all expected skills of management and the things we learn about in school or management seminars. I hope that what I have shared here will inspire confidence in those seeking management positions and for those who may be managers who would like to look beyond the textbooks. I would love to hear your comments. What makes you a successful manager?

Christina Zamon is the Head of Special Collections and University Archives at Georgia State University, a position she has held since September 2016. Prior to that time, she served as Head of Archives and Special Collections at Emerson College. She is the author of The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository. She is currently a member of the College and University Archives Section’s Steering Committee and previously served as chair of the section (2014-2015).

Historically Yours: A Love Letter to Manuscripts as a Podcast from the Archives

By Colleen Theisen

Microphone, photo by Ernest Duffoo.

With the enormous explosion of podcasts following the breakout success of Serial (2014-2016), many archives and special collections are turning to audio to give the space for extended storytelling and highlighting the work of their archivists, curators, and faculty.

This is not that story.

Iterative Process Creates a Podcast:
Historically Yours, the podcast from Special Collections at the University of Iowa took more than two years to create, as we tested versions of the idea, adapted them, tested them again, and adapted them. The central question guiding the process was: What do we do with manuscripts in social media spaces?

Special Collections at the University of Iowa has had a robust social media presence for more than five years. However, social media feeds inspire a certain type of interaction with content that privileges quick connection to visual material as it scrolls by in a feed leading to a heavier reliance on photography and rare books. Both are visual and have interesting aspects that can be grasped and understood quickly in a feed with minimal description. That fits the format of most social media feeds, and also the staff time required to produce content for the feeds quickly.

Presenting about The University of Iowa Special Collections’ social media outreach at the Midwest Archives Conference in 2014, I was asked an important question in the Q&A: What about manuscripts? In a quick scrolling feed, one manuscript can look like any other manuscript. I did not have an answer at the time: Manuscripts are harder. The compelling and addictive aspects of historic research are contained in the question, the quest, and the connections: The context. Context is something a rapidly scrolling social media feed does not well support. Context takes time to develop and time to deliver.

So I set out to solve that problem: What would be a format that would support just enough context and personality to really bring a historic document to life, but without being so overwhelming that it might be repeatable and sustainable?

My first answer to that question was a pilot video project called “History Out Loud” featuring a miscellaneous manuscript letter collection in Special Collections that I had always wanted to feature in some way. The MsL collection has thousands of individual letters with no collection and no context. Thinking of our fast social media posts, I determined that the equivalent of an Instagram post with a manuscript letter would be a video of a person reading the letter out loud. We piloted this video project with a test run of five short videos.  

In reviewing the footage, what became clear to me was that the visuals were getting in the way. Watching a person, their posture, the set around them, and even their facial expressions were not adding to the experience of hearing the letter, but rather were taking away from it – distracting from it. It was easier to pay attention to the letter as audio alone. The content was telling us that it wanted to be a podcast.

Then came Serial in October of 2014. A podcast entered into American popular culture to such an extent that it garnered a parody sketch on Saturday Night Live in December of that year.

With the recent explosion of interest in podcasts, I started expanding my own listening beyond the few radio-based formats I had traditionally consumed. In particular, recent humanities podcasts have been inventing new storytelling formats. Armed with knowledge, the concept grew and changed. Instead of one reader, inspired by The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, I added a guest to read the letter and took on the role of host. Dear Hank and John provided a format for adding theme music, a quote about letter writing, and a tagline. The project grew from, “Let’s read a historic letter” to being inspired by the question: “What can we learn from just one letter?” It changed from promoting a letter, a single historic document, to being an exploration about letter writing past and present, and the spark of inspiration that makes historic research so compelling, with our staff and guests’ full personalities and passions included. With that shift in focus, the name “History Out Loud” no longer captured its essence and we switched to “Historically Yours.”

With the format set, we were poised to record and discover all the problems and challenges recording in the library.

What you need to know about file storage:
The mass familiarity of sites like YouTube for video makes it seem like it should be possible when making a podcast to simply choose a site, upload files and go. However, unlike YouTube, podcast distribution sites like iTunes do not store files but only make them available via RSS feed from hosting site. The actual files need to be stored somewhere, and most of the file hosting options are not free, or have enticing free options that in the end only allow enough storage and bandwidth for a few episodes to be stored at a time. Archive.org can be used for free (and provides a tutorial). However, paying for a service gives you access to analytics. Historically Yours is hosted on Podbean.com and Podbean also offers step by step explanations of what resolution and formats your image and sound files should be to properly connect with iTunes, which was very helpful. Other options include Soundcloud and Libsyn. Soundcloud and Libsyn both have an entry-level tier with analytics for $7/month. However, Podbean.com had a tier for just $32/year while still including analytics, so I chose Podbean.

It is important to think of these sites like a storage locker. As Dana Gerber-Margie pointed out in her talk at the Midwest Archives Conference in 2017, the files can be deleted and lost the moment you fail to pay. The site does not and will not back up your files so archiving your work needs to happen at your institution.

None of the hosting sites are able to generate an invoice, so working with your institution to find a solution for paying might be a place where the process can stall.

Equipment & Editing:
It took us six months of trying every piece of equipment in every closet and adjusting to come up with the right combination of equipment and location to get good sound and move on with the project.


  • Quiet place to record (HVAC hum will also be audible)
  • Recording device (Cell phone, Zoom H4N Recorder, computer)
  • Microphone (Will need omnidirectional microphone if recording with one mic and two people)
  • Computer for editing
  • Program for editing (Audacity or Audition)


Zoom H4N recorder.

In the end, our sound solution was to treat the podcast like an oral history. The Zoom H4N recorder we use for recording oral histories (~$150) doubles as a podcast recorder. We tested many USB microphone solutions and even cell phone microphones, but the Zoom was the best at picking up two voices. We are able to set it in between us, hit record, and go. Other set ups required us to find an omni-directional microphone in order for it to be pointing at two people in two directions. We are not audio engineers! It was tricky to get the sound right. The Zoom solved our audio issues.


For editing, we use Audacity, which is free to download. There are great tutorials online, which are needed because the buttons are not clear. I picked it up from tutorials and was editing in 15 minutes, but it did require a tutorial to explain what the minimally marked buttons meant. At first the episodes took an hour to edit, but they get faster each time.


Historically Yours
Thumbnail logo for Historically Yours.

Get a designer:
There is an important and obvious step that I missed along the way: You will need a thumbnail and a header image for your podcast. The thumbnail is very important in inspiring people to listen to your podcast, so do not skimp on this step. I started a Twitter, Facebook, and blog for the podcast as well so the thumbnail and header image had to be resized and reformatted for each site. This took a good deal of time and should be factored into the schedule. I did not have access to a designer so our team worked with Canva, the online graphic design software, to create the thumbnail and headers.


Sharing the RSS feed:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 9.26.47 AM
View of the Historically Yours feed in iTunes.

Once you have your perfect first episode and design and you have paid for a hosting site, and put it together, there is another step before fully launching your podcast. Once our Podbean site was set, I submitted the feed to iTunes and it took us two days before our RSS feed was approved. If you have announced a specific date that your podcast will launch, this could slow down the process. You may need to upload your files to your hosting site, submit the feed to iTunes, wait for approval, and then fully roll out the advertising for your podcast when it has been approved by the various podcast sites.


Results/What We’ve Learned:
So far Historically Yours has five published episodes and is averaging 100 downloads per episode. The highest number of downloads always comes on the first day. That first day download number has increased with each episode, so the podcast is growing a healthy base community.

In each episode of Historically Yours, we call on our community to help us out with the research. From the very first episode we had a listener inspired to do a bit of historic research about the letter and we received a listener response (via email) about the results of their searching, identifying more information about the theater fire described in the letter. For the next episode, I will read user feedback letters on the air and we expect the user connection and response letters to increase as soon as they are read on the air.

The podcast gives a chance to feature our staff and graduate student as real idiosyncratic passionate people who love research, and seems to be inspiring responses from like-minded passionate history nerds. It seems the perfect method to reduce fear of the institution or the professionals by connecting with and inspiring new users.

The steps to make a podcast are not all that difficult, but like any creative work the end result is improved by testing, critiquing, and changing. If you have the space to invest in the concept in bursts without a tight timeline you can troubleshoot the process along the way, learn from those who have gone before, and create a really meaningful way to connect with our users.


  • Finding a quiet place to record was our biggest challenge. Have your recording location identified (and tested) before proceeding far. Between HVAC banging, construction, door slams, and interruptions, many locations may not be feasible.
  • Give your podcast a home on your blog as well. We post a transcription of the letter we are reading each episode to our blog along with an image of the letter.
  • Our followers asked for the RSS feed to be added to: iTunes, Pocket Casts, and Stitcher, as well as its home on Podbean.
  • It might be good to upload three episodes at once to start with, especially for a short podcast – having several episodes to binge at once can build a fan.
  • If you are using a single microphone and one person’s voice is deeper or quieter, put the microphone closer to them.
  • Get multiple memory cards and a card reader.
  • People trying out the podcast will listen to the first episode. Over time, episode one will have the most downloads and will be the most important. It’s your commercial. Do your best to get episode one right.

Historically Yours:
Historically Yours is asking the question: What can you learn from just one letter?

Host: Colleen Theisen
Guests: Staff, graduate students, faculty, and friends.
Theme music: Will Riordan
Editing: Colleen Theisen and Farah Boules

As we say on the podcast – DON’T FORGET TO WRITE!

Colleen Theisen is the Outreach & Engagement Librarian for Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries, where she coordinates social media, including a Tumblr named “New and Notable” by Tumblr in 2013, the YouTube channel, “Staxpeditions,” and the podcast “Historically Yours.” She started her career as a high school art teacher and completed her Master of Science in Information in 2011 at the University of Michigan School of Information. In 2015 she was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. She’s on  Twitter @libralthinking.

July Twitter Chat: College & University Archives

We are excited about our upcoming Twitter chat on appraising faculty papers with the Acquisitions and Appraisal Section on Thursday, July 13th – 4:00 pm Pacific/ 5:00 Mountain/ 6:00 Central/ 7:00 Eastern. Follow #AppraiseThis or the Section handles @AppraisalSAA + @AcademArchivist and don’t forget our special series on this topic in preparation for the section meeting later this month.

Assigning Value

On Thursday, July 13th we will be co-hosting a joint Twitter chat with the College & University Archives Section team. The C&UA Section has organized a panel presentation focusing on appraising faculty papers for the SAA Annual Meeting in Portland. Over on their blog, The Academic Archivist, a series of articles on this topic is also part of a lead up to the panel.

The Acquisitions & Appraisal Section is pleased to announce this partnership with C&AU for our next Twitter chat and we look forward to tweeting about appraisal practices in academic archives!

Follow #AppraiseThis or the Section handles @AppraisalSAA + @AcademArchivist

Thursday, July 13th  4:00 pm Pacific/ 5:00 Mountain/ 6:00 Central/ 7:00 Eastern

Chat Questions:

  1. How does the appraisal of faculty papers differ from the appraisal of other types of personal archives?
  2. Does your institution’s academic mission affect your appraisal decisions?
  3. What appraisal criteria…

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