“Leveraging the power of the past” this session was entitled, and promised to describe how to use archival collections and services to directly (and obviously) benefit their holding institutions — basically, how to prove that the archives are worthwhile.
First, Jim Burant spoke about LAC:
~ has a multiplicity of stakeholders: primarily the Government of Canada itself
~ Archives had a mandate as a museum until 1966, as library until 1953. When those roles were eliminated, it began taking a more important role in managing government records, including microfilming.
~ because there are so many different stakeholders (gov’t, citizens, various other groups) there’s a challenge in trying to serve many different people with different needs simultaneously.
~ thus, a concentration on website, education. Events and anniversaries are targeted.
Jean Elliott from J.P. Morgan Chase archives:
~ small archives has survived through a large number of mergers and other changes in administrative structure
~ self-marketing and education is a constant process, taking up much of the time.
~ in industry, the most important benchmark is customer service: by allowing the corporation to improve its customer service using archival material, the archives can conclusively justify their existence.
~ important to describe services rather than resources: while the instinct may be to talk about extent of holdings, and that other stuff that tends to be exciting for archivists, it won’t have nearly as great an impact as addressing what the archives can actually do.
~ this organization has put a lot of work into exhibits, brochures, and the like which can be shown off to clients.
~ important to keep records of all this sort of work, so it can be used as a portfolio later. Take photos of exhibits, etc.
~ this institution also had success with creating replicas of artefacts to be given as gifts, reproducing photographs as note cards, and giving interviews in the media.
Questions (most of which were specific):
How to deal with marketing, etc, when you’ve got little training or specialization in it?
~ Important to build teams, reach out to allies, take responsibility.
How to balance self-marketing with actual archival work?
~ In this case, a high priority is given to marketing. Though depends on the situation.
How are reproductions/exhibits/displays paid for?
~ In this case, paid for by the department that benefits from them.
I found the second presentation to be fascinating in terms of remarkable successes. However, I’m not sure how many of the projects discussed would be applicable in other situations, such as a non-profit organization like the one I work for currently.
The notion of selling the benefits of an archives programme, though, seems to be fairly widely applicable. I’ve already had some experience with this: by doing something as simple as sorting the big box o’ photographs by approximate decade, I was able to give a reasonable degree of access to the advancement office, which made them very happy. Anything that has an immediate, obvious benefit to stakeholders is immediately a good thing.
I’m certainly thinking long and hard about how to apply this to my current situation. Most of what I’m working on right now is supposed to have an immediate, apparent benefit — though I’m encountering resistance from the most unexpected corners.