Monday, June 20, 2011

Ask the Archivist

On June 9th I participated in #AskArchivists Day on Twitter. I was one of over 100 archivists from around the world that participated. By the end of the day there had been 7,232 Tweets, 1,672 Twitters, the hashtag was used 419 times, and 1,094 URLs were Tweeted. I thought I would review some of the questions I was asked that day.

What is the most unusual thing you have found in a collection?
The original Maverick mascot for UT-Arlington was a horned horse. One day I found the headstall and horns that were used on the horse in a university collection.

What is the best way to preserve Civil War letters?
Remove them from the envelopes and flatten them. Placing each letter in its own acid free folder or Mylar sleeve.

How do you preserve crumbling newspapers?
First newspapers are very acidic and age rapidly. If the papers are on microfilm I would use microfilm or have the papers microfilmed or digitized. If you only have a few clippings you could copy the clippings on to acid free paper and discard the originals.

Do archivists accept everything that comes along?
No, most archives, like libraries, have a collection policy and they only accept items that fall within that policy. Also the condition of the item is also taken into consideration before accepting an item.

What type of education does someone need to become an archivist?
There are two basic paths. One is to earn an MILS (Masters of Information and Library Science) degree with a concentration in archives. The other path is a Masters in History with a Certificate of Archival Management. In either case an interest or background in history or research methods is helpful as an archivist.

What are the three main issues facing archives and archivists today?
In no particular order they are: electronic records, expansion of ways users want to access collections, and budget cuts.

This is just a sampling of the questions that archivists answered that day.

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