The Historical Reminiscents podcast is dedicated to discussing public history and archival practice. Created and produced by Krista McCracken this weekly podcast discusses archival impulses, shares insight into the world of public historians, and tackles historical interpretations in Canada. Find Historical Reminiscents on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Historical Reminiscents is live for all of your listening enjoyment! This will be a weekly podcast with new episodes appearing every Thursday. However, to start things off I’ve uploaded a number of episodes so folks can get a feel for the format and content.
Episode 01: Digitization, Decolonization and Archival Access In this episode of Historical Reminiscents Krista McCracken talks about why digitization is not always the answer when thinking about decolonizing archives. She addresses the challenges of intellectual property rights, community concepts of ownership, and access.
Episode 02: Being an Active History Editor
In this episode of Historical Reminiscents Krista McCracken talks about her role as one of the members of the Activehistory.ca editorial collective. She discusses how the site’s editorial collective works, how folks end up writing for the site, and what type of work an editor actually does.
Episode 03: Snow, Heritage Sites and Walking Tours Winter is coming…or depending on where you live it is already here in full force. In this episode of Historical Reminiscents Krista McCracken talks through some of the challenges of doing outdoor historical interpretation in the winter. Bring on the snow, alternative tour strategies, and multi-media approaches.
Episode 04: The Intersecting Worlds of Public History and Archives Public History and archives, oh my! In this episode of Historical Reminiscents Krista McCracken discusses the intersection of public history and archives. She talks about common goals between the two fields and highlights the overlapping skill sets of the professions.
Episode 05: Demystifying Archival Labour – Acquisitions and Appraisal This episode introduces a mini-series of podcast episodes on “Demystifying Archival Labour.” This mini-series will talk openly and frankly about the work that takes place in archives and provide resources for teaching about archival practice. This first episode dives into acquisitions and appraisal work.
I’ve worked in an open office setup for the bulk of my professional career. This has typically meant sharing an office space with multiple co-workers and students. It has also meant working in a space that is open to the public. In 2015 there was around six or eight months where I had an office to myself, though I tended to have an open door policy.
Recently, after some internal discussions the space that I work in is no longer open to the public every single hour that I’m there. The new public hours have only been in operation for a bit over a week – but is essentially means half my time is spent with an open door and the other half the office door is shut. This week has got me thinking a lot about the value of closed doors, dedicated processing time, and carving out time for specific projects. I had forgotten how much value there is in having a door that can be closed.
I like the flexibility of being able to help people when they drop in. But I’m also really valuing the time I have carved out each day to work on longer term projects, processing that can’t be done in a public space, and the ability to have phone calls without worrying if someone is going to walk in.
When you are front line facing it can often become challenging to dedicate time to non immediate needs – the needs of patrons, rightly, come first. Having staff you can rotate off with or a dedicated space away from patrons can be a huge boon in terms of finding time to do all the other tasks associated with archives aside from research requests and public programming.
I’d be interested in hearing how others balance front line facing roles with other aspects of archival practice. I think is particularly a challenge in small shops where one person does almost everything – from accessioning to reference – and that individual needs to set their own schedule and boundaries.
One of the things I’ve been experimenting with adding into my workflow recently is documenting donations as the arrive at the archive. Normally the contextual information, dates, extent etc are captured in a donor form and this information is further expanded on when the material is accessioned. This is fairly standard.
What I’ve been trying to document is what donations physically look like when they arrive at the archive. This partially came from a desire to promote new donations on social media and from an archival instruction perspective. When I provide introduction to archives sessions I always try to include information on the role archivists play in appraisal and the challenges of arrangement. Having photographs of what collections look like when they arrive helps provide a visual example of what unprocessed material looks like and what archivists do to get collections ready for public access.
A lot of the work archivists do happens behind the scenes and there’s a general lack of awareness around the amount of work that goes into making archival material accessible. As a profession advocacy and raising awareness of our role is something we could definitely do a better job of. For me one of the ways to do this is to talk about how materials come to us and outline to students the archival process and steps required to get fonds into those neat little labeled boxes.
How do you explain all the work that happens before an archival donation is made accessible to the public?