Last Friday the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC) hosted and webcast an “Outreach, Fundraising and Donor Relationships” roundtable. It was a really interesting discussion and I’d recommend anyone interested in outreach and donor relationships watch the recording of the roundtable. The discussion focused on the outreach experiences of the participating archivists, how to build successful outreach programs, the challenges of fundraising, and building “Friends of the Archives” partnerships.
It was interesting to hear about the wide range of outreach programs that have focused on digital outreach including: building social media presences which play on an organizations strength and accept an organization’s staffing limitations; using digitization as the basis to encourage community building; using social media to stay relevant and in the minds of the local community; and using digital initiatives to highlight the capacity of archives to care for donations.
The discussion also touched on the role of education of as a form of outreach. I found the example of UBC’s integration of archival literacy instruction into first year courses particularly interesting. I think there is a definite need for instruction to be integrated into history programs at earlier points and getting students into the archives early can be beneficial to the archives and provide valuable skills which students can use throughout their university career.
In contrast the roundtable also included a discussion of outreach activities aimed at children and the general public. I think a lot of great points were made about thinking creatively, bringing archival collections into public spaces, and the need to make archives interesting. So in the case of children providing tactile learning opportunities or working with visual examples can be a stepping stone to introduce the idea of archives.
Over the past couple of years I’ve really enjoyed working with elementary and high school students and coming up with creative ways to present archival material in an accessible way. As an example as part of Grade 11 days I created an activity which used reproductions of site photographs of the Shingwauk Residential School/Algoma University. The activity had students arrange the photographs from oldest to newest and taught about the changing landscape and usage of the site. It was a short but fun activity that allowed for a glimpse into the archives. I’ve re-purposed this exercise a few times for visiting classes and it has served as a stepping stone for larger historical conversations.