The overwhelming majority of visitors to the archive I work at have never been inside an archive before. Many of the visitors come from outside academia or are undergraduate and high school students stepping into an archive for the first time. In addition to being new to archives, many visitors are searching for documents relating to their personal or family history.
How do you frame the uses and potential research value of an archive to new visitors?
This is often the ‘elevator pitch’ for the archive and includes a condensed version of services, resources, and archival holdings. We emphasize that staff are available to help new researchers, that material is available online (and we can provide instruction on navigating the site), and that material can be copied for research purposes.
If the visitor is a student, we often point out potential research topics in their field of study, suggest relevant publications, and encourage them to ask questions. We also remind students of hours and that we aren’t open weekends.
Additionally, all visitors can take a contact card which has our website, email, and phone information on it. We also have more in-depth pamphlets for those interested.
How to you facilitate non-academic research?
Since the majority of our visitors are not engaged in academic research, our reading room contains material to help people research family history. We have reproduction photo albums which visitors can flip through, media clip binders (copies of newspaper articles), and copies of frequently used government documents which visitors can flip through at their leisure.
Typically, people researching family histories are able to find necessary material without staff ever having to pull anything from the archive. This cuts down on staff work and the use of reproductions helps preserve original documents and photographs.
How do you greet new visitors at your organization?
Photo credit: Dublin City Public Libraries