S. 11 Double agents: the inside scoop from outside users

My MARAC Saturday began with a really thought provoking session on the evolving partnership between our users and us, as archivists. Two PhD candidates in History from Harvard University and one historical re-enactor spoke about their experiences using collections at different repositories.

Zachary Novack mentioned an Intro to Archives type class that he took during his first semester as a grad student, which prompted me to think about how I might further do outreach to this group at the University of Rochester.

All three panelists encouraged us to de-mystify our appraisal and processing practices to encourage transparency and an open dialog among archivists and users. Rudi Batzell spoke about the “finding aid as a field of collaboration, an ongoing dialog”.

What followed their brief remarks, was the true valuable part of having a session like this- we then brainstormed ideas and ways to better communicate the work of both fields to inform the other. Wr talked about how to be general enough in our descriptions to make our finding aids accessible enough for a more lay public, while giving historians and other experts the kinds of detail they need to evaluate the relevancy of that collection.

There was also a feeling among the archivists in the room that we need to do a better job of sharing our knowledge of the collections and use potential research interest as a way to drive processing priorities.

At the University of Rochester, I’m working with our cataloging department to create collection level records for all manuscript collections. For those unprocessed collections, we add a note to that effect. We hope that by providing that little bit of information researchers can better understand what collections they might find useful, and that interest will then help to drive our processing efforts.

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