As part of American Archives Month, the SAA christened October 2nd “#AskAnArchivist Day”. The purpose of the day, according to the SAA website, is to “break down the barriers that make archivists seem inaccessible.”* Last Wednesday, archivists took to social media to responsed to questions, post creative content, and interact with other archives around the country.
I spent the day following along and marveling at all of the delightful ideas archivsts used to engage followers and make the archive both more accessible and more fun. I found the hashtag a really successful method to draw focus, not just on the materials within the archive, but how the archive itself functions.
One of the most common approaches archives took was to highlight unique archival materials. The Newberry Library answered the question, “What’s the strangest thing you’ve processed in a collection?” Their answer was a book of intricately braided human hair from the 1840s. There’s a common misconception that archives mainly hold traditional “papers”. Answers like this expand public perception of the types of materials that they would find in an archive.
Strangest item in an NL archival collection? This—by a hair—according to our archivists. #AskAnArchivist
— Newberry Library (@NewberryLibrary) October 2, 2019
The University of Minnesota took us on a ride. They placed a camera on an archive box so we could follow it on its journey from storage to the reading room and back.
— UMN Libraries (@umnlib) October 2, 2019
The Utah State Archives showed off the cousin of our very own book bot.
What does our repository look like? Well, we're glad you asked! This video shows our robot at work – there are over 50,000 boxes in here! #AskAnArchivist #ExploreYourArchive pic.twitter.com/Wy1hkRnIpu
— Utah State Archives (@UtahArchives) October 2, 2019
But one of my favorite posts shined a light on a small, yet very hazardous threat to every collection — the paperclip, or as the Smithsonian Archive called them, the “Artifacts of Paper Torture”.
— Denver Archives (@Denver_Archives) October 2, 2019
#AskAnArchivist Day was a creative and engaging way to make the archive more accessible. These tweets merely offered a glimpse into all the fun that lies behind archival doors and within document boxes.
*”#AskAnArchivist Day – October 2, 2019″, Society of American Archivists, updated September 11, 2019. https://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/askanarchivist-day. Accessed October 7, 2019.