Thursday, October 08, 2015

Oregon Archives Month Event (Crawl) 2015 recap

Dear Constant Reader,
I know you've been following our activities and thus you made your way on October 3rd to the centrally-located City of Portland Archives and Records Center for the 2015 Oregon Archives Month Event (a re-imagining of the Crawl event held from 2010 -2012 and again in 2014).  Since this is undoubtedly the case, you may skip this recap of the event.  But perhaps, the event was too exciting and some of the details were missed in the ecstasy of investigation, learning and fun.  Therefore, we at HC&A propose to provide a report of our activities in case the minutia were not recorded in the frenzy of joy and activity that surrounds the gatherings of archivists.  I'd like to start this party with a few words on the history of the Crawl and about how the event supports advocacy for archival missions with a hat-tip to some of the materials we displayed.  In the second half Meg Langford, our Public Services Coordinator, will discuss the ways these events support our outreach mission.

To get the ball rolling I'd like to talk about how this event has grown throughout the years and how archival advocacy plays a strong role in the rationale for putting together this opportunity to gather and show off our typically locked-away materials.  In 2010 members of the Portland Area Archivists decided to host an archives-crawl.  The group spent time determining how the crawl would work, who would host who and what the major areas of professional engagement would be.  It was decided that 4 member institutions would host a number of smaller organizations within their walls to increase the density of primary resources at each location.  This would drive the desire for participants to brave the October sunshine and visit each one of the locations.  We provided a passport which participants would stamp at each location and turn in for a prize at the end of the day.  The passport also included a map, which kept participants engaged in getting to the next location.  That first year we had a volunteer (yours truly) at the Saturday PSU Farmer's Market to promote the event and on the day of to help steer participants to various locations.  In the second year we expanded our media blitz and created consistent signage that assisted participants in finding locations (it wouldn't be an archival event if you didn't have to search for something, right).  For the third year we created committees to oversee the various aspects of putting the Crawl together and had a raucous after party (there ARE pictures, but you'll never see them).

We took a break in 2013 to catch our breath and reconfigure.  In 2014 the Crawl was back on and included 3 of the 4 original host institutions and again was a great success.  2014 saw the first display of the North Pacific Dental School skull, which is a lightning rod for "ooohs" and "ahhs," as well an excellent conversation starter--"Did you see PSU's building models?  Cool, we have a skull."

For 2015 OHSU HC&A was invited to participate in an Archives Month Event in which the City of Portland Archives and Records Center hosted a number of organizations under one roof.  While not technically a "crawl" in the literal sense, this had all the rapture and serious engagement we have come to expect from events in which archivists emerge from their hallowed stacks and gather to chat about who we are, what we do, what we preserve and provide access to, and how to get in touch with us when you want to research . . . well . . . anything.

From the advocacy standpoint, it really helps to give the public a clear idea of what types of materials we maintain and that we do so following strict professional guidelines.  This reinforces the need, dare I say "critical need" for archives to remain relevant in the popular mind.  In many cases the budget of an archival institution is at the mercy of administrators who are looking at the return on investment, or at the very least to see how well the archives functions to support wither the institution of the public.  In either case showing our relevance is a way of engaging that area of advocacy as it reminds potential patrons as well as institutional stakeholders that people engage archives from a wide variety of standpoints including wanting to learn more about the history and development of an institution (or in our case, the history and development of higher education in North America); people wanting to conduct genealogical research, or scientists researching legacy data, or historians researching social history vis-a-vis the records of institutions who were involved in various aspects of the social world.

Closely related to this mission is the mission of outreach.  For this I'm passing the keyboard to Meg...
Max and I exhibiting the ABCs of archives outreach:
Always Be Communicating the research possibilities of your collections!
Photo: Brian Johnson, City of Portland Archives and Records Center.
Meg here! One thing you'll notice about all of the photos from the Archives Month celebration is that we're all talking... in every. single. picture. That's a big part of the festivities, and one of the reasons, I think, that the event is so successful.
...Or maybe as Max might put it, Always Be Advocating (nb: appearance of supplicating hands merely coincidental). Photo: Brian Johnson, City of Portland Archives and Records Center.
This is definitely not the kind of event where one packs up some materials, arranges them on a table, and then sits back quietly to make sure no one tries to make off with one of the Victorian scalpels (although we are monitoring that, too!). We planned our materials so that we'd have LOTS to discuss with folks. We brought not only our brochures, bookmarks, and cards, but also a whole host of items from our Big Three of collection materials: archives, rare books, and artifacts. Our HC&A-to-go kit included:
  • A surgical kit owned by Dr. Cusick, one of the first three graduates of University of Oregon Medical School and one-time member of the Oregon State Legislature
  • The aforementioned skull signed by North Pacific Dental School students
  • A corrosion cast heart (a.k.a. the heartifact)
  • A late 19th c. stomach pump
  • A late 19th c. cupping set, with handy scarifier (a.k.a. artificial leech)
  • Aerial images of campus, 1920-1999
  • Samples from our LSTA project: a scan of the original Record of Deaths document, and an example of the extracted data

Maija wowing the crowd with explanations of our artifacts.
Photo: Brian Johnson, City of Portland Archives and Records Center.

As you can imagine, this kept us talking! Our main goals at an event like this are to share the kinds of collections we have, talk about what kinds of research we support, and just generally answer questions and be friendly representatives of OHSU and our department. This part is really essential -- We're excited about the research people use our materials for and the projects we're working on to expand our reach, and we want to share our services with you!

If you're thinking to yourself, "this sounds like one of those politicians-kissing-babies public events," you're partially right... I'll close with a photo of Max holding one very adorable baby/budding archivist/friend of HC&A:
Alternative blog post title: "New Accessions: A human child!"
Photo: Brian Johnson, City of Portland Archives and Records Center.
-- Meg

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