Archives don’t typically advertise their collections, they simply collect and preserve. However, those resources represent the communities they collect from and they provide a valuable resource to those communities. More community involvement can also increase the collections and more resources reach the archives.
Partnering with the community takes a bit more creativity, as archives inherently have that prison-like feel where information goes in, but rarely comes out. Partnering with community centers, schools and local museums can raise awareness to what the archives has to offer. However, since a lot of archives are connected with universities, there is a lot that the universities can do to help too.
Creating events or exhibitions that will promote the collections at the archives is one way that archives can get involved in the community. The BYU Museum of Art’s exhibition in 2011-2012 on the three American painters from the Weir family showed a partnership between the special collections archives and the museum (BYU Museum of Art, 2012). The bulk of the exhibition was part of the museum’s permanent collection and the artists’ papers were located in the archives. While collaborating to research the exhibition, both the special collections archives and the museum of art increased awareness about the others collections. The museum especially highlighted the special collection’s digital project as the special collections pushed the Weir papers digitization up to meet the exhibition timeframe (BYU HBLL Digital Collections, 2013). While this shows a partnership from within a university setting, these principles can be applied to a community setting as well.
Similar events can promote community unity when the archive and other entities are more directly related to the community. UCLA partnered with a LA archive called AFAMILA (Archiving Filipino American Music in Los Angeles) and a local Philippine Folk-Arts project called Kayamanan Ng Lahi (KNL) giving the archive a $40,000 grant to partner with the KNL to improve the AFAMILA’s collections and spread awareness. This gave the community a chance to get involved, hiring community members and students to record Filipino music and performances. This improved the collection, got the community involved, and increased awareness in the campus community as well. Most importantly, the Filipino community knew that the archive was theirs and the archive became part of the community (Vallier, 2010).
Utah State University did something similar working with other universities in the state, as well as the American Folklore Society, to expand and promote the Fife Folklore Archives on USU campus. Working within the school’s folklore program, the archives got other state universities involved, and eventually the American Folklore society and government agencies, including the Library of Congress (Williams, 2004). This started out on a smaller scale, and still has effects on the local community. The Fife Folklore Archives’ Cowboy Poetry Collection helps the large cowboy poetry movement in the local community, greatly benefitting the annual cowboy poetry gatherings across the western states. Archives involvement in events and festivals, such as the cowboy poetry gatherings, is a great way to spread awareness and community involvement, as the archives become personal to members of the community.
With archives being repositories for information, outreach is less common, but through a creative partnering, such as seen by these earlier examples, both the archives and the community can be improved and developed; especially in creating community identity and unity, such as recognizing and supporting the large Filipino population of LA, or the cowboy heritage of the western states. Locally this could be implemented through promoting the local history of a community through the schools or museums, using the archives to supplement any events or exhibitions.
What partnerships between archives and community organizations could help with trending issues today? Are there possibilities outside a university setting?
BYU Museum of Art. (2013, November 14). The Weir Family, 1820-1920: Expanding the Traditions of American Art. Retrieved from http://moa.byu.edu/past-exhibitions-archive/past-exhibitions-2011/the-weir-family-1820-1920-expanding-the-traditions-of-american-art/
BYU HBLL Digital Collections. (2013, November 14). Weir Family Papers & Photographs. Retrieved from http://lib.byu.edu/digital/weirfamily/
Vallier, John (2010, September). Sound Archiving Close to Home: Why Community Partnerships Matter. Notes, 67(1), 39-49.
Williams, Randy. (2004, January 1). Extending the Archives: Partnering and Outreach at the Fife Folklore Archives. Folklore Forum, 24(1/2), 51-65.