AzAA Blog

Welcome to the AzAA Blog

January 2021

Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at azarchivesalliance@gmail.com

This month we feature a write up from Jennifer Merry and Isabel Cazares who are Archivists with the Arizona Historical Society, Library, Archives & Collection department at the Arizona Heritage Center, Papago Park location. Jennifer is also a Director at Large with AzAA. Jennifer and Isabel discuss the challenges AHS faced in 2020 and how they as an institution overcame them and how AHS is looking forward to tackling the challenges 2021 brings to their institution. We thank Jennifer and Isabel for providing this year in review write up.

As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 2020,” and while we all might want this year in our rearview mirrors, a reflection on its lessons will help us build strategies for a great new year. Last year, we had big plans and hopes and dreams, and instead we got a global pandemic that left us scrambling to change our workflows and tasks to meet a new set of challenges. But meet them we did! At the Arizona Historical Society Library and Archives (AHS), we took the challenge of 2020 and ran with it.

Rewinding back to January, access to collections was available in-person, staff support was for our journal or exhibit program, and digital projects from the archives consisted of online collections. During our museum closure, from roughly March-June, we continued to provide access to our research material remotely, while considering how to revise our workflows to incorporate more digital resources and programming. We found ourselves pivoting to host more digitally inclusive programs supported by archival efforts, increased distance collaboration with our patrons, and have on-going serious discussions of what library and archives digital initiatives should look like. We conducted an Oral History Workshop hosted by library and archives staff in July that gave our archivists a chance to digitally get up close and personal with our staff and patrons to teach proper interview methods.

Staff’s technical skills increased in leaps and bounds with Zoom meetings. We found collaboration flowing through the ethernet cables and out into our Arizona communities. At the same time, the challenges of providing collection access without being in-person and concerns over protecting staff, patrons, and collections in our spaces were front and center. These brought to mind the fundamentals of archives: access and preservation. Access expanded virtually but physical collection access was limited beyond the norm. AHS’s answer was to increase our time with the patron via email or phone in the archival interview process: What are you looking for in your research? Can a synopsis of the information help you? Can I send them targeted scans of the collection that will be helpful?

When we did open to the public once again in October, we relied on our institutional reopening plan and archival-focused materials such as OCLC’s REALM reports. We limited numbers and quarantined collections to tread the line of access and preservation of not only collections but people’s health. At the same time our new initiatives in digitization this year also extended our reach and preservation abilities. With the help of a CARES grant, we were able to pursue microfilm digitization to supply patrons with valuable research materials across state lines. While all of these seem like wonderful initiatives, it is important to highlight the time and focus these efforts took away from other concerns such as collection processing. A big concern for us has become how to maintain our current outreach while still addressing the everyday needs of our archives. The answer might be in the creative ways the various Arizona archives have collaborated in the past and in the present, which brings to mind the upcoming year’s summit that will benefit from the reach of the digital world. AHS is definitely looking forward to the collaboration!

In the meantime, what lessons will AHS take into the new year?

● Communication between our staff and our patrons needs to stay strong as the uncertainties of 2020 linger in 2021.

● Digital access of materials does not mean everything is online, but enough to create a pathway to our door.

● Maintaining our relevance in the chaos is always possible if our mission and vision statements guide us.

● Collaboration can lead to new avenues of success.

The challenge has been laid down, AZAA community! Take a look at your institution’s 2020 year in hindsight and get inspired. The relevancy of archives is growing in the minds of Arizonans. How do we reach out this year to support, grow, and thrive in our communities?

Happy New Year!

December 2020

Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at azarchivesalliance@gmail.com

This month we feature a write up regarding how you can become a member of AzAA and the benefits of membership to the association. Additionally, this post also offers information on how you can support archives around the state of Arizona by donating to AzAA. This post comes from AzAA’s Director at Large/Membership Coordinator, Lisa Duncan, who is currently a Collection Management Archivist and Instruction Coordinator at The University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections department. Thank you Lisa for providing this write up regarding membership benefits to AzAA. 

There are many ways to become involved with Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) from attending our meetings or symposiums to joining our listserv to stay up to date on AzAA news. But the best way to receive all of the benefits of AzAA is to become a member. You receive free attendance and lunch at the annual symposium and Arizona Archives Summit, opportunity to attend our annual meetings, and networking opportunities with organization members from all over the state.

Your AzAA membership also provides assistance to Arizona archives and archivists, and promotes the use of Arizona’s archives. It allows AzAA to provide scholarships, workshops and programming open to archivists statewide on issues pertinent to Arizona archives and archivists. AzAA is devoted to training opportunities and professional development of staff members and volunteers at Arizona archives. It also helps to support Arizona Archives Online, the statewide finding aid consortium which you can read more about in the November 2020 AzAA blog.

Membership in the AzAA is open to anyone who works in, does research in, or supports Arizona’s archives; nonprofit organizations and businesses may also become members. AZAA is a 501(c)(3) organization, so membership dues are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. Memberships have many levels starting with Student at $10.00, Individual $20.00, Patron $50.00, Non Profit $30.00, and Business $100.00.

AzAA is able to support archives around the state because of your membership so join a community of Arizona archives enthusiasts and become a member today. To learn more visit: https://arizonaarchives.org/get-involved/become-a-member/

If you would rather not join but would still like to support Arizona archives, you can also make a donation to AzAA. Learn more here: https://arizonaarchives.org/get-involved/make-a-donation/.

November 2020

Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at azarchivesalliance@gmail.com.

This month we feature a write up regarding the Arizona Archives Online (AAO) platform from AzAA Director at Large and AAO Liaison, Elizabeth Dunham, Associate Archivist at Arizona State University Library.  

Arizona Archives Online (AAO) is a consortium of 15 cultural heritage institutions ranging from large universities to small museums dedicated to providing “free Internet access to descriptions of archival collections, preserved and made accessible by Arizona repositories … to inform, enrich, and empower the public by creating and promoting access to a vast array of primary sources across the state of Arizona.”  As of November of 2020, AAO hosts nearly 4,000 guides authored and uploaded by its partners.  Via AAO’s homepage, users can search the entire collection of guides at once, allowing them to locate resources of interest at multiple repositories through a single search. This functionality is particularly useful in cases where collections have become fragmented and several repositories hold different pieces.  AAO exposes these guides for harvesting by ArchiveGrid, which makes them searchable as part of a database of over 5 million records contributed by more than 1,000 institutions. These guides can also be searched using Google, although less efficiently.

AAO was established in 2004 as a partnership between Arizona’s three major universities (Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University), the Arizona Historical Society’s Northern Division, and the Heard Museum. Its founders aimed to support and empower Arizona’s smaller and rural institutions by creating a consortia environment for hosting finding aids that would enable organizations with limited staffing and technological resources to make descriptions of their holdings available online.

The resource initially relied on grant funding and contributions from the three universities and the State Library for most of its financial support. This model proved unsustainable in large part due to its creation of periods of extremely minimal funding during which AAO struggled to survive.  In 2012, the Steering Committee proposed major administrative changes designed to stabilize the resource, including implementing a dues structure and merging with the Arizona Archives Alliance so that the Alliance could serve as AAO’s fiscal agent. The logistics of paying AAO’s bills had long been problematic – because AAO was not incorporated, it could not have its own bank account.  It thus had to rely on one of its members when money needed to change hands, often resulting in inefficiency and frustration.  The proposed changes were adopted by unanimous vote of AAO’s members and the Alliance Board and AAO became a standing, self-governing committee of the Alliance in April of 2013.  In 2017, AAO migrated from an Arizona State University server to a Digital Ocean instance, thus becoming near-fully independent.

AAO has been involved with several metadata initiatives over the course of its history. Most recently, it participated in the “Towards a National Finding Aid Network” (NAFAN) project as a Core Partner. Convened by the California Digital Library, this effort aims to fundamentally rethink finding aid aggregation in order to facilitate participation by a wider array of collaborators, expand collection description options beyond the finding aid, and meet the needs of a diverse set of end users.  It also directly addresses issues of sustainability, including transitioning away from such outmoded technologies as the XTF framework that AAO and many other aggregators rely on and finding ways to ease the often heavy burdens of maintenance and migration.  The initiative recently secured a $982,175 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to continue its work, and AAO looks forward to continued collaboration and improvement.

For more information, please feel free to contact AAO at azarchives@gmail.com.

October 2020

Welcome to the launch of the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! We are so excited to start this adventure and look forward to having this platform available to speak to the archives community in Arizona. We plan to post to this blog monthly to bring up messages not only from the AzAA board but hopefully from the archiving community around Arizona. If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at azarchivesalliance@gmail.com

We start this blog with a message from our President, Shannon Walker, Assistant Archivist of University Archives at Arizona State University Library and University Archivist of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.  

From the AzAA President:

Welcome to the AzAA Blog 2020! Well, this has been a bizarre year for all of us, both personally and professionally. In many ways, it is a precarious time to revive the AzAA blog, at the same time it is the perfect opportunity. We have known all along that our work as archivists is important to the communities we serve. Now, others are realizing the importance of what we do as we document life before, during, and after a global pandemic. This is a time where we are all aware of our humanity, our vulnerability, and resiliency. As archivists we are memory keepers, we are the ones who ensure that the experiences of this generation, or generations past, are not forgotten to future generations. We have also seen the rise of social justice issues and with them activism, protests, and riots, all important activities to participate and document. 

Some may wonder, should we be addressing issues of social justice, isn’t it enough to worry about our backlog? Should we concern ourselves with racism, isn’t it enough to worry about our funding and staffing? Should we be thinking about equality, isn’t it enough to keep up with all of our patron inquiries? The answer is yes and all of the above! We should do our jobs with integrity, accuracy, and professionalism while keeping our eye on the bigger picture of “why” we do what we do. 

We hope this blog will be a platform for engaging with you in great conversations about our roles as memory keepers. We plan to focus on a variety of topics, anything and everything we can think of! We will talk about ways archival institutions should or should not document issues of social justice. We will address ways that we have or have not represented marginalized communities in who we hire and what we collect. We will tackle the topic of inclusion and representation in archival records. 

The goal of AzAA is to support the work you do, to inform you, to guide you, to inspire you, and to equip you. We always welcome your suggestions, ideas, and feedback on how we can better achieve these goals. Thank you for listening and engaging with us!

Shannon Walker

AzAA President

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