Great Advocates: Dr. David B. Gracy II

Back in March, we asked you to nominate “Great Advocates”–SAA members who inspire you with their advocacy efforts. Thanks to your nominations, we have a fantastic slate of Great Advocates.

You are cordially invited to join I&A’s gathering at SAA in Atlanta on Friday, August 5 from 7:30-9:00 am (it’s early, but there will be donuts and coffee!) for an engaging Q&A with leaders of advocacy efforts from SAA’s recent history, reflecting on their work and the future of advocacy within SAA.

To get everyone in the advocacy spirit in these weeks leading up to SAA, we’re publishing Q&As with each of our Great Advocates (including some who won’t be able to join us on August 5th).

To submit questions for the in-person session and follow the event, please tweet at @archivesissues using #GreatAdvocates or email archivesissues [at] gmail [dot] com.

Once they’ve all been posted, you’ll find all of the Q&As in the series here.

Great_Advocates_2Great Advocates Q&A with Dr. David B. Gracy II

How would you define advocacy?

The work done (by archivists individually, by associations of archivists, and/or by others) to cultivate the environment for accomplishing the archival mission.

What was the very first lesson you learned about advocacy–either how to do it or why it’s important?

That the way the archival story is told is as important as the message.  If the hearer is not engaged by the telling, likely he/she will miss the message.

Describe your most memorable experiences with advocating for archivists and archives.

(1) Creating, generating support for, and pursuing the Archives and Society initiative as the theme of my SAA presidency to empower archivists in advocating on behalf of (a) the archival service to society, (b) the integrity of archival professionals and the archival profession, and (c) their own archival situations.

(2) Engaging the Texas State Historical Association—the leadership and members individually—to realize that support of archives in Texas is fundamental work of historians to meet the historians’ obligation to ensure that subsequent generations of historians have at least as robust an archival resource from which to work as was passed to them.

If you could encourage archivists to do just one thing to help advocate for the archival profession, what would that one thing be?

See advocating archives as a fun activity in and of itself.  Defined as work done to cultivate the environment for accomplishing the archival mission, advocacy does not inherently require a specific goal and subsequent judgment as to the goal’s achievement.  When person A sees the archivist having fun about the work of contributing to the social fabric, person A is positioned to reconsider stereotypes of the archival enterprise and even become an advocate too.

What strategies and skills would you recommend archivists use when they are advocating for something in their local context (for example, for additional funding or personnel, policy changes, etc.)?

(1) Do your research on the audience that is the object of your advocacy.  Know matters important to the audience to which you can relate archives.  Learn their vocabulary to position you to speak about archives in terms that can resonate as fully as possible.

(2) Be yourself, which will convey your pleasure in and commitment to archives.

(3) Listen to yourself advocating for archives so as to be continually modifying your message to make it the most pertinent and moving possible for the person(s) in front of you and through that person(s) to every decision maker to whom the person in front of you has to advocate on your behalf.

What is an archives issue that means a lot to you and requires advocacy?

Support of the archival service to society.

What motivates you to continue when the going gets rough?

Unswerving commitment to the value of the archival service to society, and to managing archives as the pillar of civilization that they are.

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