News Highlights 2018 February

The I&A News Monitoring Research Team has compiled this list of recent news stories regarding topics of relevance to archives and archivists. This list was curated by SAA Issues & Advocacy News Monitoring Team, which includes Dana Bronson, Rachel Cohen, Samantha Cross, Shaun Hayes, Ryan Leimkuehler, Beth Nevarez, and Chloé Pascual; it is managed by Steve Duckworth.

View the full list of news stories online.

Acquisition, Preservation, & Access

  1. Sir Isaac Newton’s groundbreaking papers to become UNESCO heritage,
  2. Trump Officials Want to Charge More Money to Access Public Records—Despite Fewer Requests,
  3. UC Berkeley Uses Optical Scanning to Recover Indigenous Voices from Wax Cylinders,

Archival Finds & Stories

  1. George Washington’s hair found inside New York library book,
  2. In Switzerland, dismay as papers on secret Cold War army vanish,
  3. Oldest ‘tattoo art’ discovered on Ancient Egyptian mummies,

Climate & Emergency Preparedness

  1. Vermont Agency Denies Environmentalists Access to Runoff Rules Draft,

Digital Archives, Technology, & the Web

  1. How Google Has Quietly Revolutionized Document Editing,

Exhibits & Museums

  1. ‘Access+Ability’ exhibit showcases designs for, and by, those with disabilities,
  2. ‘Blank Panther’ raises difficult questions in museum community,

Human & Civil Rights, Equality, & Health

  1. 10 lesser-known Black History Month sites across America,
  2. One Syrian’s brave moment,
  3. Polish minister backs call for ‘Polocaust’ museum,
  4. Rewriting Canada’s Memory Banks: Archivists ‘Decolonize’ Collections,

Security & Privacy

  1. Lost and found: Incredible works discovered,
  2. Stolen work by famed painter Degas found in bus,
  3. Man Accused of Breaking Off Terra-Cotta Warrior’s Thumb for Souvenir,


Archivists on the Issues: Making Archives Visible Through Maps

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post is by Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist and Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati.

This post is about the Repository Data project, an SAA Foundation grant funded project to assemble a comprehensive data set of US archival repositories. The research team consists of Ben Goldman (Penn State University), Eira Tansey (University of Cincinnati), and Whitney Ray (UNC-Chapel Hill). By contacting over 145 archival organizations, they have received data on thousands of archival repositories across the United States. They are still processing the data, but it will eventually be made accessible to the public. Read on!

As we previously noted, the only existing open data set for archival repositories – OCLC’s ArchiveGrid – lacks representation of many small archives, historical societies, and other nebulously-defined archives. As many of you know, inclusion in ArchiveGrid is primarily driven by having various descriptive data (MARC records, EAD finding aids, etc) online and crawlable to OCLC. This means that repositories with professional archivists on staff and the resources to make archival description available online are over-represented in the ArchiveGrid data set. In reality, there are many archives that don’t fit this description, and are therefore literally invisible to much of the profession.

This has been frustrating to us as we pursue our work on archival vulnerability to climate change. The institutions that are most at risk for sea-level rise and climate change influenced disasters are also the least likely to have professional staff and sufficient resources to sustain archival collections even in “normal” times – let alone during an emergency. And yet, these are the archives that weren’t visible in our first pass at mappingrepository vulnerability to climate change.

But now we’d like to show you the dramatic way in which our research project has uncovered how many archives exist – even if they aren’t putting their finding aids online.

This is the “Before” map, reflecting OCLC’s data – according to ArchiveGrid as of 2016, there are approximately 44 repositories in the state of Ohio:

Map by Eira Tansey

Although this data is not yet final, this is our beta data set for Ohio – i.e., our “After” map. You can see a dramatic difference in how many more archives have been revealed thanks to our efforts (and especially that of Whitney, our fantastic research assistant, who has done the heavy lifting in reaching out to archival organizations to compile and clean data). According to our preliminary* data, there are well over 500 repositories in the state of Ohio.

Map by Eira Tansey

I want to highlight that constructing archives as those repositories that participate in networked archival descriptive infrastructure tends to erase the visibility of small archives, especially those outside of major population centers. Let’s use southeastern Ohio – aka Appalachia – as an example.

The light-green counties are those that are part of the federally-defined Appalachian Regional Commission’s jurisdiction. (Clearly there are cultural constructions of Appalachia that do not fit in with these county delineations, but those aren’t as easy to find as open GIS data!)

In the “before” map, only 3 archives exist in Ohio’s Appalachian counties, and they are all associated with higher education: Marietta College, Youngstown State, and Ohio University.

Map by Eira Tansey

But in the after map, we see that there are roughly 100 (100!!!!!!!!!!) archives in Ohio’s Appalachian counties. Why the massive difference? Because our efforts to get as much data from local, regional and state archival organizations means we have pulled in dozens of small historical societies, public libraries, and museums.

Map by Eira Tansey

We haven’t done before and after comparisons yet with other states, but I anticipate they would look very similar to what we’ve seen with Ohio. Building the first comprehensive data set of US repositories is no small task, but we think the preliminary results speak for the importance of our work.

*We say preliminary because we still have some cleaning and minor de-duplication tasks left with our data.

Steering Share: Respect the student employee

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This mid-year post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

In my last Steering Share, I spoke about my concerns on archival labor. This is an issue that is being discussed more and more, including in Courtney Dean’s recent Steering Share and in Fobazi Ettarh‘s piece, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship.” For this post, I’m going to take this to a slightly more positive place (and prep for a presentation that I’ll be giving on the topic in April!) So…

Let’s talk about ways that archival professionals can maximize student positions and internships for the betterment of the student, while hopefully also getting some benefit out of it for our institutions. Please note, for the purposes of brevity, I use the word “student” as a general stand-in for employees, interns, or volunteers who are enrolled in a degree program and hoping to find a professional position in the library, archives, or museum fields.

My student workers tell me, and I like to believe them, that I’ve been extremely valuable in helping them find full-time employment. Can we all agree that one of the main goals of a student job is to find a professional position? Unfortunately, I feel that’s not how many pros out there view it. Mostly we view student employment, internships, and volunteer work as cheap labor to help us do what we need to get done because we’re all underfunded. But, while ‘getting stuff done’ is important, training and mentoring the doers in the process of the doing is much more valuable.

What I’m talking about is not all that revolutionary, but it does seem to be a little abnormal. Look at these student positions as mentorship opportunities, rather than cheap and temporary labor.  Some of the more concrete ideas you can try out in your own institution are listed below: 

  • Train students in archival practices. I was surprised to learn that students were often not trained for other jobs they’d had. Think of the job as a long-form class in archival processing and management, teach skills to help students negotiate complicated decision making and to know when to ask for help.
  • Be flexible when possible. If students don’t have public service duties, allow for flexible scheduling. If you have work that can be done offsite, consider allowing students to work from home from time to time.
  • Aid students in the job search process. Review resumes and cover letters; offer in-person and online interview practice sessions; recommend jobs they should apply for. If your institution has open sessions or presentations for job applicants, invite students to attend – it’s great experience to watch other people interview for jobs.
  • Expose students to a wide variety of job functions: exhibit planning, cataloging, reference support, physical and digital processing, project planning, etc.; the skills will come in handy for applying to a wide variety of jobs.
  • Support professional growth and scholarly output. Get to know students’ goals and interests. If possible, allow some work time for research. Offer financial support for meeting or conference attendance as possible, or help find a roommate, rideshare, or other cost-cutting measures. List students’ names as authors on finding aids; this helps during the job interviewing process. Where possible, instead of describing them as a “Student Assistant,” try “Archives Assistant” or no title at all.
  • Involve students in everything. I’ve learned students love new experiences and also getting away from their desks – the bonus for them is learning more aspects of the profession. Bring them everywhere: donor meetings, records pick-ups, hunting expeditions in the stacks, etc. Encourage students to attend relevant trainings being offered or events on campus. Allow them to serve on committees if they are interested, but don’t pressure them into it.

These are some concrete actions you can take, but more important is the work environment that you cultivate. Try to create a supportive environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions. This helps them develop and feel a part of the work being done, but also empowers students to bring up new thoughts on how to tackle problems. Don’t be afraid to learn from your students! Allow your ideas and common practices to be challenged by someone with a fresh view. Build trust with your workers and allow them autonomy to learn and grow; you should also review their work and offer feedback and critique when needed.

In assembling these ideas, I talked to my student workers and heard from them that one of the best things I’ve done for them was to not be condescending. Apparently they get a lot of condescension in both classroom and job settings. So I recommend that we try being more respectful or deferential, and more approachable and welcoming. I like to think that’s a simple place to start, and the rest can grow from there.

News Highlights, 2018 January

The I&A News Monitoring Research Team has compiled this list of recent news stories regarding topics of relevance to archives and archivists. View the full list of news stories online.

Acquisition, Preservation, & Access

  1. “Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Thought War on Terror Would Be Easily Won” (FOIA and the National Security Archive)

  2. “Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller’s Archive”
  3. “White House intends to destroy data from voter fraud commission”

  4. “How a Library Handles a Rare and Deadly Book of Wallpaper Samples”

Archival Finds & Stories

  1. “They spoke out against immigrants. So she unearthed their own immigrant ancestors”

  2. “The Forgotten History of Black Women Protesting Sexual Assault”

Digital Archives, Technology, & the Web

  1. “Saving Gawker and Alt-Weeklies from Deletion.”
  2. “Google App Goes Viral Making an Art Out of Matching Faces to Paintings”

Exhibits & Museums

  1. “A Diary from a Gulag Meets Evil with Lightness”
  2. “Haslla Art World: Part museum, part hotel”

  3. “Super Bowl tourists will see Holocaust photo exhibit at Minneapolis airport”

Human & Civil Rights, Equality, & Health

  1. “How to Save the Memories of the Egyptian Revolution”

  2. “‘There Are Higher Laws’: Inside the Archives of an Illegal Abortion Network”

  3. “Archives chronicle decades of Baha’i persecution in Iran”

  4. “‘They’ve been invisible’: Seattle professor studies role of black grandmothers in society”

  5. Trump Administration Skews Terror Data to Justify Anti-Muslim Travel Ban

  6. “The Troubling Origins of the Skeletons in a New York Museum” (Thousands of Herero people died in a genocide. Why are Herero skulls in the American Museum of Natural History?)

  7. “‘Solicitor-client privilege’ keeping 98-year-old document on sick First Nations children under wraps”

Security & Privacy

  1. “The Art of Crime”

  2. “Historian Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Records from the National Archives”

The Profession

  1. “Curating Band-Aids, Both Modern and Vintage”

Archivists on the Issues: Digital Accessibility in the Archives

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from a new regular writer for I&A’s blog, Lindy Smith, Reference Archivist at Bowling Green State University’s Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives.

Archivists spend a lot of time discussing, working on, and agonizing over outreach. We want people to know we exist and are doing the important work of providing access to documents, objects, and files that tell the stories of history. But once we meet that elusive goal of getting people to interact with us, what are we doing to make sure that experience is open to all potential users equally? By focusing on getting people in the door or clicking like, we may overlook the different abilities, experiences, and expectations our patrons bring to these interactions.

In this first of three posts, I will discuss improving digital access. I’m not an expert in this area, but I take accessibility very seriously and am working to educate myself and improve. My library has recently formed a task force to examine all our digital properties; being involved in that work has been a great learning experience. I’ve only scratched the surface in the great literature out there. I encourage you to do your own research and start making small changes locally. They can make a huge difference for users as well as increase potential audiences. We may have a tendency to think primarily of issues facing computer users with visual impairments, but the A11y Project reminds us that there are four categories to consider in making content accessible: visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive.

Existing standards can help prioritize changes. First is Section 508, a 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you work for the federal government, you’re probably familiar with this as it’s required for all federal agencies to meet these requirements. Some state and government institutions also require that employees meet these standards when creating web content. The other major standard is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a body that sets global standards for web content. Section 508 was updated earlier this year to better address new technology, WCAG 2.0, and other global standards.


Your collection’s website can be a great place to start since websites are a relatively finite and static collection of pages. Many of the principles applied to your website can be carried over into other digital content.

If your archives is part of a larger institution, your local IT and accessibility services departments can be great allies in making these improvements and they may be able to provide additional information and training based on local infrastructure. Chances are they’ll be delighted to help you be proactive in setting up good, accessible websites rather than reactively making changes when someone makes a complaint.  If you’re a lone arranger or working in a small archives, you can find lots of helpful information online and there may also be local resources in your community that you can take advantage of.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are tools like Siteimprove or WebAIM’s WAVE that can help you identify potential accessibility issues on web pages. They scan pages for situations that look like they might cause problems for your users so you can review them and make fixes as necessary.

Additional Resources

Social Media

Most of us use social media accounts for outreach and it is often the first point of contact, so content should be available to anyone who is interested. Social media also is often very current, so you can add in accessible options going forward without having to go back and fix past posts.

Each platform approaches accessibility differently and offers different tools. Take time to explore the options available and decide what makes sense for your content. If you never post videos, for example, you don’t need to worry about captions. If you post photos of documents, find out how to add alt text. Make sure your blog posts conform to best practices for general web content.

The following are links to accessibility information for some popular platforms:

You’ll notice some glaring omissions in the list above. Not all platforms offer good accessibility options or documentation, which is important to keep in mind when deciding which services to use for your archives. Broader guidelines and tips are in the additional resources directly below.

Additional Resources

Finding Aids

Many archives have collection descriptions online. This makes collections much more easily findable online and is a laudable goal, but the description also should be accessible to researchers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers to navigate the virtual world. Finding aids can be tricky because they use a variety of formats and platforms: simple PDFs embedded in websites, HTML or EAD documents posted with style sheets, open source or proprietary software templates. Each presents opportunities and challenges.

In a 2013 study, Kristina L. Southwell and Jacquelyn Slater tested the accessibility of randomly selected online finding aids from ARL member libraries. The formats varied, but overall almost every finding aid had at least a few accessibility errors. Southwell and Slater’s article is highly recommended reading, as it offers specific examples of issues and the problems they cause for users. Perhaps things have improved in the five years since this study was published, but likely there are still many finding aids that inaccessible out there.

If you’re curious, do some research on the platform that your archives is using and look for documentation on their accessibility efforts or test your finding aids the way you would other web pages. You can search for a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), which resources marketed to libraries and archives may provide, to help you make your assessment.

Additional Resources
  • Southwell, Kristina L. & Slater, Jacquelyn (2013). An Evaluation of Finding Aid Accessibility for Screen Readers. Information Technology and Libraries, 32(3), 34-46.

Digital Collections and Exhibits

Digital collections and online exhibits have a lot in common with other websites, but they also have unique issues. They have a higher concentration of images, digitized documents, and A/V files, which can require more mediation to be fully accessible. These items should have, respectively, detailed descriptions, searchable transcripts or OCR-created text, and captions or transcripts. In addition to digital objects, also consider the accessibility of the metadata that describes the objects and the platform that pulls it all together. As with social media platforms and collection management tools, take the time to research the accessibility documentation available from the platform you use for sharing your digital collections.

Tammy Stitz and Shelly Blundell developed a helpful rubric to help assess the accessibility of your digital collections. They draw on various standards, including Section 508 and WCAG 2.0, to help you make high impact changes. For example, audio content would ideally have sign language interpretation and synchronized captions, but if you’re only able to manage a transcript, that’s acceptable.

Additional Resources

Email Reference

Writing this post, I started with a list of all the ways that we digitally interact with our users; email correspondence was the only option that I had not previously considered accessibility. And why not? It’s the most personal, and accessibility should be just as much of a concern there as anywhere. Basic email text can be approached largely like any web content. I recommend knowing enough about your email client and its necessary features. Both Outlook and Gmail, two major email providers, have websites that offer assistance to make email accessible.

In addition to email’s text, think about what your links and attachments to those emails. When you share digitized content with your patrons via email, is it accessible? I have to confess, this isn’t something I had previously taken into consideration, but it’s worth a few small steps to try to increase accessibility. Even running quick OCR on PDFs or including brief descriptions of requested images is helpful.

If you have a good solution for this or are taking similar measures in your own work, I’d be interested to hear about it.

Additional Resources

Challenge: Make One Change

Many commonly discussed accessibility issues are focused on improving user experience using assistive technologies. This can seem abstract, so I encourage you to try it out. One commonly used assistive technology is a screen reader; your computer likely has one pre-installed (VoiceOver for Mac, Narrator for PC). If not, a variety of free programs and YouTube videos demonstrate how to use a screen reader. Turn it on and try it on some of your web content. You’ll soon understand why meeting accessibility criteria is so important. As an added bonus, many changes that improve accessibility also improve all users’ experience and can improve sites’ search engine optimization (SEO) as well. Everyone benefits from accessible websites!

Some problems may be difficult to fix or completely out of your control, but if you start by making a few simple but high impact changes, you can make a big difference for users. Create new workflows with accessibility in mind so it becomes an integral part of what you’re doing, instead of an afterthought. Develop good habits going forward and clean up previous work as you go. Be proactive in policies, instead of reactive. Add accessibility features to your list of criteria for new tools.

My challenge to all of you is to choose one thing, large or small, that will improve user accessibility this week. Maybe you sign up for web accessibility training locally, or start adding alt text to new blog images, or set up a department meeting to brainstorm a plan to improve your finding aids’ accessibility. Every little bit helps and makes it easier for larger audiences to access your content.

Steering Share: Records in (Processing) Action

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This mid-year post comes from committtee member Stephanie Bennett, Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University.

Many of our posts lately have been related to the fruits of research labor, an important part of advancing our field’s theory and practice. I would not be the archivist I am today without the research output of our archival predecessors or all the archivists who put their sweat and sleep (or lack thereof) into bountiful articles and books.

In my day-to-day work as a collections archivist, however, I am currently mostly focused on processing output and related supervision. What University records and manuscript collections suffer from a lack of description, and which of those are the highest priority? What tasks must be done by a professional archivist (which means me) and what tasks can a student tackle with supervision? What support or learning do I need to become a better supervisor and colleague to the students, staff, and other library faculty who rely on me? We all know what it is like to have many collections that need care and feeding but limited staff and budgets with which to accomplish such feats. In a department of six full-time faculty and staff, with three part-time workers, prioritization is the name of the game.

Last year, with the aid of a couple of students, we reprocessed our University archives photograph collection. The previous inventory was really a box list, not an intellectual arrangement; plenty of images were not included and instead scattered in various corners of the stacks. What a great opportunity to reorganize our images, collect everything together, and create a plan to make adding new materials easier in the future! I decided to arrange the images according to their record group, since especially internal users are often seeking images from a specific department and because the archivists on staff are familiar with its organization. Many moons and about 50 additional linear feet later, a new finding aid has arisen.

But we’re not done with the photographs yet! As is the case at many archives, I’d bet, our photographs collection is heavily trafficked and contains some real gems. To aid and simplify reference work, we decided to digitize every last image in our collection. With the help of our hard-working Digitization Lab faculty member and student staff, the images are currently being scanned.

But we all know with great images comes great needs for metadata.

Thankfully, instead of piling this work on our Digital Collections Librarian, we are able to hire a part-time metadata technician; she is an experienced cataloguer who has worked with special collections materials in the past. With supervision from me and my boss, and support from our team of archives and digitial initiatives colleagues, she will be providing detailed description for these thousands of images. Her work will be uploaded in batches to our University Archives Photograph Collection online as it becomes available (seriously, these images are in such high demand that we cannot make them searchable fast enough).

As with any processing project, you know there will be trial and error – not in part because I have much to learn about supervision work, and I find there’s always something with projects like this that arrives unanticipated. Humanity, am I right?! And an upcoming research post on this very blog has me wondering if we’re doing enough to make the images and descriptions accessible for all, note to self. Regardless of what awaits our work in the coming months, I am so very excited to improve access to these images by leaps and bounds! In addition to repaying my reference colleagues for all the baked goods that they supply me with, of course I am – the whole team is – thrilled at all the potential uses this will open up for our photographs.

Legis* Research Team: Goals and Preliminary Findings

The Legis* Research Team monitors the intersection of archives issues and legislative resources and concerns, legislative bills, and individual legislators. This post, part of our Research Post series, was written by Rachel Mandell, Mark Prindiville, Ashley Levine, Dina Mazina, and Laurel Bowen.

Who is the Legis* Research Team?

Team coordinator: Rachel Mandell, USC Digital Library and I&A Chair

Team members: Laurel Bowen, Georgia State University; Katharina Hering, Georgetown Law Library; Lindsay Hiltunen, Michigan Technological University; Ashley Levine, Artifex Press; Dina Mazina, US Senate Committee on Finance; andMark Prindiville, Walter P. Reuther Library

What does the Legis* Research Team do?

The Backstory: For those of you who are familiar with the Issues and Advocacy Legislator Research Team of the past, the current configuration is somewhat different. We are taking a different approach and consider this very much a beta structure or a work in progress, if you will. We decided that a revamp was necessary because as we began to reflect on our goals for this team,  I&A vice-chair, Courtney Dean, and I realized that the information collected by Legislator Research Teams in the past have had no direct uses or action items associated with the data. This year, we hope to change that!
Goals: In recent months, we have been in conversation with the Committee on Public Policy (CoPP) about working towards the goal of contacting legislators and potentially engaging in on the ground advocacy work at SAA 2018 in Washington, D.C.. Towards that end, and also towards the end of collecting data for a purpose, we would like the Legislator/Legislative Research Team to try something different.

What does the Legis* Research Team do?

The Task: Legis*: Choose and Monitor (yes, that is a Boolean search/truncation joke)

Everyone on the current team has chosen up to 3 items to monitor. The idea is to explore topics of interest and, in doing so,  see more clear goals/uses emerge from the data. The categories are legislation, legislators, and legislative resources. We will cover topics and people qho have influence and affect archives, funding, social justice, data security and surveillance, labor, etc. No topic is too small or too big; given the rather limited time commitment for this research team, extensive research is not expected. Instead, we seek to have and share a general overview of what’s happening in legislative branches, what resources are out there, what legislation is being discussed, and who is taking the lead on such legislation.

What’s included in your research?

So far the topics chosen are as follows:


  • H.R. 2884: Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act of 2017
  • H.R. 3923: Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4382: Free Flow of Information Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4271: To blog the implementation of certain presidential actions that restrict individuals from certain countries from entering the United States.
  • H.R. 4081: Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2017


  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Hank Johnson (D-GA)
  • Gary Peters (D-MI)
  • Joe Crowley (D-NY)
  • Michael Turner (R-OH)
  • Darrell Issa (R-CA)
  • Mike Quigley (D-IL)
  • Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Jamie Raskin (D- MD)
  • David Cicilline (D-RI)


  • National Coalition for History, Congressional History Caucus
  • The Hill
  • National Archives Center for Legislative Archives
  • Democracy Now!
  • Senate Committees
  • Senate Legislation and Records
  • Congressional Transparency Caucus
  • Data Transparency Coalition

This year promises to be an interesting year in our legislative branch of government and the I&A Legis* Team will be there to monitor. We look forward to reporting back with with more information as the year progresses!

Preliminary update from Mark Prindiville: 

The Hill

  • Founded in 1994, due to the success of Roll Call, a newspaper and website that reports on legislative and political maneuverings in the Capitol.
  • Can be argued that The Hill is the American equivalent to the United Kingdom’s BBC News or The Guardian.
  • The Hill also operates through its website and has six blogs dealing with politics and legislation.
  • Has a surprisingly adamant social media presence, though it does not seem to have the same positive feedback in regards to its phone/tablet application.
    • If one follows The Hill on sites like Facebook, they post stories and breaking news at an astounding rate.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich)

  • Born December 1, 1958. Served on the Rochester Hills City Council from 1991-1993. Member of MI Senate from 1995-2002. Commissioner of Michigan Lottery from 2003-2007. Member of U.S. House of Representatives (MI-9) from 2009-2013, and again (MI-14) from 2013-2015. Elected to US Senate in 2015, succeeding Carl Levin.
  • Voted for the Recovery Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (not passed), the Paycheck Fairness Act (not passed), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the DREAM Act
  • As of 2010, has a “D” rating from the NRA; 2016’s Orlando shooting prompted Peters to participate in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster
  • In 2017, voted “Yea” on allowing Ajit Pai to become Chairman of FCC; however, Sen. Peters has come out against the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality, including voting in favor to overrule the FCC repeal, along with fellow Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow
Preliminary update from Ashley Levine:

I have elected to monitor three resources to explore how the American media and government document the undocumented, respectively. These include the TV, radio, and internet news program Democracy Now!; legislator Tom Cotton (R-AR); and House bill H.R. 3923, Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017.

My preliminary findings suggest failures of government accountability in documenting abuse of undocumented persons by government agencies, e.g. U.S. Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE), amid simultaneous efforts to bolster aggressive immigration enforcement policies. I aim to unpack the meaning of “government transparency” related to policy affecting undocumented persons, and simultaneously assess the effectiveness of the media in presenting truthful, documentary evidence on immigration matters.

Preliminary update from Dina Mazina:

I’ll be following issues of government transparency, specifically the Congressional Transparency Caucus and their two chairmen, Mike Quigley (D-IL)  and Darrell Issa (R-CA).

In December, Rep. Quigley introduced the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which would establish a central repository accessible to congressional staffs and the general public of federal agency non-confidential published reports. Recently, the bill passed out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A companion bill is being led in the Senate by Senators Portman and Klobuchar.

Preliminary update from Laurel Bowen: 

I’m monitoring Michael Turner (R-OH), Joe Crowley (D-NY), and my own representative Hank Johnson (D-GA).  I’m familiar with Michael Turner as a successful advocate of legislation that promotes historic preservation, a field that often employs archivists.  I’ll be interested to find out if Joe Crowley and Hank Johnson, both representing urban areas, are advocates for cultural activities (libraries, archives, museums).  

In researching via I discovered (accidently) that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has introduced H.R. 1376, the Electronic Message Preservation Act of 2017, which requires the U.S. Archivist to promulgate regulations governing federal agency preservation of electronic messages.

Archivists on the Issues: Reflections on Privilege in the Archives

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from a new regular writer for I&A’s blog, Summer Espinoza. Summer is the Digital Archivist at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

In Fall 2016, Michelle Caswell’s “Archives, Records, and Memory” class at the UCLA Graduate School of Information Studies collectively created the content for the poster “Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives”(Caswell, Brilmyer, 2016).  The poster lists five areas to identify and take corrective action towards disassembling the power-structure of white supremacy.  The sections of the poster, identified as an “Incomplete List of White Privileges in Archives and Action Items for Dismantling Them” include appraisal, description, access/use, professional life, and education.  Each section lists privilege and possible actions to create a counteraction.  As an example, in the description section, one privilege is listed as “materials are described using my native language” and actions to counter this as a privilege are “Hire multilingual people as archivists and translators and translate finding aids into appropriate languages” and “Encourage, value, and give credit for language courses in MLIS programs and as continuing education” (Caswell, 2016).  In a related article, “Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives,Caswell reflects on her experiences and consequential action to bring the conversation into her class as teaching faculty in a national political climate in which her colleagues and students expressed to her fear and anxiety about their rights as residents of the United States (Caswell, 2017).

Though the poster may have come out of a class exercise, it exudes a sense of professional activism.  It provides rules to live by, goals in daily archival work and easily accessible and relevant issues in archival work.  My own professional experiences have made me stop and reflect on the privileges from which I have benefited.

I am a project archivist at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), where the student population is less than 10% white; the largest populations are Latinx (69%) and Black (14%) per CSUDH Institutional Research, 2016.  The campus also has a large population of undocumented students, also known as “Dreamers.”  At the time of my arrival in Spring 2017, the campus Dreamer Success Center provided ally workshops, informational talks about the challenges of being an undocumented student, and discussions about the threatening nature of the United States’ current political climate.

In an admittedly naive attempt to create a professional space for allyship, I began to investigate the possibility of implementing an oral history project for Dreamers’ narratives, to be accessioned into the University Archives, unaware that this posed a potential risk not to myself but to contributors.  After some initial research and conversations with collaborators, and after wrestling with the responsibilities and possible consequences, I was directed by a concerned party to locate news about a Boston College Irish Republican Army (IRA) oral history collection and the 2016 government-ordered release of restricted content recorded in 2001.

Today, I reflect on my role as an archivist of color at a public university, how I found fear in my position, and the real implications of this particular attempt at inclusivity in the archives without a clear sense of action and acumen in the profession.  The fear I felt was the ease with which the information could be abused, as was the case with the aforementioned IRA oral history collection.

Previously, I experienced this same fear at a community-based private non-profit cultural archive.  In this instance, the emotion was based in possible consequences of increased access and deviation from a “normative narrative” of heroism and reverence.  There were potential tangible consequences to the fiscal health of the organization per se if increased access to content were viewed as the “airing the dirty laundry.”

These two experiences led me to cautious action moving towards inclusivity.  Why?  Chris Taylor’s article (2017), “Getting our House in Order: Moving from Diversity to Inclusion” creates a conversation on the impact of our training, our worldviews and experiences, and how our personal worldview is projected in our professional work (p. 23).  My own professional training and education is far from adequate to effectively maneuver in this conversation that is not yet rooted in any wide-scale and sustained conversations or representation by any governing organization or collective in the field of archives. In both of the aforementioned cases, I recognize a gnawing inadequacy of my professional-self.

With a movement towards dismantling supremacy in archives, there will be challenges and fear of change, and hesitation of being seen as a change-maker.  What is the professional and personal impact of these actions?  How does one engage with the political implications of disrupting an architecture, and what tools can I equip myself with that will diminish negative professional self-doubt, fear of consequences of change, and foster empowerment.  How do we complete the list of white privilege and structural oppression?  What can be built in its place and what authority does such new inclusive structure have?  Will/can archivists dismantle white supremacy in the archives alone, and should we do so, alone?

Archivists, contributors, users, are faced with personal and professional risks and consequences in an emotionally and politically charged topic that systematically misrepresented, and excluded communities of color.  My sense of fear is based in real daily experiences, not as case-studies or theoretical conversation.  Perhaps others feel fear, confusion, hesitation, exhaustion and other emotions that can deflate professional duty, and create a roadblock for future attempts to build a truly inclusive archive.



Steering Share: Considering Labor Models in Archives Work

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post is by I&A Vice Chair/Chair Elect Courtney Dean, a Project Archivist at the University of California at Los Angeles Library Special Collections.

While it is imperative that we critically examine our institutional policies, collecting efforts, descriptive practices, and user services, I would argue it just as essential to consider the affective experience of archival labor. Much work has been done in recent years on this concept of affect and the archive (see the March 2016 special issue of Archival Science and other work by Marika Cifor, Michelle Caswell, and Anne Gilliland) and this scholarship considers central questions such as:

What is the capacity of recordkeeping processes, or of records or the physical place of the archives to engender psychological and physiological responses in those who encounter them? What is the nature of those affects? What are the affects for individuals, communities and nations of the absence or irrecoverability of records? In what ways, and to what extent, do records, and the holdings of our archives capture or contain emotions and other forms of affect that were experienced by the creators or others engaged or present in the making of the records? How should the archivist represent such affect to potential users, and how should the archivist anticipate and respond to affective responses and reactions on the part of those users? What kinds of affect are experienced by the archivist? What ethical imperatives and dilemmas does a consideration of affect present for practicing archivists? What theoretical concepts and models might be challenged by explicitly incorporating affective considerations? (1)

Increasingly, attention has also been directed to the affective experience of employment in Library and Information Science (LIS) professions. Fobazi Ettarh’s exploration of what she has termed vocational awe attempts to “to dismantle the idea that librarianship is a sacred calling; thus requiring absolute obedience to a prescribed set of rules and behaviors, regardless of any negative effect on librarians’ own lives.” (2) Ettarh calls attention to the very real prevalence of burnout, under-compensation, job creep, and lack of diversity in LIS. Kaetrena Davis Kendrick’s The Low Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study takes a close look at the development, experience, and repercussions of low morale, including physical and psychological effects and the long-term impact of “repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace.” (3) Davis Kendrick has recently announced a follow-up study on low morale in minority academic librarians, which will address issues such as microaggressions and the recruitment and retention of librarians of color.

Check out Fobazi’s keynote at the Pushing the Margins symposium:


While the aforementioned examples specifically address librarianship, they can just as easily be applied to archives and archivists. Perhaps even more endemic in the archival profession, however, is the reliance on temp workers, further compounding issues of job satisfaction. Chela Scott Weber’s OCLC Research Report Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special, and Distinctive Collections in Research Libraries specifically mentions a need for investigating the long-term effects of term labor. “There is growing concern regarding ways in which insecure employment affects both the diversity of the profession and the cadre of early career professionals who often fill term roles, as well as how forced turnover, fluctuating staff resources, and the short-term frameworks inherent to project-based work affect our programs in the long term.” (4)

Even though the labor issue did not rise to the top as a priority for further OCLC research, they have been very supportive of interest and future work in this area. To this end, a colleague and I have been considering how to go about conducting a survey which captures both a snapshot of the current usage of temp labor in archives, and the costs, both emotional and financial, of reliance on this labor model. What percentage of the labor force in the field is temp workers? Is the practice of creating/hiring temporary positions greater now than it has been in the past? How does this affect diversity in our profession? We have all heard the anecdotes and have experienced, or can speculate about, the resultant anxiety, inability to make major life decisions, and constant relocating that plagues individuals, and the loss of institutional knowledge and transient staff that face institutions. However, there has historically been little to no actual data collected about the affective experience and long term effects of temp labor.

One of the end goals, besides data collection, is to publish our findings, and create a document outlining best practices for temporary positions. Initially this began as a much smaller undertaking, mainly to arm ourselves with information to present to our own institutional management. In the course of conducting a literature review, and talking to colleagues across the profession, it quickly became apparent that this is much sought after information that would have a wide reaching impact, and we plan to reach out to groups that are already engaged in complementary work in allied professions, such as the DLF’s Labor Working Group.

It is my hope that this work will inform awareness of the long-term effects of temporary labor and encourage conversations about labor models in our field. While it is likely that temp positions will never go away entirely, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that the experience is meaningful and ethical.

Works cited
  1. Cifor, M. & Gilliland, A.J. Arch Sci (2016) 16: 1.
  2. Ettarh, Fobazi. Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. January 10, 2018.
  3. Davis Kendrick, Kaetrena. (2017). The Low Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of Library Administration. 57.
  4. Weber, Chela Scott. 2017. Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special, and Distinctive Collections in Research Libraries. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. doi:10.25333/C3C34F.


Archives in the News: Retention, Repatriation, and Reproduction

Shaun Hayes is a member of the I&A News Monitoring Research Team, which brings us this Archives in the News Research post. Hayes is the Archives Program Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is passionate about sharing current news articles regarding archives and the profession with his students and others. 


Three recent news stories have highlighted the relationship between records important to their countries’ histories. The first, “Halting Auction, France Designates Marquis de Sade Manuscript a ‘National Treasure’,” appeared in the New York Times on December 19, 2017. The article details the history of the Marquis de Sade’s famous work 120 Days of Sodom and efforts made by the French government to cancel a planned auction of the original manuscript so that public funds could be raised for its purchase. Interestingly, the article cites the manuscript’s “sulfurous reputation” as one of the reasons for its designation as a national treasure.

The article “Morocco Retrieves 43,000 Archival Documents About Moroccan Jews From France describes the repatriation of archival documents created by Moroccan Jews in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries. This example of a country seeking to control records important to their national history differs from the example above in that it deals with the repatriation of records that had been outside of the country seeking control of them for some time, as far back as 1948. According to the article, a main impetus for retrieving the records stems from the 2011 Moroccan Constitution’s recognition of Jewish heritage as an integral part of Morocco’s heritage.  

The third article, “Gabriel García Márquez’s Archive Freely Available Online,” focuses on the online archive of Gabriel García Márquez‘s papers provided by the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center. The article alludes to the controversy surrounding the sale of Márquez’s papers to an archive outside of his native Colombia, or in Mexico, where Márquez spent a part of his life. A previous New York Times article illustrated the outrage in Colombia over the Colombian government’s failure to acquire Márquez’s papers. The more recent article seemingly brushes aside issues of the collection’s ultimate location by stating that “But now, the university’s Harry Ransom Center has digitized and made freely available about half of the collection, making some 27,000 page scans and other images visible to anyone in the world with an internet connection.”

The incongruous views about the importance of records remaining physically located in communities that claim ownership of them is interesting; in the first two examples, France halted an auction and plans to raise millions of dollars in order to retain ownership of de Sade’s manuscript, while Morocco spent years attempting to repatriate records related to its Jewish history. In both instances, the governments of those nations felt that accessing the records that were deemed to be of national significance was not enough and that efforts had to be made to retain or have them returned. In the third example, the Times suggests that simply having access to online versions of some of the records in the Márquez papers should mollify any concerns about the collection’s physical location.

What the Márquez article by Jennifer Schuessler fails to consider is the intrinsic value of the physical papers. The Society of American Archivists’ Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology defines intrinsic value as “the usefulness or significance of an item derived from its physical or associational qualities, inherent in its original form and generally independent of its content, that are integral to its material nature and would be lost in reproduction.” The intrinsic value of the Márquez papers can be found in their uniqueness as important examples of Colombian culture and history. This uniqueness is subverted when Colombians are relegated to simply accessing records that anyone else with an Internet connection can access as well.

This is not to criticize the Ransom Center for purchasing the collection, and it is certainly laudable how publicly accessible it has made some of the papers. What is most troublesome about the perspective of the Times‘ Schuessler is how she conflates issues of ownership and access. Ownership gives the owner power over how and when something is accessed; simply having access to something puts the accessors at the whims of the owners. This is a power relationship that is as old as time, and yet Ms. Schuessler suggests that one is as good as the other when it comes to records.

As archivists, we are well aware of the power that records can have as central aspects of a community’s cultural identity and as the rise of community archives demonstrates, ownership of these records can play a key role in ensuring that records are kept and maintained in ways that reflect community values and priorities. It is our job to continue to educate the public on the role that records play in strengthening and supporting social memory and culture and the vital role that the ownership of records can play in doing so.