Reflections on Reflections – A Digital Archive of Archives

Creating a profile of a single archive seems the best way to celebrate American Archives Month.  The problem is that there are too many, each unique, with its own personality and its own stories to relate.   Some are traditional – print materials and physical objects; others are digital, often based on the traditional.  All are created, tended and shared by archivists who care about preservation of the people’s record.

Minnesota Reflections is a sort of archive of archives, a digital resource to which individual archives of every stripe have contributed their documents and their pictures, with the intent to share the historic record with a broader audience.   Contributors include county historical societies, colleges and universities, state agencies, nonprofits, churches and religious archives, and others.

The photos and the data are not only preserved but cataloged for easy browsing by topic, region and collection (source).  The technical standards are high and the cataloging/organizing standards are the same.  Pick a topic or town or source, search the collection, and see what you find.  Anticipating the season to come, I searched “winter carnival” and found (among many listings) a 1920 photo of the Mankato Winter Carnival parade.  Who knew!

Though the photo collection is perhaps better known, the documents preserved in Minnesota Reflections are incredibly diverse.  Again, a dip into the collection is the best way to appreciate its depth.  For the moment, take a look at a recent installment of “Digital Delights from Minnesota Reflections” that illustrates the range of possibilities. It’s a small sample to be sure, but it will get you started in the right direction.

Happy Archives Month to the archivists and staff at Minnesota Reflections, to the archivists and staff of the contributing organizations, and to the hundreds of Minnesotans who know and value the record left by those individuals and institutions who have gone before, who have adapted to new technologies that extend the reach of those records, and who know full well that some day some one is going to want that exact bit of information – readily accessible and in mint condition.

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