Commemorating National Archives Month-An Armchair approach

From tragic tales and dramatic feuds to stunning and unknown artwork, opening a box in an archive can lead researchers to stories they never expected.   U of M Continuum 

As we commemorate National Archives Month a single mental image, long seared in my memory, surfaces. It is the memory of Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter salvaging protest banners during the 1968 riots that rocked the Howard campus and much of Washington, DC. In that fleeting moment I learned the role and strength of an archivist committed to preservation of the record.

The possibilities for commemorating National Archives Month 2016 are limitless – and irresistible. This is the time when archivists dust off the memorabilia, open the doors, and welcome the public to come explore – physically or digitally – the records of their community, their heritage, or the nation.

Though it is a challenge to describe the complex research and technical expertise of the archivist we honor the professionalism with which they give life to inert records.

In the relatively recent past archivists and researchers have experienced seismic change in the very definition of archives. Archives have gone digital – and yet the digital record does not exist without the ground level work of archivists who spot and capture that which is to be preserved — the letter, the recording, the photo, the document, the video, the painting or diary – or the political banner.

The Minnesota Digital Archives (a forever work in progress) is the mother lode of the digital record of the state’s history – and a starting point for an overview of the digital scene. http://legacy.mnhs.org/featured-projects/153 The “premier project” of MDL is Minnesota Reflections (http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/). This is an easily browsed collection of digitized images, text, audio, film and other records shared by the state’s academic, religious, arts and other cultural institutions.

The Northern Lights and Insights series featuring Minnesota writers and books is part of this collection (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/northern-lights-insights-conversations-come-alive-as-videotaped-conversations-go-digital/)

Readers may be also be in the Minnesota Books and Authors Collection section of the MPR digital archives: (http://archive.mprnews.org/collections/minnesota-books-and-authors-collection)

Though these and a host of other digitized collections offer incredible access to long-buried research materials, I worry at times that, because so much is clickable, we may lose sight of the fact that archives have roots…

More about the month’s archival programs and exhibits in the next post.

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