We Are What We Share

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The holidays are known especially as a season of sharing. But when you work with historical records, the concept of sharing what you have and what you know – and inviting others to share what they have and know – is carried out every day, every season.

And new ways of sharing are being put to good use. As archivists, curators, librarians and historians undertake work in and with archives, they are increasingly using blogs, tweets, facebook posts, you tube spots and other means to invite others to join them in this knowledge sharing and discovery process. The potential reach and the immediacy of such activities are creating entirely new ways of looking at how we share primary sources and research output, how we build new knowledge, and how we enhance public investment in these endeavors.

Using social media tools to assist in archival and research activities is an exciting development and represents an important, new frontier. This is especially true when such tools are put into play on an ongoing basis, as the work at hand is being undertaken. Incorporating the use of social media tools into work plans creates an entirely new dynamic with audiences by inviting a two way learning and discovery process. Customers/audiences have the potential of becoming partners/participants in core work as it happens. In sum, engagement is an important goal, and social media usage can be a key ingredient in making this happen.

In the spirit of sharing, here are just a few – a very few – examples of social media tools being used currently by NHPRC-funded projects. Although I am highlighting one tool per project, many of these projects use a combination of these tools to engage with interested followers:

Blogs:

  • Guggenheim Museum – its “Findings” weekly blog began a few years ago as the archives carried out a grant funded processing project, and continues on with surprises from its holdings: http://blogs.guggenheim.org/findings/
  • Appalachian State University – has a “Backlog Blog” devoted to sharing discoveries as they happen while reducing its backlog of unprocessed collections in the archives: http://appcollgrant.library.appstate.edu/

You Tube:

Twitter:

  • John Jay Papers (Columbia) – uses a twitter account to talk about its work and engage interested parties: @John_Jay_Papers
  • Walt Whitman Archive (U Nebraska) – the team of scholars makes regular use of twitter to send out its news: @WhitmanArchive
  • Stanford University – the ePADD project at Stanford is an open-source software suite that supports the appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives. Project staff members are tweeting regular updates on this work: @e_padd

Facebook:

Websites:

I think you get the idea! And in the spirit of sharing what YOU know, please post in the comments any other active social media endeavors that you are aware of…happy hunting. Thanks, and have a very merry and safe holiday season.

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