Video: “Reaching Out” by Samantha Abrams (University of Wisconsin-Madison), an Ignite talk for the Openlab Workshop Unconference, December 1, 2015, in Crystal City, VA.
Published on Jun 27, 2016

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Transcript


REACHING OUT

Samantha Abrams, University of Wisconsin-Madison


I'm Samantha Abrams. I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I'm the archivist at Culvers. It’s a burger joint. I think the best comparison is like Five Guys or Shake Shack. I don't know. Good stuff.

I'm in Madison, Wisconsin, and to orient you guys it's a smaller city compared to D.C., but it's home to a lot of cultural heritage institutions. I'm part of SAA student chapter on our campus, and this is their mission. It's basically two-fold we serve ourselves, the future archivists, and we serve the community. My problem with being a member of SAA is that we really are good at serving ourselves, and we're terrible at serving the public.

So I wanted to change that. I’m the advocacy leader for our group, so I thought I would do what we called Personal Archiving Day. And the first idea was actually to do personal digital archiving, but then we realized our audience would probably be people not interested in that, or not ready to do that.

So what we instead did was personal archiving day we invited members of the community to bring in things that they have a home. These are from my archive at Culvers, so you don't have sound cans at home, but close enough. So we invited people to bring books, and film, and stuff like that.

We coordinated with Archives Month, which is an outreach event. It's huge in Wisconsin. We used the Wisconsin Historical Society to our advantage. They advertised for us. It was on their website. It was a good partner to have, but we also did other things like we emailed politicians. We did not email Scott Walker.

We emailed, we advertised on community calendars. We had a spot on the news for 2 minutes, and then all that advertising got us these partners. And we had experts from the Wisconsin Historical Society, film and theatre research, the University of Wisconsin archives, Wisconsin’s high school, so we had a good mix of people who are there to talk about different things.

Then my main point is that these are the students, we had more, but these are the people who were there for the picture. And the thing that I wanted to say about students is that we spent a lot of our time trying to get volunteers, and they all said, “We're not experts we can't do this.”

This is something that students did. They put these together to give out at the event. This was all compiled by first-year archive students, just the basics of taking care of stuff that you might have at your home, and everybody loved these. People took some for their friends, people took some for their mom, and they all that we bought them, or had been commissioned by somebody, but the archive the first year students did it, and it was really great because they were terrified that they were going to lead people wrong.

We had 16 people come, which is kind of somewhere between being successful and being not as successful as I wanted. Madison is small, and I'll talk about a little bit of why 16 is great here. So what I would change to get more people. Wisconsin is a big football town, and well I think my next slide is actually, so we had Star Wars day at the library the same day. The first thing I would change is to make sure I look at the schedule.

We planned it in a month. We didn't know that Star Wars Day was the same day, but it turns out more people would rather read with Storm Troopers then go learn about film.
The other thing is that Wisconsin is a huge football state. We planned it on an off day for the Badgers, and it didn't matter people still went to the bars to watch the Badgers. So maybe something in the Spring would be better.

Another note was that the audiences that we were trying to reach, especially genealogists aren't always available in the Fall. They’re traveling to do research, and that may be another month, like a winter month, or a spring month would have worked out better for us, and there’s no football.

Another thing we us students want to do is take it around the state. We wanted this to be people coming from everywhere, but Wisconsin is huge, and we couldn't reach everyone we wanted. And advocacy is not about like your convenient area but about the larger people, but my main point I think is that this was all done by students and they continually fought against me, and said, “Well I don't know anything. I can't help you do this. There's no way.”

But students know things, and I think using them to do more than just processing or more than just you know data entry and actually getting them involved and stuff is great they know stuff they wanna help that's why they're in school. So thanks.