Archive for the ‘Sharing’ Category

Practicum Experience: David Carliner Papers

Posted: December 10, 2015 by saacua in Sharing

Guest Post by: Lindsey Bright

David Carliner Papers

            The David Carliner Papers is a collection of 29 boxes (12 linear feet) of personal and professional documents and correspondence. David Carliner (1918 – 2007) was a prominent immigration and civil rights attorney in Washington, DC, and founded the DC chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Beginning his practice in the 1940s after being denied an army commission, Carliner gained notoriety for his position as a civil rights activist through his work as an attorney on the 1955 Naim v. Naim and 1967 Loving v. Virginia cases. He was well known throughout Washington’s Jewish community, and he was a driving force behind the movement for home rule in the District. Major cases of note which he participated in include a 1965 representation of a government employee who sued the government after being fired for being gay and the 1979 – 1980 fight against the deportation of Iranian students.

The first chairman of the DC chapter of the ACLU, many of the boxes in this collection contain correspondence, memoranda, member lists, and event information regarding the chapter and its activities and governance. Additionally, even more than his ACLU activities, the boxes contain paraphernalia from his legal career. Court briefings, depositions, congressional records, and legal correspondence are interspersed with more mundane documents, invoices from a landscaper or birthday cards from friends and family. Mainly unprocessed, the bulk of work on this collection was geared towards grasping the scope and content of the boxes amassed as the collection arrived at the DC Public Library’s Washingtoniana Room over the past few years. Maintaining original order as best as possible, the contents of each box were re-foldered, with staples, paperclips, and other detritus removed. Folders were labeled, newspaper clippings separated out for photocopying, and a running list of folders was created. Special care and note were taken with many of the papers, as poor storage conditions prior to accession left parts of the collection water damaged and fragile. Folders containing these items were also labeled as damaged, indicating a priority for photocopying or digitizing and potential discarding depending on the severity of the damage.

Notable items within the collection include letters from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bill Clinton, invitations to the 1963 March on Washington, and a large number of turn of the century German and German-Jewish legal documents. A significant subset within the collection regards Carliner’s wife Miriam née Kalter, who fled Germany in 1930 to avoid persecution as a Jew under the Nazi regime. Correspondence and filings by her and on her behalf for the restitution of her family’s German property make up the contents of almost one entire box, and other folders contain birth and citizenship papers for her and other family members, as well as her naturalization papers. A significant collection for many reasons, a highlight is specifically its relationship to the recent anniversary of DC home rule, and the impact made by Carliner on that legislation.

My work on this collection over around 50 hours was mostly in a processing capacity. I brought to light and made notes on the condition of many of the items involved, but performed little preservation activity due to time and material constraints. Generally processing on a folder level, some item-level work was necessitated by the presence of staples, paperclips, and other non-archival detritus present on and among already fragile or damaged papers. Just over half of the collection, 17 of the 29 boxes, is now rehoused and those boxes each have a complete folder list. Future work is still needed, to both complete the processing and deal with the damaged items and fragile newsprint materials.

Guest Post by: Clara Bannigan

            On October 30, 2015, I attended the 2015 Archives Fair hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, the National Archives Assembly, and the Smithsonian Institution Archives and Special Collections Council.  The theme of this year’s fair was “Hidden Connections.” The presentations focused on exposing historical narratives that may not fit the traditional narrative of the American experience. One particularly local narrative, the history of African Americans in the District of Columbia was discussed in the panel “Beyond the Processed Box: Unearthing the Research Muse through the D.C. Africana Archives Project.”

            The DC Africana Archives Project (DCAAP) Director, Doretha Williams, and the graduate student presenters piqued my interest in this project, especially because as a local of the D.C. area, I am aware of the direct and important impact African Americans had on the development of the District of Columbia. DCAAP is a partnership between George Washington University’s Special Collections Research Center, George Washington University’s Africana Studies Program, and several local archives to “enhance access to previously unavailable research materials that document the history of the African diaspora in DC, the civil rights movements, the struggle for Home Rule, the rise of Black-owned businesses, the development of Howard University, slavery in the nation’s capital, jazz music in D.C., and the literary arts.” GW is partnering with the District of Columbia Archives, the Historical Society of Washington D.C., the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Public Library, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, the Archives Center at the National museum of American History, and the George Washington University Special Collections.

            The DCAAP team and the partnering institutions identified 125 unprocessed archival collections that are focused on its mission, and is supported by a grant to George Washington University from the Council on Library and Information Resources. A group of students work to process these collections for the purpose of creating online finding aids to make the material available. These graduate and undergraduate students are exposed to the collections of local archives and the archival processing theory of ‘more product less process,’ and participate in panel discussions in the area. DCAAP is currently working with local high schools to increase the use of local history and primary source learning in schools.

            At the Archives Fair, several student workers presented on the projects they participated in. Haley Bryant, an MA student at George Washington University presented “Archival Ideologies- Ethnography of Archival Practice at the Mooreland-Spingarn Research Center” discussed the negotiations between the practice of ‘More Product, Less Process’ (MPLP) and traditional archival processing methods. Haley discussed the critiques of MPLP and how they speak to larger issues of power structures and the purpose of the archive as an institution. DCAAP specifically trains the student workers to use MPLP processing techniques, but as Haley pointed out, there are valuable critiques of MPLP that should be addressed, especially with special projects like DCAAP that seek to provide access to ‘hidden collections.’

            The African American community has a critical role in the development of Washington, D.C., and DCAAP is providing the tools that researchers and students need to understand and articulate that role further. If you are interested in the local history and the influence of African Americans in the District of Columbia, check out the project and their finding aids, available online at

Guest Post by: Lindsey Bright

In late August I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. This year’s meeting took place in Cleveland, Ohio, and I attended both as someone interested and involved in the field, and as a representative of the student chapter at CUA. Over the course of three days at the conference, I was able to attend panel discussions, lightning talks, and networking events – all of which there were almost too many to choose from.  Upon receiving a schedule for the week of activities and presentations, I decided to narrow my list of sessions to attend by focusing on a current area of interest of mine.

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

The sessions I chose all focused on cross-cultural, culturally sensitive, or non-traditional collections. It was a pleasant surprise for me that I was able to find five sessions with at least one panel or presentation of this type. Of the sessions I attended, two of the most interesting to me were “Mind Your Own Fucking Business: Documenting Communities that Don’t Want to Be Documented and the Diversity of the American Record” and “The Role of Archives and Archivists in the Search for Truth and Reconciliation”. These two panel sessions touched on very similar points of conversation, while covering some wildly different topics.

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

“Mind Your Own Fucking Business” was a series of short presentations on projects and repositories with one commonality – the records they were collecting were not necessarily records that anyone wanted to save, and the communities supplying the records weren’t always on board with saving them. From polygamist fundamentalist Mormons in Arizona, to graffiti ‘writers’ in Texas, to former members of domestic terrorist groups, the archivists on this panel described how they got started in building their collections, and the obstacles they faced or are facing in the process. For some panelists, the most difficult part was finding ways to describe something like a graffiti tag, an anonymous, temporary work. How much of the description is guesswork, how much of the metadata should be concerned with how the work was documented, and what metadata fields even apply, were some questions that needed answering. On the other hand, a panelist working with local native American tribal artifacts and cultural records had a much different challenge. It wasn’t what they knew about an item, it was what they could share. The sensitive nature of cultural materials, and the protocols associated with the particular tribal band and their spiritual practices meant that much information could be recorded for preservation, but could not be made publicly available at the behest of the tribe.

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

On the other hand, “Truth and Reconciliation” was a presentation by a group working on a single project. This was very unique and interesting to me in that the project came about because of a long-running and ground-breaking court case in Canada, in which native and first-nations Canadians sued the Canadian government over the operation and oversight of residential schools. As part of the fallout of this case, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Canada was established, to handle the collection, management, and dispersion of records related to residential schools. This presentation looked at how differently this archives was established and organized, and how the typical archival structure was affected by the things that the court decision mandated. It was very interesting in not only learning how the court decision came about, but the sheer amount of records being processed. The archivists also indicated that they were looking to add more, including oral histories and testimonies, in the future depending on how the established archives is handled after it meets its goals under the TRC mandate.

These, as well as the other sessions I attended, helped to broaden my understanding of the different shapes that archives and archiving can take, and the ways that I can serve different communities of people through archives and preservation. With the increasing variety of materials being added to archival collections, and the way we are able to use technology to bridge gaps between users, institutions, and materials, Archives2015 gave me a lot of inspiration for non-traditional avenues to explore in my career. Having the opportunity to attend these and other sessions, including someone from the DC Punk Archive, a collaboration between archivists in the US and Japan concerning medical testing after the atomic bombs, and an address by a company that records oral histories – I have a much better practical understanding of the forms that archives can take, and the roles that I can play in archives of many different scales.

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Archives 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio

Guest Post by: Jenna Tenaglio

Soaked in the hydralicious air of Lake Erie, Cleveland sure smells sweet in the morning-especially when it’s packed with hundreds of archivists. The city is a beautiful place, certainly much more pleasing than I’d imagined during my hour-long day-dreamy flight from Washington, DC. I was living the life: attending a national conference for archivists and related professionals; networking over dessert at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame; pitching in during meetings with other student SAA leaders. My only regret? Traveling via an enjoyable 60 minute plane ride instead of an enjoyable five hour plane ride. I just can’t get enough of soaring through the air at hundreds of kilometers per hour, miles above earth’s surface.

Wait…wait that’s not right. What am I doing risking my neck to fly an hour out of my way to a city I’ve never been to before? Sure, I’m attending the SAA Annual Meeting, but do I even want to be an archivist? Why am I headed to Cleveland? Or, at this point, why was I ever in Cleveland?

That latter question is really the most pivotal: “Why was I ever in Cleveland?” I’m not suggesting that my attendance at ARCHIVES 2015 was necessarily surprising, but simply that, a short year ago, I would not have considered SAA as an organization especially suited to my interests. And yet it’s funny how 12 months of classes and serendipitous opportunities can turn your original expectations and perspectives on their, proverbial, heads.

Allow me to begin at the beginning. I’ve been an LIS student at CUA for the past year, specializing in Cultural Heritage Information Management. Outreach is the name of my game. More specifically, my professional interests lie in outreach, engagement, and educational programming…for public cultural heritage institutions.

I have never self-identified as an archivist, never as a librarian. As far as student groups go, I spent my first year of graduate school dabbling in the official CUA student chapter of the American Library Association (AGLISS). The fit just wasn’t right, so I began considering other possibilities. Still, I wasn’t sure that an archives centered group was right for me. But a few months into the Spring semester, I was effectively talked into joining SAA@CUA. Within a few weeks, I was Vice President-elect.

By mid-summer 2015, attending the Annual Meeting was not on my radar. Busy completing my program practicum at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, I was happy and content formulating outreach and engagement strategies for the Smithsonian Transcription Center. In fact, it was this experience, coupled with some exploration and inquisition of my own, that led me down the tarmac to Cleveland. Spurred on by my academic and practical work, I began to see that professional roles meld, and that the important questions and areas of research in this field cross titular and institutional boundaries. Not surprisingly then, when I began familiarizing myself with the specific purview of ARCHIVES 2015, and with the persistent issues generally of interest to SAA, I found most to be very close to my own professional heart. As Fall 2015-effective Vice President, I already needed to step up my SAA game; so this newly realized relevancy of my own passions put the clincher on the deal. Mind made up, I registered for the conference and booked myself a two-way plane ticket.

The 2015 Annual Meeting is the first national LIS field conference I’ve been lucky enough to attend. I learned a great deal regarding the professional climate, contemporary practices, and research areas. Moreover, ARCHIVES 2015 expanded and challenged my personal preconceptions, inspiring me to change the way I contextualize myself, and my interests, within the LIS field. Below, I’ve selected four general lessons I learned.

1. Observe as much as, if not more than, you contribute. When you’re experiencing a conference for the first time, you’re trying to get your bearings, choose exhibits and educational panels you’d like to see, and identify those professionals with whom you’d like to network, to name only a few activities. As a student, you’ll also realize that you’re surrounded by practicing professionals: some new, but many seasoned, long-active professionals. The sooner that you realize you probably have more to learn than to contribute, you’ll be more likely to garner the best, and most informative experience possible. When you’re always busy contributing, you miss out on vital information…including how to key in on the right times to quiet down and tune up your awareness.

2. Social trends impact the degree to which professional previews overlap. As budding LIS professionals, we’re always taking current social advances and trends into account when it comes to adapting practices and meeting changing informational needs. You’ll also notice that, as trends take shape, they begin to affect all areas of the field: from archives to museums to academic institutions. With specific trends on the radar, professionals from across the field focus on best practices and researching relevancies and new applications. Social media engagement and outreach, for example, is a hot button topic in the field today. Most institutions are using it, and most academics are doing some type of research on its use. Unsurprisingly, the element of digital outreach reigned across this year’s Annual Meeting, and more and more professionals from different backgrounds were able to relate to a wide array of panels. Keep in mind, then, that staying up to date, and well-versed in, current social trends will serve you well across professional disciplines.

3. Question often and trust yourself. Maintain your original point of view, and make sure that you take on new information with a grain of salt. We all come from different backgrounds so, more importantly, we all approach new information, situations, and encounters with a different set of thoughts and beliefs. That’s okay. Remember that your own worldview has taken you this far; it’s what endows you with that special sense of yourself, and gives you a different perspective from everyone else. I find that it can be alluring to ascribe to popular thought, or groupthink, especially at conferences..and especially if you’re “the new kid on the block.” In reality, though, it’s your fresh perspective that makes you such a valuable asset to the field-you’re a new set of eyes. That said, use your unique perspective to learn a lot, and to ask questions. Every new situation represents an opportunity to learn; make the most of each one, and ask the questions you need to seek out the best lesson for yourself. Sometimes you’ll find that it’s more appropriate to contemplate your own perspective from within. Other times you will feel moved to question out loud. The choice to question publicly or not will depend on yourself, the situation, and the topic at hand. In any case, whether you decide to speak out or not, maintain that questioning attitude in your personal observations and ruminations. Never take information, even that presented by professionals, at face value. Do your own research, ask your own questions. Above all, never feel inadequate or incorrect because your own perspective leads you in a different direction. Leverage your unique point of view and allow it to take you outside of the box!

4. Catch up with your own “professional demographic”. Most of the “student” attendees of ARCHIVES 2015 paraded about emblazoned with a purple ribbon, reading Student, attached to their badges. I proudly wore the purple ribbon myself. During a week filled with panel discussions, plenary speakers, and more vendor booths than you’ll see at a county fair, being reminded that you aren’t the lonely representative of your professional demographic is oddly reassuring.

It was after a particularly troubling session that I first became aware of the importance of having a peer group directly available for “consultation”. I left the session in question burning with indignation at the-repeated-suggestion that volunteers in archives are, even when holding relevant graduate degrees, somehow inferior to the gainfully employed. As a student, I know all too well that volunteering is often the only way to rake in those required 1-3 years of “professional” experience before “becoming” employable. Almost like a blessing from above, my next session was the SAA Student Chapter Leader’s Meeting. A roundtable with my counterparts from across the country was exactly what the doctor prescribed for the cynicism and (dare I say it) apathy that seemed to be setting in. Together, we reinforced one another’s ideals of budding professionalism, and so ignited a hope for a shift that might just start with us.

So, if you’re feeling a page or two behind everyone else, take a step back and reevaluate your role at the conference, and your current role in the professional landscape. Find your peers, ask them out for dinner or a quick chat over some coffee, and then hash things out together. You may be surprised to find that, while most of them are probably strangers, you’ll have an easier time networking and being an awesome ambassador for your institution.

Apart from these general lessons, the most important point I arrived at concerns my own self-perception. Professional self-identification as an “archivist,” and membership in, or mere interest in, a body such as SAA, are not mutually inclusive. As a budding information professional, don’t pigeonhole yourself – and certainly don’t allow others to pigeonhole you into a specific role. Your interests will probably cross field boundaries; you might be a little undecided; you may need to do some exploring. And guess what? All of that is okay! In fact, it’s more than okay – it’s perfectly you.

Guest Post by: Lauren Welch

This flow chart does a good job juxtaposing an archivist with a bandleader, medical doctor, and a cartoon character which brings a hilarious outlook on the little decisions an archivist makes on a daily basis.

Found from

Picture found from:

I am working with Dr. Jane Zhang at the Catholic University of America to create a database of archives in Washington DC and the surrounding area and use BatchGeo to map the data. We would like your assistance to update our data.

Map of Nation's Capital Archives

Nation’s Capital Archives

View our current data

You can view our map and data at On the map you can enter your archive name in the search box (top right) or click on the marker for information about each archive; scroll below the map for the alphabetized list with details.

How you can help

You can help by completing our survey. The objective of our survey is to help verify our data and to identify dates for the foundation of the archives. We are also interested in identifying any archivists instrumental in the development of archival theory or practice. We would like your help verifying the information we have and filling in details, especially dates the archive was founded and archivists from the area. If you know of additional archival repositories that are not on our map, you can add that information as well.

Click the link below to begin the survey:

Thank you in advance for your help. If you have any questions please email me at

Inside the Archives: National Park Service


Written by Justine Rothbart

Yellowstone Archives Blitz Team 1 (September 2014): (left to right) Patricia Lehar, Anna Trammell, Erin Bostwick, Anne Foster, Shawn Bawden, Henry Mac, and Justine Rothbart (me). Yellowstone Archives Blitz Team 1 (September 2014): (left to right) Patricia Lehar, Anna Trammell, Erin Bostwick, Anne Foster, Shawn Bawden, Henry Mac, and Justine Rothbart (me).

As I skimmed through my e-mails, this one caught my eye: “Yellowstone National Park is seeking five graduate students (or recent graduates) to volunteer in the park’s archives for five days.” As I’m sitting at my desk at the National Park Service Washington Office (WASO) in Washington, D.C., I imagine myself hiking through the first national park. Maybe I would actually see wildlife in person, instead of just from a “live cam” on my computer. Maybe I would see a part of the country I have never seen before. And most of all, maybe this position will give me experience to work on an innovative project in my field of study: Archives.

Continue reading this blog post on the Yellowstone…

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Guest blog by Chris Burroughs

Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum for Women in the Arts

Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum for Women in the Arts

There are numerous processes that an archivist or archival staff must undertake on a regular basis as part of their work. Whether it is processing a collection, describing those collections, making appraisal decisions, or, even more important in the 21st digitizing collections, all of these and other tasks are essential to the operations of an archival facility. However, I argue, and many researchers in the field would agree, that access may be the most important task of all. Simply put, why are we keeping these records? It is nice to say that we have appraised what is worthy of preservation and we have constructed beautiful collections in nice acid-free folders within acid-free boxes, correctly labeled and described, and placed neatly on shelves. If these are not used, though, what good is our profession? Do we not become, then, file clerks and not archivists? As it is in so many other professions, we have to justify our existence, and providing our materials for use is how we do that.

The Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC is an example of an organization that understands the need for access, even if all measures to provide such access are not yet in place. The library was formed at the same time as the museum in the early 1980s, but was forced to close in 2008 due to the recession. Director Heather Slania was hired to re-open the library in 2011, and she currently works with one other full-time staff person and is assisted by interns. The collections housed by the library’s archives include the records of the museum as well as special collections related to women in the arts. Since 2011, it has been the staff’s goal to make the collections accessible to researchers and the public. I worked as an intern there during the summer of 2014, and I saw first-hand the desire to provide this information, coupled with the reality that much work was needed. While many of the collections had some rudimentary organization to them, there was either no finding aid available or simply a vague box inventory. Those that did have finding aids were in need of an overhaul to make them more DACS compliant. The task before Slania and her staff (and interns like me) was to improve the order of these collections and make understandable finding aids that would improve access to the collections for the user, and I consider myself privileged to be able to assist in this by processing and creating finding aids for two collections over the summer.

Another issue in access for the library is a digital presence. Currently, the library’s collections are listed on their website, with most linking to either their completed finding aid or to a box inventory. That is where the digital presence ends. Slania stated it is her vision to be able to make some of the collection available online, but two issues prevent that at present. First, she must deal with copyright issues within the collections, as some of the collections contain work by a variety of people, which would make tracking down each person for their permission to digitize difficult. Secondly, the library currently has its hands full in attempting to ensure that their collections are properly organized and described, in addition to issues in other areas of the facility. The point, then, becomes making sure the physical house is in order before adding a new wing to that structure through digitization.

In tackling the issues in front of them, Slania and her staff understand the need for providing access to their materials, that this is the focus of their work. Otherwise, it is just a nice group of papers gathering dust on a shelf.

In National Archives exhibit, signed letters help tell the story of our nation — and beyond – The Washington Post

Culled from the billions of records maintained by the Archives, the more than 100 examples in “Making Their Mark” offer surprises both moving and ironic, from 10-year-old Michael Rosenberg’s plaintive letter to President Eisenhower pleading to save his parents from execution (“Please don’t leave my brother and I without a Mommy and Daddy”) to Saddam Hussein’s greeting card of congratulations to his future war foe, George H.W. Bush, following the latter’s 1989 inauguration.


Please join fellow archival and information management professionals for a rescheduled celebration of American Archives Month on April 3, 2014. The Fair will be held at the National Archives Building in the McGowan Theater and will feature panels, presentations, tables, and a meet and greet coffee hour in the morning. The full schedule for the day’s events can be found at

Anyone interested in attending can preregister by emailing using the subject line Archives Fair 2014.

Preregistration is not required but it is appreciated.