5 Questions for…David B. Gracy II

Dr. David B. Gracy II, the keynote speaker at SGA’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and Conference, has reflected on his long career and provided the following answers to our five little questions.

How did you become an archivist?

When I was first driving I had to find a way to pay for gasoline that would be more intellectually stimulating than carrying groceries. I loved history, had done historical research, and won awards for my history writing. Consequently, I wanted to find something in the history realm. Through a friend of my mother, I was introduced to the Texas state archivist who gave me a gofer job in the state archives in the summer of 1959. I enjoyed the work, and though I left archival enterprise twice during the next several years I was in university, I always came back to it and have worked uninterruptedly as an archivist since January, 1966.

What’s changed the most since you became an archivist?

So many things have changed that selecting the one greatest change is difficult to do. The advent of electronic records is the easy answer. In the talk I will give in a little over a month I will offer a few other changes that from my perspective represent very different but equally fundamental changes.

What’s stayed the same (for better or worse)?

This one is easy: the friendly, helpful, dedicated, congenial character of the men and women who choose archival enterprise as their profession.

Your career has many facets. Which one has been the most rewarding?

I simply cannot pick one. But ranked at the top has to be establishing the Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University and having the opportunity to see how we could strengthen archival enterprise and Georgia through the Society of Georgia Archivists.

What advice do you have for new archivists or those interested in the profession?

Get involved with the work of their profession! You will be rewarded professionally and personally, and you can’t help but have a good time along the way.

For more information about Dr. Gracy, please check out his extensive and impressive CV, and make sure to join us in Savannah for the keynote!

Advance Registration Ends Soon

Advance registration for the Society of Georgia Archivists annual meeting ends next week on October 6th. The benefit of advance registration is a $20 discount for SGA members. Please consider becoming a member to get this special advance rate. Non-advance registration will only be accepted on-site, at the higher rate.

The SGA Annual Meeting will be held November 5-6, 2009 in Savannah, Georgia. SGA is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. You can register online using PayPal, or through mail.

Register today!

Metrics, Schmectrics

So, we’re all really excited about Dr. Elizabeth Yakel’s upcoming presentation on Archival Metrics, but…well…what are Archival Metrics, exactly?

Glad you asked.

There are many definitions for metrics, but one that most closely reflects the concept for archivists is the following: a means of deriving a quantitative measurement or approximation for otherwise qualitative data.

The Archival Metrics website states that:

The archival community must find a way to support a culture of assessment, in which evaluation of our services and usability of our tools is built into our budgets and supported by our managers…we decided that [there were] two goals: first, to encourage archivists and special librarians to undertake user studies and to understand that though the materials we care for are unique, many of the service issues we struggle to improve are shared by many other institutions; and second, to collect user-study data in a repository to allow repositories to benchmark against each other and understand how their user services compare to other similarly situated units.

Intriguing, right? And how wonderful is it that there are fellow archivists working on tools that will help us assess our collections and services and use that information to help us make the best decisions about our programs, outreach, and support of our organization’s goals?

You can find out more at the Archival Metrics web site. In order to access the information on the web site, you will need to create an account and sign in. Once you do that, you will have access to a bibliography, metrics toolkits, and information and articles about the work of the Archival Metrics group.

To find out more, visit Archival Metrics on the web.

Archival Metrics is a joint project of the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and the University of Toronto.

5 Questions for…Elizabeth Yakel

As many of you know by now, Dr. Elizabeth Yakel, Associate Professor of the University of Michigan’s School of Information, will be joining us in Savannah in November to present on the topic of Archival Metrics. She has kindly agreed to answer the following questions for inclusion in our outreach efforts. In addition to the following questions, you can find out more about Dr. Yakel’s teaching, research, and publications at her personal web page.

Five Questions…

How did you become an archivist?

I was an undergraduate at Brown University and thinking about going to library school but the fit was not quite right. Then, I got an internship at the John Hay Library and found my career. Working with the manuscripts there really combined my interest in libraries and organization with really great content. The first collection I processed was the Sarah Helen Whitman collection. She was a transcendentalist and prominent in the Providence social scene, having a role in the Athenaeum. But, her main claim to fame was that she was a fiancé of Edgar Allen Poe before she or perhaps her family made her break it off (who knows!).

What’s changed the most since you became an archivist?

Everything! There are two areas where I have seen the greatest change. Obviously, technology, particularly around the area of descriptive standards. The old debate “my records are unique so I could not possibly collect standardized data about my collections” has been put to rest.

Second, is the democratization of access. My students really find it hard to believe that archives and special collection routinely judged researchers and would turn away undergraduates, genealogists , etc. as unworthy to do research. I remember being looked at askance when entering an archives. While archives and special collections are still intimidating to some; I think overall that there has been a sea change in the attitude toward diverse users and it is much more positive today.

What’s stayed the same (for better or worse)?

The good: Archivists are the greatest people I know. They are committed and believe in the work they do. Many go to the max to help researchers (and when I say researchers I mean all users of archives) to locate the information they need or to answer their questions.

The bad: Archivists’ technological skills have not increased rapidly enough. We have also been slow to innovate technologically and ‘think outside the box’ in developing things, such as online finding aids systems.

How did you become interested in metrics?

I have long been interested in use and user needs and inserting the voice of the user into the archives. I have done a series of qualitative studies (interviews, observations), to identify the voice of the user and to better understand researchers and their research processes. For me, “Listening to users” has always been informative and interesting. The Archival Metrics project was designed to give practicing archivists a robust, cost- effective, time-efficient means of soliciting feedback from their researchers. The hope is that archivists will be able use Archival Metrics Toolkits to seek feedback from users in targeted areas and use these data to make decisions about improving those services and programs.

What advice do you have for new archivists or those interested in the profession?

Archives is a wonderful profession. I am still excited about the profession after all these years. There are interesting people, intellectual problems, and the possibilities. There is lots of room to make your mark. Archives has always benefited from new blood, new ideas, and new energy. It is easy to get involved in archival organizations (Society of Georgia Archivists, as well as the Society of American Archivists); organizations rely on volunteers and they have lots of opportunities to contribution as well as networking.

Finally, archives are about more than the old stuff. Don’t go into archives if you want to stay in a quiet place or process for the rest of your life. Interaction and communication skills are critical for interactions with patrons, but also articulating the importance of archives and manuscripts to funding agencies, administrators of the larger organizations, the general public or to talk with related professionals about archival services sand functions: programmers, interface designers, librarians, etc. Technologies, such as Web 2.0, are also changing the relationships between archivists and users. Taken together, the next generation of archivists needs to be outward looking, extroverted, and excited about connecting people to collections.

We thank Dr. Yakel for her contribution to the SGA blog and very much look forward to her presentation at the 40th Anniversary Celebration and Conference. Hope to see you there!

* Image courtesy of the University of Michigan’s School of Information website.

Annual Meeting Roomate and Carpool Finder Service

Dear Colleagues,

Are you planning to attend the Society of Georgia Archivists Annual Conference and 40th Anniversary Celebration in Savannah, GA, November 4-6, 2009?

Would you like to save money and time by carpooling to Savannah and/or arranging to have a roommate at the conference? Let your SGA Outreach and Local Arrangement and Program committees help you!

Potential roommates please choose:

-Smoking/Non-Smoking/No preference;

-Morning people/Night owls/No preference;

-Please let us know any other preferences you may have.

Potential carpool participants please indicate:

-Location from which you are leaving;

-If you are willing to drive and how many seats are available;

-How long you plan to stay in Savannah;

-Please let us know any other preferences you may have.

We will do our best to help match roommates, help arrange carpools, and put all interested parties in touch.

On behalf of the SGA Outreach and Local Arrangement and Program committees, we look forward to seeing you in Savannah!

To participate, please contact

Kristy Berry Dixon



*Image courtesy of the Everett Collection

Annual Meeting Program Now Available!

The program for the 2009 Society of Georgia Archivist’s Annual Meeting is now available online!

This year’s program includes keynote speaker David B. Gracy, guest speakers Beth Yakel and Geof Huth, and panel sessions on the future of electronic records, “More Product, Less Process”, describing and cataloging non-paper formats and documenting Georgia’s under-documented populations. Don’t forget that this year is the 40th Anniversary of SGA, and registration to the annual meeting includes attendance to the 40th anniversary reception.

Register today!

SGA Fall Workshop Registration is Now Open!

Registration for the SGA Fall workshop, “Making Meaning: Planning and Implementing Archival Exhibitions” is now open!

Using hands-on exercises and case studies from museum studies programs at the University of South Carolina and Florida State University, this workshop will examine how to produce effective and inexpensive archival exhibitions for public audiences. Attention will be given to thinking about visitor needs and interests, selecting topics that are interesting to general audiences, and exploring the impact of Web 2.0 on interpretation. Learn how to set interpretive goals, write effective texts, and design attractive displays in this day-long workshop taught by Lynn Robertson and Lana Burgess, museum educators and professionals from the University of South Carolina.

The workshop will be held in Savannah, Georgia at the DeSoto Hilton on November 4, 2009 from 9:00-4:30. For more information and to register, visit the SGA education website. Registration fees are $65 for members and $80 for non-members and includes a continental breakfast and all breaks. This workshop is limited to 35 participants, so please register early to guarantee your slot! Registration will close on October 16.

Scholarships are available. Applications are due September 18, 2009. For more information and to apply, visit the Anthony R. Dees Educational Scholarship page.

For any questions or problems registering, please contact Elizabeth Russey, SGA Education Chair, at erussey@emory.edu

*Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

6 Questions for…Lynette Stout

NAME: Lynette Stoudt
POSITION: Senior Archivist
INSTITUTION: Georgia Historical Society

How long have you lived in Savannah and how did you come to live there?
I have lived in Savannah for 4 years. I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area to join my significant other who was recruited by a local company.

What is the focus of the archives/library/museum where you work?
The mission of the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is to collect, preserve, and share the history of Georgia and the United States. Among the most significant ways in which GHS fulfills this mission is by collecting, preserving, and providing access to primary and secondary sources that fit its mission; maintaining an archives building for the preservation of its collection; and by creating and maintaining a research facility for the use of its members and the general public. We collect materials that have a primary emphasis on Georgia and/or Georgians and its/their role in the history of the United States.

What is your favorite thing in your holdings?
It’s impossible to pick just one thing. We hold Juliette Gordon Low’s family papers including materials on the founding of the Girl Scouts in Savannah in 1912, Abraham Baldwin’s annotated draft of the U.S. Constitution (printed for delegates to review during the Constitutional Convention in 1787) and a drum used in several battles during the Revolutionary War.

What aspect of archival work are you most interested in, especially for the future of the profession?
I am most interested in archival description and access. Prior to GHS, I mostly worked at large university libraries with IT departments, statewide collaborative digital projects, and current technology at our disposal. One of the challenges I enjoy of working for a small, non-profit, is trying to fulfill the same online user needs with fewer resources. The future of the profession relies on archivists in all types of organizations to seriously consider and implement strategies for preserving and providing access to digital surrogates and born-digital records as best as possible while working around the technology limitations within their organization.

What is your favorite bar or restaurant in Savannah and why?
There are so many options in Savannah! Here are my top picks:

1. Molly McPherson’s (West Congress Street in City Market): They have a good beer selection, tasty pub food, and about 100 single malts on tap.

2. Moon River Brewing Company (West Bay Street): Yummy local craft brew, and for those on the go – earth-friendly to-go cups. Join them on Friday evenings at 6pm for the weekly toast and get a free mini pint.

3. Lulu’s Chocolate Bar (Martin Luther King Blvd near City Market): Awesome desserts and fancy drinks – well worth every calorie!

4. 17 Hundred 90 Lounge (East President Street): A nice bar with an old-school vibe (but not too stuffy), good wine selection, and it’s named for the year of construction – a beautiful antebellum building.

5. Other favorite restaurants: B. Mathews Eatery, Saigon, Casbah Moroccan Restaurant, Zunzi’s take out, and for dessert Leopold’s Ice Cream.

What is the one thing that you think all SGAers should do or see in Savannah?
I have three:

1. One of the fabulous house museums (including Owens-Thomas House, Davenport House, or the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, among others). The Owens-Thomas House is my favorite.

2. Fort Pulaski National Monument, active during the American Civil War, it saw the first significant use of rifled cannons in combat and was a site of the Underground Railroad. It’s located on the river with picnic areas and walking trails. Don’t miss the alligators swimming around in the moat!

3. Georgia Historical Society because we are the oldest cultural institution in the state (founded in 1839), housed in a building completed in 1876, and our reading room is beautiful.

*Image courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society.