Florent Hardy Jr 2014-02-12 14:27:30
Every state and territory in the United States is facing an information explosion, with an ever-increasing amount of information produced each day. According to the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) publication The Importance of State Archives, the dramatic growth in government activity during the twentieth century was accompanied by an exponential surge in the production of permanent records. This increase in government-produced information has catapulted the importance of state archives throughout the nation. In addition to traditional duties, state archives must also focus on transparency, civil and property rights, changing technologies, and protection from all disasters. State archives should use the following tools to effectively run their repositories and communicate their value to national and state leaders, stakeholders, and the public. Effective Staffing The mission of any state archives is ideally addressed by a professional and experienced staff. Nationally, administrator titles include state archivist and director, state archivist and public records administrator, chief of archives, administrator, assistant commissioner, administrative archivist, state records administrator, or director. This important position must be filled with an administrator who has the qualifications and the personal fortitude to promote and protect the states’ historical treasures. Ideally, the administrator should have supervisory control of all facets of the archival holdings, ranging from acquisition and proper storage and records retention to accessibility. An assistant administrator can provide essential coordination among section heads as well as valuable assistance with the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB); support organizations; public relations; outreach; and liaison with archival, historical, genealogical, and records management organizations at all levels. All of these functions will be successful only with the active and visible support of a knowledgeable appointing authority. Qualifications are important, but a positive, service-focused attitude is also crucial. Regular professional development opportunities should be made available to staff. In addition, administrative staff should hold regularly scheduled meetings to enhance accountability and develop attainable objectives, steps to achieve these objectives, and timely evaluations and follow-up meetings. Compose Clear Legislation Properly worded legislation is critical to the function of any state archives. Legislation should be carefully crafted and include input from stakeholders, especially archivists, historians, genealogists, and records managers. Objectives for the successful management of the archives should be succinctly and directly stated, and the administrative authority charged with records management should be clearly identified. Tap Into Resources To assure a coordinated effort in preserving the state’s historical treasures and to address national mandates and trends, the state archives should work closely with CoSA, which facilitates networking and project collaboration among the directors of the states’ archival agencies. State archives should also be familiar with the resources of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Historical Publications Records Commission (NHPRC), which can provide state-administered grants that promote the preservation of the state’s history. Each state must have a functioning SHRAB to receive NHPRC funds. The SHRAB serves as a clearinghouse for review and comment on proposals submitted by eligible agencies within the state for NHPRC funding. Establish an Active Public Support Group and Partnerships An active public support group led by the state records administrator and director is key to the vitality and enhanced success of state archives. This support group should address the express needs of the agency and archival community and assist in the development and maintenance of partnerships with archival, historical, genealogical, and records management organizations, such as SAA, the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA), local archives and manuscripts associations, historical associations and societies, library associations, and the public. To form effective partnerships, it’s important to maintain open communication of administrative policies and procedures. When feasible, the administrator should visit local, regional, and other state archives to maintain an open communication exchange. Partnerships with educational institutions also can provide benefits—such as interns or volunteers—and can be a source of new ideas to keep archives current with trends and open to opportunities for improvement. Educating and Connecting with the Community Community relations are essential to the success of the state archives. Open houses, lectures, tours, and timely exhibits can help introduce the resources of state archives to the public. Outreach presentations to groups such as the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution, genealogical and historical organizations, Kiwanis, Lions International, Optimist, Rotary, and other civic clubs are both educational and beneficial to any state archives in addressing its mission. These groups can become the best public support system and can attract private donations. State archives also should promote practical archival activities during American Archives Month in October. State archives staff should connect with their patrons by expressing not only the value of state archives but also the value of personal archives. Educate community members on preserving family memorabilia by keeping it in a dark, dry, safe place with a consistent temperature, preferably in acid-free containers. Provide introductory brochures to your institutions’ visitors to further educate them on the importance of archives. State archives face more challenges than ever. By effectively using these tools and gaining the support of partners and the public, we can succeed in preserving our states’ records and giving our communities access to their history. Advocating for State Archives in Georgia The Georgia Department of Archives and History faced near closure in November 2011. The Georgia Secretary of State recommended closing the archives except by appointments due to budget cuts. Fortunately for the archives, many residents and two groups rallied to keep them open. The Friends of Georgia Archives and the Coalition to Preserve the Georgia Archives used a rally and picketing, social media, an online petition, and a website, in addition to traditional media outlets like radio, television, newspaper, and journal articles to get the word out. Thanks to this support, the Georgia Archives received additional funding from the governor and later the Georgia legislature to avoid appointments. The archives is now controlled by the Georgia Board of Regents and is open four days a week. —Kaye Lanning Minchew, Executive Director, Troup County Historical Society and Archives. This information was shared during Session 605: “All for One and One for All: State Archives and Effective Archival Advocacy” at the CoSA/SAA 2013 Joint Annual Meeting. Advocating for State Archives at CoSA CoSA has been actively advocating on a number of fronts on behalf of state archives. In 2013 it published The Importance of State Archives to support the work of state archives and demonstrate the incredible value of state government records. This report addresses how state archival records are instrumental in documenting government, promoting history, and providing security rights. Examples of stories about the value of archival records are provided to demonstrate how these records have been used in legal proceedings, serving the needs of citizens, supporting curriculum, providing family history resources, and even to save lives. State archives use this tool with examples from their own collections as part of their advocacy and awareness efforts. For an online copy of this publication, see http://www.statearchivists.org/reports/index.htm. —Kathleen Roe, Director of Archives and Records Management Operations, New York State Archives. This information was shared during Session 605: “All for One and One for All: State Archives and Effective Archival Advocacy” at the CoSA/SAA 2013 Joint Annual Meeting.
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