Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pinterest Experiment

Original image from "The Practical
So, my last post on Pinterest attracted a lot of attention across the Internet and I've been playing with this new (for me) social media tool all week.  The ideas for new boards seem to hit me in the middle of the night and I'm wondering if the visual aspect of this project is appealing to my dreamy brain. Perhaps this is a good sign about the potential value of attracting an audience with this medium. In this post, I want to invite my archivist colleagues to join me on Pinterest for a collaborative experiment. Though the experiment itself is aimed at archivists, those in other fields might want to consider this approach too and how they can use Pinterest to raise awareness and educate. AND, perhaps there is a way we can all collaborate to promote each other cross-professionally down the road.
First, here are some ideas with which I have been playing. I have developed the following boards:

  • Museums I've visited and recommend - to promote the museum community
  • Interesting documents - to show just how amazing archives and the people they represent can be
  • Fabulous artifacts - more on the idea of amazing things created by people
  • Save Libraries - to promote the cause AND to give me a bag of visual tools to refer back to in my writing and promotion of this topic (Keep this "visual tools to refer back to" idea in mind for the archives project I mention at the end.)
  • Favorite places - to add a little bit extra of my personality (I think that is always important for a consultant to make connections to people.)
  • Art - because this is my first true love and can most easily by its very nature show the beauty of cultural heritage work
  • ArchivesInfo - to directly promote what I do
  • Quotables - because it seems like all the cool kids have one of these - most of mine relate to cultural heritage
  • Books worth reading - because my daughter told me that I needed to fill out this Pinterest supplied board (but I have Library Thing going on too and I'm not sure I'm willing to let Pinterest take over that role. Nor do I want to do it all twice.)
  • Women's history - a personal passion and something I often encounter in my archives work. There have been a lot of strong women in collections I've processed.
  • Gardening - a category just for me and probably not a cultural heritage related category until I mold it into one somehow, which I tend to do. After all, cultural heritage encompasses just about everything doesn't it? And everything has a history.
  • New England Food History - Now this one is interesting because I was invited to be a part of it. It is my first collaborative Pinterest project and relates to my Life in Context work. There are five people currently given permission by the creator of the board to "pin" to it.
Now here is where I hope that you come in...My last board is called "What does an archivist do?" I get the question. I get it a lot. I wonder, can we use Pinterest to answer it? Can we encourage an understanding of our profession in a visual way that might stick?

I got started by just searching on the Internet for "what does an archivist do?" I was re-introduced to some fun videos on the subject and found one to "pin." I found a photo of a woman at the Smithsonian caring for a collection. She has a nice smile. I hope to meet her one day. Pinned it. I took a comic from Derangement and Description, famous in my field for her humor. I found a nice picture of David Ferriero. Finally I found a nice bright yellow image that says, "Caution. Keeping everything means that someone else gets to decide what gets tossed later." Guess which one caught someone's eye and got "repinned?" (In other words, they liked the image that I found so much that they put it on one of their own Pinterest boards.) Yep. It caught your eye at the beginning of this blog post too, didn't it?

I see Pinterest as a great potential outreach tool. I put some text on each of my archives pins to explain what each image is about. I envision adding pins of archives boxes to explain how we organize and preserve. I envision adding pins of cool things from collections that show we sometimes find in the stacks. I'd like to show some of our unprocessed backlog. I'd like to show images of personal papers in homes to make the connection between professional repositories and "regular" papers....BUT, I see a twofold challenge: 1. can all of the ideas that I have to explain what an archivist does be represented in individual pictures and 2. can the pictures be interesting enough to attract attention so that people want to repin them and the value of archives is clearly seen by the public?

The SaveLibraries campaign is most interesting when considering this issue. Save Libraries has a clear and immediate need to quickly capture attention and bang people over the head with their point. People need libraries and if they don't pay attention, they are going to disappear because of budget cuts and apathy. My Save Libraries Pinterest board has really interesting images that people are repinning and commenting on. Do archivists need to make a concerted effort to develop images about our profession to promote ourselves too?

Before I issue a challenge, (well, that sounds very official doesn't it?), I also want to mention a couple of issues I've had with the site. One is that I had to be careful to keep track of the places from which the images came. I was not always careful. It is easy to get carried away with clicking and not fully thinking about all of the variables. Pinterest does not always do a good job of tracking back. It is up to the user to make sure the original site gets credit. This should be important to those who manage information. A few of the people to whom I have spoken also see it as a potential future legal concern for Pinterest. For cultural heritage professionals, if we do a good job of making sure our "pins" link back to the appropriate places, this could help drive traffic to the web sites of archives who have shared images. A second issue is Pinterest's very poor searching capability, which a couple of blog posts other than mine have pointed out this week. We need to overcome this to make a truly valuable collaborative project, I think. 

So here is my invitation to you. Let's see what we can find out there that will make the point about the value of archives and our work. Let me know if you would like to contribute to the "What is an archivist?" board and I'll add you as a person who is allowed to pin. Let's see if we can create something dynamic and useful for the field.

Any takers?

Find me on Pinterest at


  1. I'm not an archivist (yet) -- just a student, but I really think this is a great idea to at least try out. I'd be very willing to experiment!

    - Dana (teacode on Twitter)

    1. Thanks Dana. I went ahead and added you. I look forward to seeing what you find ;)

  2. I found your blog through the Archivist Listserv, which I'm following for a class - Organization and Management of Archive Collections. (I'm a masters student in Museum Studies and Cultural Heritage Preservation) We have to find an interesting trend to follow in the archival field, I think I've found it! Great post, and as an avid Pinterest fan, this should be a fun topic to explore! Thanks!

    1. Thanks Adrienne. I'm glad that you find it interesting and useful. Let me know if you want to explore it from the inside out. I can add you as a contributor to the board and if you come across appropriate images on the Internet, you can add them and tag them.

    2. That would be great, I would love to contribute!

  3. Hi, Melissa - Now that I've had a chance to play around with Pinterest, I'm intrigued by your idea and would like to contribute. Please let me know if you're still adding people!

  4. Hi Amy. Yes, I would love to add you as a contributor to the board. Please send me a direct link to your Pinterest account and I'll hook you up!