Friday, October 14, 2011

What Does American Archives Month Mean to Non-Archivists?

Happy American Archives Month! This month provides archivists with an opportunity to raise awareness about archives and archivists.

According to the Society of American Archivists web site, "For 2010-2013, SAA is focusing its public awareness efforts on the campaign—I Found It In The Archives!—which reaches out to archives users nationwide to share their stories about what they found in the archives that has made a difference in their lives."

I have written extensively in the past about the value of archives. I have advocated for visiting repositories and for archivists in posts such as Making Personal Connections to History. This year, in celebration of Archives Month, and in celebration of the release of my new book on the subject, I would like to advocate for archives in the home.

Many people do not realize that they have "archives." The paper records, digital files, photographs, and other recorded information that we want to keep permanently are archives. These materials have long-term value for family use and often possess additional value for communities beyond the family. 

SAA (The Society of American Archivists) invites individuals to tell them about items they have found in repositories that have impacted their lives. "I Found It In The Archives! is a collective effort to reach out to individuals who have found their records, families, heritage, and treasures through our collections." I would like to challenge you to also tell us about the unique materials that you own in your own personal archives collections. What materials mean the most to you? Has your family passed on materials from generation to generation? Is there one item or a few that represent(s) your life in a special way? Do you have a special collection of documents that are meaningful to you?

So, I thought I'd tell you about one such item in my own collection. This excerpt is taken from my book "The Unofficial Family Archivist:  A Guide to Creating and Maintaining Family Papers, Photographs and Memorabilia."

"My mother recently reminded me of how personal some seemingly impersonal official records are when we talked about how her dad had served in the American military as a displaced Polish citizen after World War II. My grandfather assisted with post-war cleanup efforts and, despite not yet being an American citizen, he was officially discharged from the United States Army when his work was done. This is likely the first official tie of any sort that my mother’s family had to the country to which she would move to when she was just a little girl. This piece of paper was created by the government for administrative purposes, but it also represents all that my grandparents went through to escape the Holocaust in the 1930s and all of their future dreams of a new place that would accept them and where they could raise a family. Mom’s collection of family documents includes records related to Grandpa’s military service. " [p. 19]

One of my favorite things about my job is hearing about your personal archives experiences. Everyone has a story to tell. What archives help you tell yours?

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