This blog post was written by Collection Services Archivist Amanda Fisher.
Welcome to American Archives Month! Yes, October is traditionally the month for putting archives in the spotlight. As such, we want to try to answer some of your questions! Let’s start with the basics and move to more specific questions.
What is an archive? It’s a place for finding information! In an archive, we don’t bring you books (unless they are special), but rather, primary sources like letters, reports, notes, photographs, and audio-visual recordings. There are many kinds of archives. Some collect and preserve old historical manuscripts, some collect government records, some collect university records, and much, much more.
And how do you pronounce that? It sounds like AR-kive.
What is an archivist? An archivist is someone who helps to organize and preserve these primary sources and then describe them to help you find what you need to do your research.
And how do you pronounce that? It sounds like AR-kiv-ist.
What do archivists do all day? We do a lot of different things! Generally, we organize collections so they are easy for you to search, preserve the contents in acid-free containers, and then describe them online so that you can see what we have available for research. On any given day, we may be doing one of these things. We also help researchers locate the information they seek both in our reading room and virtually. Lastly, we plan creative ways to publicize our materials through social media and by presenting to classes.
Why do you have American Archives Month? This month is to promote the use of archives and to help people learn how to preserve their own special materials. The Texas State Library and Archives (TSLAC) says:
“Each October, Texas joins archival repositories across the nation to celebrate Archives Month and promote the preservation of our country’s documentary heritage. Archives Month in Texas aims to celebrate the value of Texas’ historical records, to publicize the many ways these records enrich our lives, to recognize those who maintain our communities’ historical records, and to increase public awareness of the importance of preserving historical treasures and making them available for use by present and future generations.”
What kind of archives are at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library? Officially, we have the Bob Bullock Archive and the Baylor Collections of Political Materials. The Bob Bullock Archive contains the papers and memorabilia of former Comptroller and Lt. Governor Bob Bullock. The rest of our collections are comprised of the papers of U.S. Representatives from Texas, state senators, state representatives, and other officials, and local government papers. We also have some materials on the assassination of JFK. But don’t tune out if politics isn’t your thing!
Our materials can support a wide range of research projects. Since these elected officials represented the people, the collections we have tell the stories of the people of Texas. We think the most interesting materials are the constituent correspondence where the people tell their representatives how they feel on a variety of issues. Thus, our archival collections are useful for studies on public policy, social issues, and topics of national legislation. Think about topics like immigration, communism, civil rights, urban renewal, religious liberty, and foreign policy. Overall, the collections span approximately 1935-2011.
What do I do if I might like to see something at Poage Library? We’re glad you asked! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (254)-710-3540. We’d be glad to set up an appointment with you to help you find what you need. In the meantime, check out the Holdings and Research Help tabs on our website: baylor.edu/lib/poage.
You can ask us questions like:
Why are archives important?
How can teachers incorporate archives into the classroom?
How do I donate materials to an archive?
What’s the coolest item in your collection?
How can I best preserve my family materials?
We hope to see you then!
Society of American Archivists. #AskAnArchivist Day – October 7, 2020. 2020. https://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/askanarchivist-day
Society of American Archivists. Say What? Talking Points on the Value of Archives. 2007? http://files.archivists.org/advocacy/AAM/TalkingPoints.pdf
Society of American Archivists. What is an Archives? 2007. http://files.archivists.org/advocacy/AAM/WhatIsAnArchives.pdf
Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Texas Archives Month. 2019. https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/thrab/archivesmonth.html