DIY archivist!
October 30, 2009 8:45 AM   Subscribe

How can I develop a plan to help a small community organization organize its archival materials (something like a self-accessioning plan, I guess)? What should I read? Who should I talk to?

I'm not an archivist and have no information science training. There, I said it. But I have a pretty great opportunity to help a small community org self-accession and organize some records that could prove quite valuable to researchers. I don't yet know how big the collection is, nor whether they want physical or digital storage.

How do I go about learning what I might need to know to do this? Or how do I self-educate in archives work? Book recommendations? OpenCourseware recommendations? Software I should learn? Any suggestions?
posted by liketitanic to Education (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you're in the US and have the time to do it, the National Archives has a great two-week crash course in archives work, the Modern Archives Institute. It's not free, but there are scholarships to cover tuition and travel.
posted by enn at 9:12 AM on October 30, 2009

I'm not an archivist, but I did work in an archive for two years while I was in graduate school. The database we were using was designed by a university employee who had also designed much of the school's library database, so while we did follow RAD (see below) we did it on our own software.

The Canadian Council of Archives has their rules for archival description (RAD) listed here in html and .pdf format. It's heavy reading, but it might give you some ideas. You can pretty much do it your way for something like this, but you need to be clear and consistent. Feel free to MeFiMail me if you have any questions.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:23 PM on October 30, 2009

Oops, here's the link.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:24 PM on October 30, 2009

I'm not sure why you feel you should do this yourself if you have no training. It's a lot of PITA detailed training for a one-time project, and doing it poorly could make it hard for others to find things easily in the future.

Is there a library school in your area? A library school student with course work in archives would probably be happy to do this as a project for credit/experience, and giving this opportunity would be a good deed on your part. Contact the library school department with your query.
posted by Riverine at 6:51 PM on November 1, 2009

It's actually not going to be a one-time project. There's more that's not relevant right now. Just assume I need to acquire the skills, that this is the first in a series of projects, and that an MLIS is not the path I'm taking.
posted by liketitanic at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2009

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