What we did this year, part 4

The almost everything else post! We’ve shared our 2014-15 performance statistics in three previous posts: 1) Alaska’s Digital Archives, 2) Processing and description, and 3) Access. And here’s some of the many other things we do on a daily basis. Again, these are the stats for August 2014-August 2015, since we generally need to report out our activity to the university on the academic year calendar.

So here’s some of the other things we did that year:

Teaching, tours, and outreach sessions:

  • October Archives Month: Great Alaskan Outdoors home movie and slideshow night, AMIPA and the Anchorage Museum
  • October 15: College of Fellows reception open house
  • February 9: ANTH A427/627 instruction session, “Introduction to Archives, Archival Research, and Metadata,” 14 students. (Also includes semester long project with students).
  • February 28: Conference session: “Bringing the unique into the classroom: incorporating archival materials into library instruction.” Alaska Library Association annual meeting, Juneau, Alaska.
  • March 2: History A377 instruction session, introduction to Archives research, historical methods, 16 students.
  • March 21: Book Enclosures course, Celtic Spring Festival
  • May 14: Development Day, staffed Consortium Library table and participated in library tour
  • May 28: Alaskan cooking pot-luck (in tandem with a cookbook exhibit)
  • June 13: booth at PrideFest

Are you interested in having a class come visit us? Or us come visit your class or group? We’d be happy to talk to you about that. Email us at archives at uaa.alaska.edu and we’ll work it out.


We did two exhibits this past year. The first was on a recent addition to our collections, the Ruth Schmidt papers. From December to May, we had a physical exhibit up in the Library’s Great Room, but we also have an online version of that exhibit on our website. And starting in May, we put up an exhibit of Rare Books in the Great Room: this one focused on Alaskan books about cooking and food. That exhibit is still up but we will be switching it out soon for something else.

In other outreach efforts, to celebrate Anchorage’s Centennial, we decided that it would be an interesting idea to feature a document or photograph from every year of Anchorage’s history on our Twitter feed. We started in January and have been posting two items–usually Tuesdays and Thursdays–each week. We’ll be finishing off that particular effort in the next few weeks, and will set up a compiled exhibit of all of those items we tweeted on our website sometime this month. If you’re interested in following us on Twitter, we can be found as CLArchives there.

Next up in the “other stuff” is legacy conversions. This particular item could probably have gone in the processing post, but that one was getting a little long and this isn’t exactly processing as we defined it in that post. Several years ago, we decided to create a more standardized version of our finding aids. There were a lot of good reasons for that–not the least of which was sometimes we even had problems figuring out what materials were in what boxes of collections–but it has been extremely time consuming to take our hundreds and hundreds of old-style guides and often we end up just wishing this legacy project was done. It’s not done yet, but we’re far closer than we’ve ever been. Some of the conversions are quick: just copy/paste existing description into a template, some of them take some serious time because it can be a lot more complicated than a simple copy/paste job. We’ve had legacy conversions take anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of weeks. In 2014-2015, we converted 165 guides to collections to the new standardized formats. Admittedly, a chunk of those were done in one concentrated week in May when Arlene incentivized conversion work by promising homemade baklava in return for completing a certain number of conversions in that week. (A productive technique which may again come into play for the Archives when we have ongoing projects.) As a byproduct of this work, we reduced collection size by 66 cubic feet by placing collections in more efficient boxes and moving published materials out of the archives (and often into other library collections). That buys us a little extra storage capacity which is really important as we’re coming close to filling up our storage capacity for collections.

One last quick note: but we’ve had an absolutely phenomenal volunteer this past year. Joe Burch, a retired surveyor, has been indexing maps and project files from some very large collections from Alaskan surveyors. Through it all, he’s also been teaching us a fair bit about how survey records work. We thank Joe for his incredible dedication to such a time-consuming project, and look forward to being able to feature his work in another posting when he gets closer to polishing off those collections.

All in all, a very productive year, especially since we were down by one archivist for the first three months. Oh yes, that’s something else we did last year: we  hired Gwen Sieja in December. Thanks to Gwen and to Veronica for jumping right into all this work and making the Archives really shine this year.