Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Some thoughts on Archives alive: expanding engagement with public library archives and special collections by Diantha Dow Schull

Archives Alive: Expanding Engagement with Public Library Archives and Special CollectionsArchives Alive: Expanding Engagement with Public Library Archives and Special Collections by Diantha Dow Schull
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an impressive look at special collections in public libraries in the USA, and much of it relates to local studies collections. This books looks at how different public libraries connect their special collections with their community, highlighting that one of the key reasons for public libraries collecting material is to make it available for their community.

The chapters explore different topics such as art and archives, community archives, exhibitions and related programs, and interactive archives. Within each chapter are several good practice examples showing how it is possible to connect communities with special collections. Each example is given with a overview, challenges and future plans, so while this is an optimistic book, the tough information is also made available.

As well as showing impressive heritage collections there are some exciting examples of libraries collecting recent content about local events including disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires.

There are several very good examples showing how libraries have collected recent content to fill historical collections gaps, for example interviews with Spanish speaking residents in areas where there has been a long history of them living, but they were not visible in the local studies collection. Another library traced the families of Japanese residents who had been interred in World War II, as a way to better reflect the whole community. There are some lovely oral history projects recording diverse experiences of neighbourhoods.

Different kinds of programs to expose the collections were described, such as talks (often filmed), demonstrating and filming dance with the performances then becoming part of the collection, and connecting artists of all sorts to special collections for different ways of interpreting and being inspired by their content.

This is a very exciting book with many impressive examples to explore online.

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