Celia Caust-Ellenbogen, DVAG membership coordinator
If you think all the best archival materials are held at major, well-known manuscript repositories with large staffs of trained archivists, you are wrong. In the past year and a half I’ve visited more than 50 small archival repositories operating without a full-time professional archivist, and in that time I’ve seen some incredible treasures. Amidst the holdings of these small organizations are papers of Civil War naval engineer John Ericsson (http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/pacscl/HSP_ASHM04), the oldest continuously existing command in the Pennsylvania National Guard (http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/pacscl/HSP_1R02), and the Women’s Committee of the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 (http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/pacscl/HSP_SM03), among many other extraordinary collections.
In November 2011, DVAG held a meeting on “Small Archival Repositories and Professional Archivists: Building a Community of Practice,” hosted at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and focusing on HSP’s survey project, Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (http://hsp.org/hidden-collections-initiative-for-pennsylvania-small-archival-repositories). (In case you missed it, the presentation, summary, and minutes are all online here: http://dvarchivists.org/meetings/.)
The meeting drew a large audience, generated great enthusiasm, and poured forth a cascade of exciting ideas. What could DVAG do to provide greater support to volunteer-run archives in the Delaware Valley? Could DVAG oversee an internship program, with professional archivists volunteering as off-site mentors/supervisors to students processing collections at small archives? Could DVAG send “white glove brigades” of professional archivists for a day or an afternoon of hands-on help? Could DVAG members serve as a resource for small archives in an Ask-an-Archivist reference capacity?
Hopefully you have been using the past year productively to mull over all of these options. At the last meeting of the DVAG Planning Committee, we discussed forming a Committee on Small Repositories to start developing these ideas, and we need your help! If you would like to get involved, email Celia at firstname.lastname@example.org.