So, you always wanted to be an archivist? To understand the thrill of working with primary documents? You are not alone! In fact, the new Archivist of the United States has even given you a name, citizen archivists. Back in April of this year, the new AOTUS started a blog himself and one of his first posts discussed citizen archivists. He noted that the types of projects citizen archivists could participate in is only limited by our creativity in connecting with people who have a passion for our work and collections, whatever those may be, and who are willing to step in and help. Makes you sound a bit like an undercover superhero doesn’t it?
Here at the Theodore Roosevelt Center, we’ve been training and using citizen archivists in our digital library since last year, in a special effort to tap into the enthusiasm we felt locally for the then-new digital library initiative. Through the wonders of the Internet, we are able to train volunteers both on-site and remotely so we can allow people across the country to work in our collections, cataloging them in preparation for the digital library launch early next year.
In early 2009, the TR Center acquired our first major deposit of items, over 250,000 digitized documents from the Theodore Roosevelt Papers at the Library of Congress. The documents include letters to and from Roosevelt, newspaper clippings, speeches and executive orders, photographs, maps, and personal diaries.
So what are volunteers doing exactly? In order to make the digital files available to the public online, volunteers help to catalog the documents, verifying and creating basic information such as dates, names, descriptions, subject headings, and file names. All of our volunteers receive training in cataloging principles and procedures. Once trained, they work at their leisure, either from their own computer at home, if remotely located, or during regular working sessions on campus, if they are within driving distance of Dickinson, North Dakota.
Volunteers can be located anywhere there is a computer with an Internet connection be it on the East Coast or the West Coast, on the outer edges of Mongolia or exploring the African savannah à la Theodore Roosevelt. They might be an interested high school student, a new History or Library Science college student, or a stay-at-home mom or retiree. Our volunteers just need to have an interest in history, attention to detail, a commitment to accurate, high-quality work, and basic typing and computer skills.
So, if that sounds like a match made in heaven for you, contact me and we can talk about getting you involved. I am planning a new volunteer training session for September which you can complete on-site or remotely on-line. We are always looking for people with a passion for history to help us catalog the collections. So citizen archivists of the world unite!
Image: Two of our volunteers on campus for some cataloging at the library.