The ALCTS Preservation & Reformatting Section (PARS) Forum took place at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting on Saturday, February 10. Katie Risseeuw, preservation librarian at Northwestern University Library and PARS secretary, opened this special forum on community outreach and preservation. The preservation community is interested in engaging the public to increase their awareness of the importance of preservation and how it affects them directly. She introduced two speakers: Jessie de la Cruz, executive direction and founder of Arthyve, and Miriam Nelson, head of preservation and digital initiatives at Ohio University.
Jessie de la Cruz shared how Arthyve came into being and its mission. Arthyve is a non-profit organization that focuses on documenting and preserving creative communities and practices throughout the Denver area by having artists create a “time capsule” for the collection. An archival box that contains anything the artist wants, this “capsule” serves as a record of the artist’s creative intent, philosophy, and method. For a viewer, a box provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the artist. Through the process of creating a “time capsule,” the artist not only learns about what archives do and how their users perform research, but also about the challenges of preserving archival documentation. Arthyve’s work includes many stories and voices in archival practice. The engagement between artist and Arthyve brings community stories into an archive, but also lets the artist appreciate that their own story has cultural importance beyond their own practice and artistic circle.
Miriam Nelson discussed ways of engaging the public in Preservation Week events. Preservation Week started in 2010 and engages the public in preservation by hosting workshops and lectures. Miriam Nelson mentioned activities at Baylor University, Indiana Historical Society (IHS), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and The Preservation Lab in Ohio. Events that make preservation personal for attendees, such as the “Conservation Roadshow” at IHS or paper repair workshop at The Preservation Lab, have proven most successful.
Following the presentations, a discussion ensued about how to get people excited about preservation, which they may have inaccurate preconceived notions about. Many people have an idea of what archivists and preservationists do, but those ideas are often very different from these professionals’ daily lives unfold. The speakers also brought up how to approach diverse communities when preservation professionals are usually positioned in academic institutions. How do professionals in positions of status and power reach out to communities? Library and university administration might not include this kind of outreach within strategic initiatives and therefore may offer no support or time. What, then, are effective informal ways to engage the public? The discussion came to no clear answers, but keeping this conversation going was the goal of the Forum.