Serving the Public First: Archives 2.0

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Matt LaRoche ’17

The hallmarks of contemporary archival philosophy, known casually as “Archives 2.0,” have everything to do with making archives open, attractive resources for researchers of all persuasions. These rotate around a few main assertions. First, that archivists should endeavor to make their repositories as attractive as possible to users—this means offering friendly, all-inclusive access, being responsive to user desires, being tech-savvy, and leaving some discovery and processing of collections to the researcher. Secondly, modern archiving stresses accessibility—having a standardized way of organizing collections that will be easily understood by visiting researchers, utilizing language familiar to average people for finding aides, and having the funding necessary to provide visitors the aid, attention, and resources they need.

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Matt LaRoche pins a text panel in the USCT exhibit he’s been curating this summer. Photo courtesy Amy Lucadamo.

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Pohanka Reflection: Rebecca Duffy on Petersburg National Battlefield

By Rebecca Duffy ’16

This post is part of a series on the experiences of our Pohanka Interns at various historic sites working on the front lines of history as interpreters and curators. Dr. Jill Titus explains the questions our students are engaging with here. 

On the morning of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Opening Assaults at Petersburg, I carefully watched all that was happening. While there was plenty going on – children’s activities, cannon demonstrations and a camp of re-enactors – one tent seemed to constantly have a steady stream of visitors who all spent a significant amount of time there before moving on. The tent that was so popular was the archeology one. Visitors put on clean white gloves and examined bits of pottery, fragments of metal and dropped bullets neatly organized in trays indicating the area in which each was found. As an intern in Resource Management, the department which predominately deals with the preservation and conservation of the park’s cultural and natural resources, I, of course, am partial to archeology, but what was it that was entrancing all these visitors? So I got to thinking about why I love my own job.

Studies by historians Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelan indicate that many of us prefer a history which is directly pertinent to us, one we can grasp, and therefore humanize within a framework we are already familiar with: the stories of our families, the history of our communities and our own personal past. When we lack that sort of direct connection, artifacts can help build it for us. By sketching out a familiar context they can bring a story which may seem impossible to imagine close to us.

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Pohanka Reflection: Stratford Hall Plantation

By Abby Rolland ‘15

This post is part of a series on the experiences of our Pohanka Interns at various historic sites working on the front lines of history as interpreters and curators. Dr. Jill Titus explains the questions our students are engaging with here. 

Reflecting on my time so far at Stratford Hall Plantation, I have realized that objects, and not just guides, offer interpretation to visitors. Yes, the docents have a wealth of knowledge about the house, but they cannot reveal every single piece of information about the rooms in the Great House. In order to fully understand the comings and goings of the Lee family, the placement of the objects must tell part of the tale.

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