"Before" image of the work to be done, photo by Kiley Hayes, 2015.
As a football fan (Go Pack Go) I found the use of the term ‘blitz’ intriguing when trolling the many job sites for library and archival positions. As a stay-at-home mom and military spouse, I found the opportunity for short-term, intensive archival work to be even more intriguing. It was, in a sense, a perfect match. As with any whirlwind romance, things progressed rather quickly with my application being submitted, being accepted a week later and flying out to Montana after a few more weeks. Let the blitz begin!
With the evolution of the digital age, there is an increasing backlog in archival institutions that only seems to be growing. Also, in recent years many institutions have spent so much money adapting to the social media age and technology-savvy generation that there are seldom many funds available for research centers. I have read about this dilemma in several of my graduate courses, and although several authors have offered solutions or theories, there are not nearly as many articles on how to put these ideas into action. The archives blitz not only put this into perspective for me that it is possible, but helped me to learn the framework for how to make it a success.
As with any pioneering effort, there are hiccups and bumps along the way. This week was truly about discovery and learning, and I believe we got just as much out of this experience as we put into it. Every group may be different, but I believe that is one of the keys to blitz success. The five of us came from diverse academic backgrounds, some with a vast knowledge of history, others with an abundance of processing experience, and others who possessed a flair for description. Together we not only completed the task, but were able to truly learn during our time there by sharing our experiences with each other. The second key to our success lies in our ability to communicate. In dealing with a large collection that has little to no organizational flow, communication was imperative. By being willing to ask for help as well as sharing our progress along the way, we ensured that everyone felt like part of the team and that we were all on the same page, working towards the same goal. Also, being in a small working space, communication allowed us to remain organized and aware of each other as well as the location of parts of the collection. The last major key to this blitz team’s success was the opportunities for further learning and exploring. This was not a situation where we were made to feel like slaves being put to work from 8 until 5. Instead, we were encouraged to explore the park and surrounding areas as well as ask questions of our advisors or mentors on the project. Our week included special visits to the herbarium, museum and artifacts collection, historical vehicle collection, a talk by the Park’s historian as well as some wildlife watching. This ensured a well-rounded trip that translated into a more cohesive group and relaxed working environment.
I have been able to take a lot away from this experience and am thankful to have been chosen for it. My career goals include becoming an archival consultant in the future and being able to bring this model to smaller, rural institutions that do not have the funding to staff a full-time archivist. With this opportunity under my belt, I feel as though I am supplied with the tools necessary to get the job done, and most importantly, the confidence that a big difference can be made in a small amount of time. So glad I was able to help and also learn from all those around me!
Moose and elk in a winter landscape, photos by Kiley Hayes, 2015.