The Traveling Archivist Program

The Traveling Archivist program is an initiative of the North Carolina State Archives.  Its purpose is to provide professional advice and guidance to the state’s smaller repositories of Special Collections.  Such repositories include: historical and genealogical societies, local history rooms in public libraries, museums, and the institutional archives of  various small organizations (colleges, hospitals, non-profit associations, etc.).  Their special collections contain a wide variety of holdings:  personal papers and manuscripts, archival records, photographs, rare books, scrapbooks and collections of ephemera, and materials in audio-visual formats.

To deliver advice and guidance on special collections, the field service model has been chosen.  Instead of inviting staff members from these repositories to travel to Raleigh or a university campus for a workshop or other form of training,  a well-trained, experienced archivist travels to a repository and works with staff members and volunteers on their turf.  This allows the Traveling Archivist to inspect and become familiar with a repository’s special collections, and to make practical suggestions to improve the overall PRESERVATION of materials and the means of ACCESS through written finding aids to the historical information they contain.  For example, the the Traveling Archivist might suggest ways to improve a repository’s storage areas by instituting an environmental monitoring program that accurately and regularly records temperature and humidity levels.  Or, the Traveling Archivist might suggest collection surveys as a starting point to develop an archival processing (or cataloging) initiative.

Planning for the Traveling Archivist program began in September, 2009.  Site visits to selected repositories began in January, 2010 and concluded in November, 2009.  Forty-two site visits were conducted (TAP I).  Each was followed up with a written report highlighting simple and practical recommendations to improve preservation and access.  In March, 2011, the program was authorized for a second round of site visits (TAP II).  Another 40 visits are anticipated, 25 to new sites, and 15 revisits to TAP I sites requesting help to implement recommendations from their site visit report.  Tap II visits have begun, and this blog will report on progress in future posts.

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