Blog Entry 21: Oh my gosh, this is so cool!

"Oh my gosh, this is so cool!" This phrase goes through my head dozens of times a day while working in the archives. As archivists, we think almost everything in an archival collection is the most interesting thing in the world. Well, of course, we're archivists. We get lost in our own world reading the stories, examining historic photos, and listening to oral histories. We think, "I have to tell everyone about this! They will all think it is so interesting!" Will they? Let's think for a minute. Let's think about those people who are not archivists. Let's think about those who do not dedicate their life to preserving and providing access to archival material. Will they feel the same way you do? Will they care as much as you do?

As the Archives Intern at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I ask myself those questions every day. In an association with one archivist (Suzanne Gould) and one intern (me), I understand that the AAUW Archives is just one segment of their mission. AAUW has been "Empowering Women Since 1881." It is involved in research, STEM education, public policy, legal advocacy, and educational funding to improve the lives of women and their families. Since AAUW's mission encompasses a wide range goals, it is important to incorporate the archives throughout their mission.

How do you get non-archivists interested in the archives? First, find out their goals. Then, incorporate the archives into those goals. For example, are they advocating for more women in Congress? Let's look in the archives for examples of AAUW members who were elected to Congress. Are they advocating for more women in science? Let’s look in the archives for examples of women in science who earned an AAUW fellowship, grant, or award. Our goals become their goals, and their goals become ours. Through this collaboration, we gain new advocates for the archives.

As the Archives Intern, one of my main projects is to process the AAUW Fellowship Files. These files contain applications, personal statements, and letters of recommendations for women who earned an AAUW Fellowship to study at an American university. While processing these files, I discover stories of fellows working with well-known scientists, such as Jonas Salk and Niels Bohr. I also discover stories of fellows who escaped from the Nazis and were saved by an AAUW fellowship. In the AAUW Archives, we work closely with the Fellowship and Grants Office. We come together with the same goal to highlight the achievements of AAUW Fellows. Through this collaboration, the Fellowship and Grants Office becomes advocates for the AAUW Archives. When they write a story which includes research in the archives, they are advocating for the Archives.

So next time when you say, "Oh my gosh, this is so cool," don't keep it to yourself. Think goals. Think collaboration. Think advocacy.


Justine Rothbart, MLIS student, Catholic University, Washington, DC


Check out my blog posts about Judge Sarah Hughes and AAUW Fellow Helen Claudia Henry.  Check back in January for my new blog post about AAUW Fellow Hilde Levi.