|Course:||5: Access and Outreach|
In the last several courses we have discussed preservation at length. Preservation is vital to ensure that historical records survive the test of time, but preservation is not our only goal in maintaining these records. We preserve them so that people can use them. Caring for historical records is a balancing act. Records are better preserved when handling is kept to a minimum. Yet there’s no reason to preserve those records if people can’t use them!
Access and outreach include activities such as traditional reference services and exhibits, as well as activities such as public relations and fund raising. Some of these activities are more natural than others to many archivists, yet all are important aspects of caring for and managing historical records programs.
In this course we’ll help you create a reference policy for your program and discuss how you can help the users of your collections find what they are looking for. We’ll also discuss methods you can use to reach out into your community and promote your collections so that people know what you have and understand your role in your community. We’ll discuss the best ways to exhibit and loan your materials. Finally, we’ll take a look at fund-raising ideas that you can implement.
Preservation vs. Usage
Inherent in this course is the ongoing tension between the archivist’s dual roles – to protect and preserve valuable records and to promote awareness and use of those records. Protection and preservation imply that the records are not handled and used, since usage inhibits their preservation; yet we are preserving the records so that people can use them! Thus, when we are providing access to our users as well as exhibiting and loaning our materials, we must constantly balance the need to ensure preservation while providing access.