Archives Month: Ask an Archivist

Archives Month: Ask an Archivist

Blog post by Rusty
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October is Archives Month. It is our opportunity to share what is going on at the archives, to fill you in on the things being preserved, items cataloged, and collections processed. Or perhaps to provide some explanation about what all of those things mean. Most importantly it is a time when we want to hear from you. What do you want to know about the archives? Do you have questions about our resources or services? Perhaps you want to know what it means to be an archivist or how to become one? To give some context for any questions you might have we’ve answered a few about who we are and what do below.

What is an archivist anyway and what do they do?

Archivists are trained professionals who work to preserve historical records and to help people access those records. We work with our communities, or donors, to acquire new material that we then organize and rehouse, or what we refer to as process. Descriptions of processed collections are composed and published, in our case online, as an access point for the public to learn about our holdings. These finding aids are just one example of how we attempt to increase awareness of what we have. (You might also refer to the Searching the Archives series of blog posts for more information on how we provide access to our material.)  Finally we assist you in using the collection by helping find information on your topic and ensuring that you know how to handle old fragile material safely for its continued preservation.

Archivists come from a variety of backgrounds. Among our staff we have historians, librarians, AV specialists, and others who have all attended classes to learn the special skills needed to be an archivist. Many of our staff specialize in areas of their work, focusing on material types such as paper or photographs or maps or video, or working in a specific part of the collection process collecting donations, processing material, or improving access.

What does the Austin History Center collect?

We are the historical repository of the City of Austin. As such we get records from the City’s Council, commissions, departments, etc… These records include minutes and agendas, reports, recordings, budgets, and correspondence among many other things. Beyond these official records we collect donations from the public in an effort to preserve the history of our community, its businesses, neighborhoods, people, and institutions.

How can I use the resources at the AHC?

Some of the most frequent uses of our resources are for learning more about a property or a person. Whether to contest a coding violation or to earn historical status for their property people are generally curious about their homes and who used to live there or what used to occupy their land. You can use our collection to find your answers about Austin and its history. You can use them to illustrate your work, to publish your books, inform your documentaries, or to simply satisfy your curiosity.

You can use the resources at the AHC in the Reading Room. As an archive our records do not circulate, but you can access them anytime during our open hours. Archivists are always available to help you find what you need and to track down the answers to all your Austin questions.