Submitted by: Elizabeth Knight, Consulting Archivist, Orbis Cascade Alliance

Week 1: I felt like a horse leaving the starting gate as I began my first site visit at University of Puget Sound. I will be there for four weeks and focused this first week on getting up to speed with the Archives and making some initial progress on getting collection information together for twenty manuscript (personal papers) collections which will be uploaded to NWDA later this year, providing practical improvements to current processes, and shaping a vision and plan that will carry the program forward without requiring extra resources.

Most smaller university and college archives, like the one at University of Puget Sound (also known as Puget Sound) contain impressive but largely invisible collections of materials on the rich history of their institutions and un- or only tangentially-related collections of wider scholarly value. This NHPRC-funded program will provide seven institutions with a professional archivist for a total of six weeks each to guide the creation of MARC and EAD encoded collection-level descriptions for the NWDA; provide solutions and simplified workflows where needed; and articulate a sustainable vision and path forward suited to local needs and resource levels.

I am excited to be a part of this effort as I know there are so many practical and creative ways to move a small archives forward without little or no additional resources. Creativity, persistence, resourcefulness, and flexibility are required. Academic archives can become integrated into campus life, provide deep connections to alumni, and contribute to scholarship worldwide. As Confucius said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Note: In these posts, I will try and strike a balance between providing concrete examples of the work being accomlished at the three institutions I will be visiting (the other two are Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University), and talking in more general terms about the potential in smaller academic archives…I think! Please comment and let me know what you want to hear from me. I really haven’t thought through what I will say here.