Hi. My name is Anne and I’m addicted to access to archives.
I have had this passion since the first time I started to work in an archive processing a collection of original materials. These records had never been seen by anyone except the creators and even they probably never looked at the material as a whole, as a story, as a history waiting to be told. I loved everything about working on that collection – organizing it, typing up the finding aid, re-typing the finding aid, and finally completing it and putting it in a folder where it would stay until someone, somehow might learn about this great collection and would appreciate all my care and devotion to making it easy to use. To this day, I’m still not sure if anyone ever did use it.
Several years now into a long career as an archivist, I am still passionately engaged in making archives accessible – though I’m not doing it one finding aid at a time. I’m doing it with thousands of finding aids and bibliographic records that archivists have painstakingly created in hopes of making their treasured collections accessible to researchers. And what’s exciting is that current technology allows us to do this in an unprecedented fashion. And what’s even more exciting is that I can now see how great the demand for this information has become.
When we launched ArchiveGrid.org last month, we had the opportunity to open the doors to an incredible wealth of information about archives that are dispersed across the country and around the world. One private funder who understood the value and the vision of our work to aggregate information about dispersed archives and build the best access system we could, also allowed us to test out the power and the demand for this information by supporting a three month free access period. We were sure that this would be a way of attracting more users to this important resource.
What we could not anticipate was the enormous response that started on day 1. With our first announcements of the new service out, we carefully tracked how many people were finding the service, visiting, re-visiting, telling their friends and colleagues about it, seeing the blogosphere pick it up and run with it. Within the first three days of the service, the traffic exceeded our expectations for the full three months. Over the course of last month, 182,000 visits have been made to ArchiveGrid, an average of 5800 visits a day. More than 806,000 pages of information have been viewed and the numbers are continuing to rise. I’d say there’s a demand out there all right.
Now we have the challenge of keeping the system open. Who funds this sort of thing? Who is passionate enough about archives to make sure that this kind of access can continue? The mantra running through most of our feedback is something like – this is fabulous – but what happens after May?
I’m looking for angels and also for real live funders to help support my addiction.