Did you know that October is National Archives Month? We are ready to celebrate here at the Ohio History Connection Archives/Library.
Each year the Society of American Archivists and the Society of Ohio Archvists declare October a time to celebrate the importance of archives around the country.
Why would we dedicate an entire month each year to celebrating archives? Archives are incredibly important, and they need your support. Archives exist for the benefit of every member of our society. That’s a lot to celebrate.
Here’s a few services archives provide for our community that are definitely worth celebrating:
1.Archives are the original Google search.
Believe it or not, not everything is on the internet yet (although archives are trying to digitize parts of their collections). Let’s say you are a scientist partaking on a study of the importance of fruit flies. Why would you ever visit a dusty, old archive? Maybe you would want to come to the Ohio History Connection to check out the papers of James Stewart Hine, a natural historian who was an expert on diptera (flies). Why reinvent the research that has already been done?
Dr. Betsy June Myers of Ashland, Ohio. An expert in parasitology and tropical medicine, whose research is no doubt still important today. Image courtesy of Ashland University.
Or maybe you just moved into an old home. You are partaking in some renovations and find a photograph hidden in the walls. With a visit to an archive and the help of a reference librarian, you could find out who owned the house around the time this photograph was taken. Using genealogical records available at the archive, you could possibly track down the living descendants of the person in the photograph and deliver a great surprise.
Research is a part of our day to day lives. And it can be really hard. Not everything is on the internet. And even if it is, sometimes it’s really hard to get this information to work for us. Librarians are experts at making the available sources tell amazing sources. Often an archive’s greatest resource is its staff.
2.Democracy works best when we record it.
One of the most important roles archives can serve is keeping a government accountable to its citizens. The Ohio History Connection is very active in this role, preserving public records created by county and state officials and making these records available to the public.
You know when someone runs for office, and there’s a million advertisements detailing exactly how they voted on different hot button issues? Where do you think the advertisers got that information? Government archives can record exactly how our representatives spoke or voted on a certain issue.
Ohio political poster, c. 1970s.
These records create a set of undeniable facts that citizens can use to make informed decisions. We can also use these records to understand how our laws affect us and protect ourselves if we are ever unjustly accused of a crime. If you’re in law school, you’re probably no stranger to public court records. Archivists are helping to make these records available every day.
3.”And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, With a beautiful wife, And you may ask yourself, well, How did I get here?“
Archives help preserve a community identity by preserving stories of our collective past. History is awesome, because it’s something that everyone has a part in. Have you ever researched your personal family tree? Why? Did finding your ancestors change the way you view yourself?
How do you define yourself? Are you an American? Are you an Ohioan? What do those things mean? How do you know? Part of how we define our communities is by understanding how they came to be.
Are there things about the way you live today that you think might affect people in the future? Part of being an archivist is making sure that the stories of all communities are preserved in a way that helps build community identity. Records in archives remind us that something important happened. Everyone needs to know that their community is important.
4.“Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What’s Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions”
The Ohio History Connection’s mission is to “Spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. Embrace the present, share the past and transform the future.” If you look at the mission statements of historical societies and archives around the country, you will notice that many mention the future.
What business does a history organization have talking about the future? Have you ever been told to learn from your mistakes? Archives are pretty great at helping us do that as a society.
Historians love a trip to the archives.
Using archives to interpret the past helps historians give us a new lens on our present and our future. For example, understanding our nation’s legacy of housing discrimination can help us understand why our schools are often still segregated today. Expert Richard Rothenstein suggests that it would be a waste of time to search for a unique problem in today’s segregated schools, we only need to look backward to understand the problem(and into the archives as Rothenstein did).
As you can see, archives are essential parts of our society. But they can be a lot of fun too. Sometimes when you’re holding a piece of history you’ve just got to say “hey, that’s cool!”
We are looking forward to all of the fun that archives month will bring. Check back to this blog throughout the month of October for some exciting stories about the Archives/Library at the Ohio History Connection!