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Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work

Thank you to everyone who registered and attended this webinar! If you missed it or are here to view it again, you can find the recording below as well as a link to the slide deck, a list of links referenced, and a recap of the Q&A.

Abstract

Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the world are struggling with the impact of COVID-19.  As public spaces remain closed, archives and museums are challenged with fulfilling their mission while seeking economic relief. Many archives and museum professionals are facing precarious employment as they struggle to prove the value of their work. This webinar is a follow up to the Society of American Archivists’ “Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19)” (view: https://youtu.be/vhK2ww1_ZR8).  Please join me for a deeper dive into strategies for how to capture and communicate the value of collection work. The webinar will offer a framework to define the value of your work, discuss mechanisms for capturing value, and offer strategies for communicating the value of your work to your boss, your board, your fellow staff, and your community stakeholders.

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Slide Deck

To get a copy of the slide deck please download the PDF via Google Drive.

Links Referenced in the Webinar

American Alliance of Museums’ TrendsWatch 2020
American Alliance of Museums Advocacy Resources
Resources for Museums on How to Identify and Articulate Value
Resources on How to Convey the Value of Archives
Society of American Archivists Resources and Toolkits
Regional Example from Oregon Heritage Commission Toolkit
Free e-copy of A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing

Q&A Section

This section includes a summary of the questions and answers reviewed during the webinar. Please view or listen to the webinar for a fuller account of the answers.

Q. Rachael, have you had experience in situations where self advocacy is seen by higher-ups as being a “squeaky wheel” rather than a voice which deserves attention? 

A. There is always a chance that someone will perceive you as the “squeaky wheel”. If we’re doing our job, if we’re communicating the value of our work and our collection regularly, then by the time we make an ask we will have demonstrated our value. However, I also acknowledge that we’re in a position right now where a lot of us do need to ask for financial resources and it’s a difficult position to be in if you’ve not had a chance to implement strategies for capturing and communicating the value of your collection and your work. I do encourage you to try it though, even if you need to make an ask. Be clear on the value of your work and be ready with the evidence as to why collections work is so critical. If you’re showing your value as you make the request then at the very least it will be recognized as legitimate.

Q. I’m curious about strategies for initiating conversations about budgeting and revenue streams when this information isn’t readily offered to mid-level staff.

A. For some organizations, the financial records are publically available usually in the form of an annual report. If that’s not the case then I encourage you to ask questions. If your boss isn’t available or open to sharing that information, I recommend you go straight to the source–your accounting or financial department. The reason you are asking is because you want to use the information to inform your work and bring in even more revenue into the organization. Any reasonable person will want to help you achieve that outcome and will provide you the information you need.

Comment: Great points about demonstrating how archives/collection work supports institutional income and mission. I found that it also helps to track the amount of staff time and other resources spent on specific engagement events.

A. Yes! I’m so glad you raised this as it can help with your ask. If you’re tracking staff time and other costs for your work and you can tie that work (and costs) to the revenue generating event, then you’re able to backup your request with detailed numbers on how much it costs you to do your work and can demonstrate how that work is of value to the institution. I definitely recommend tracking these types of costs to “do business” as they will help you understand the finances required to operate and provide value at current levels.

Q. Would you have any comments on how to connect the development/origins of an archives or a collection with current work and initiatives? It seems there are good opportunities to demonstrate value through time (with a longer timeline) though it might be a challenge to keep focus and could lost stakeholder interest.

A. I think this could be a great opportunity for you to show value of the collection over time. You could approach it like a retrospective, using the organization’s mission (or similar) to tie the archives’ beginning to and then review the collections acquired, projects, and other milestones (where the collection has provided value) along the way. Seeing the value delivered over time could be very impactful and is a great reminder to the organization that the archives is the department that secures the organization’s legacy.

A Note About the Presenter

Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting smiles at the camera as she poses in front of her laptop displaying Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19) webinar.
Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting

Rachael Woody is the owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC. After a successful tenure at the Smithsonian Institution and the Oregon Wine History Archive, Woody established her consultancy to teach archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations how to take care of their collections and advocate for their value. Woody has experienced precariously funded positions first-hand and has proven tactical strategies to demonstrate the value of collection work. As a result of her experience, Woody has dedicated herself to advocating for the value of collection work. She serves on SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, established the Archivist-in-Residence (paid internship) program at Northwest Archivists, and serves on several salary advocacy committees.

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