Fostering Diversity in Archival Collections

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of New Hampshire]On: 05 October 2014, At: 15:24Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Collection ManagementPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Fostering Diversity in ArchivalCollectionsKren M. Mason PhD aa Louise Noun-Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women'sArchives, University of Iowa Libraries , USAPublished online: 22 Sep 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: Kren M. Mason PhD (2003) Fostering Diversity in ArchivalCollections, Collection Management, 27:2, 23-31, DOI: 10.1300/J105v27n02_03</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is</p><p></p></li><li><p>expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>Fostering Diversity in Archival Collections:The Iowa Womens Archives</p><p>Kren M. Mason</p><p>ABSTRACT. Since its establishment at the University of Iowa Libraries in1992, the Louise NounMary Louise Smith Iowa Womens Archives hassought to document the broad spectrum of Iowa women and to acquire col-lections that represent diverse populations. To that end, the Archives initi-ated special projects to collect the papers of Iowas African Americanwomen and rural women. This article explores the benefits of such projects,the methods used to acquire diverse collections, and the challenges ofproactive collection development when resources are scarce. [Article cop-ies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2002 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]</p><p>KEYWORDS. Archival collections, African American women, ruralwomen, womens archives, Iowa women, diversity</p><p>IOWA WOMENS ARCHIVES: THE BEGINNING</p><p>On May 15, 1991 a painting by Frida Kahlo entitled Self-Portraitwith Loose Hair sold for $1.65 million at Christies in New York,</p><p>Kren M. Mason, PhD, is Curator, Louise NounMary Louise Smith IowaWomens Archives, University of Iowa Libraries.</p><p>This paper was originally presented at Diversity: Building a Strategic Future, April4-6, 2002, a national conference sponsored by the Committee on Institutional Coopera-tion (CIC) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).</p><p>Collection Management, Vol. 27(2) 2002 2002 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.</p><p>10.1300/J105v27n02_03 23</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>breaking the record for the sale price for a work of Latin American art.The sale was big news not only in the art world, but in the archivesworld as well. Why? Because the painting was sold in order to establishthe Iowa Womens Archives (IWA) at the University of Iowa.</p><p>The painting was owned by Louise Noun, a Des Moines philanthro-pist, art collector, and historian. In the 1960s Noun researched and wrotethe first (and to date only) history of the womens suffrage movement inIowa, which was published in 1969. Not surprisingly, she had difficultylocating archival collections on Iowa women suffragists in an era whenhistorians (and many archivists as well) still believed that there were in-sufficient sources by and about women to support the study of womenshistory. Louise Noun conceived the idea of a womens archives, modeledon the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, that would collect the pa-pers of Iowa women and make them available for research. With the saleof the Kahlo painting in 1991, Nouns idea finally came to fruition.</p><p>It is fitting that the Archives was funded by the sale of a Frida Kahlopainting. Kahlos work was overshadowed by that of her more famoushusband, Diego Rivera, during her lifetime. Kahlos paintings havebeen rescued from obscurity in recent years, thanks in large part to col-lectors like Louise Noun, who over the past several decades have soughtto acquire and exhibit artwork by women. Likewise, Nouns establish-ment of the IWA was meant to rescue the papers of Iowa women fromobscurity, neglect, or destruction and to preserve them for use by stu-dents, scholars, and the public.</p><p>The Louise NounMary Louise Smith IWA was established in 1992to collect, preserve, and make available the history of Iowa women, thatis, women born or educated in Iowa or women who lived in Iowa for atleast part of their lives. The Archives is housed in the Main Library atthe University of Iowa, where it has its own stacks, offices, and readingroom separate from the University Archives and Special Collections.</p><p>I was hired as the first curator of the IWA and arrived in July 1992 tobegin building the collections of the Archives. Unlike most archivists,who inherit collections, traditions, and policies, I began with a clean slateand have had the rare opportunity to shape a new repository. From theoutset, the Archives has sought to document the broad spectrum of Iowawomen and thus to build a diverse set of collections. In one sense, thevery existence of the IWA fosters diversity in archival collections, in thatit focuses its collecting on women who had previously been neglected byarchivists and historians. For most of history, archivists collected the pa-pers of the rich, the powerful, the elite; in short, they preserved the historyof white men. As archivist Nancy Sahli (1994) has written,</p><p>24 COLLECTION MANAGEMENT</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>Perhaps this is as it always has been, that the dominant culture has de-fined what will be preserved and transmitted to future generations.For dominant cultures have held the keys to power and to those insti-tutions that both create and preserve the historical record. What wehave been witnessing in the past thirty years, however, is the increas-ing diversification of that culture, accompanied by rising self-con-sciousness of particular groups in society, groups eager to documenttheir own history and gain access to those bits and pieces of their his-tory that have survived in traditional repositories. (p. 100)</p><p>The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic growth in the numberof repositories that define themselves as womens archives, dedicated topreserving the history of women. There has also been a growing commit-ment among archivists to document non-dominant groups, to capture oursociety, culture, and history in all its diversity. That commitment has notalways translated into more diverse collections, in part because of practi-cal considerationsoften because of a lack of resources to carry out thesegood intentions. In the paragraphs to follow I will describe the efforts ofthe IWA to foster diversity in its collectionsin particular, what has suc-ceeded and what factors have inhibited our efforts.</p><p>IOWA WOMENS ARCHIVES: BACKGROUND</p><p>The mission of the IWA is to preserve the history of Iowa women. Itis open to the public, serving as a research facility for students, scholars,and the public. Since its establishment in 1992, ten years ago, the Ar-chives has acquired some 850 collections of personal papers and orga-nizational records of Iowa women, measuring nearly 1500 linear feet.These collections represent a wide range of Iowa women. Areas that areespecially strong include political life and second wave feminism, butthere are also rich collections documenting the arts, education, journal-ism, volunteerism, sports, and any number of other topics and occupa-tions.</p><p>The Archives acquires collections by donation only, not by purchase.The mode of collecting consists of four basic approaches:</p><p>1. publicizing our interest in womens papers through speeches, arti-cles, and brochures</p><p>2. writing letters of solicitation to individuals and groups identifiedthrough newspaper articles or suggested by others</p><p>Kren M. Mason 25</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>3. sponsoring or attending events at which our interest in womenspapers can be publicized, and</p><p>4. establishing good working relationships with people around thestate who might assist in our efforts.</p><p>ESTABLISHING THE ARCHIVES COLLECTIONS</p><p>The manner in which the Archives was founded and funded created asplash in the media, resulting in a great deal of publicity in newspaperssuch as the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen, in Uni-versity of Iowa publications, and even on Iowa Public Television. In in-terviews with the media, Archives staff members always emphasizedthe desire to document the broad spectrum of Iowa women, to collectnot only the papers of prominent women, but of so-called ordinarywomenwomen who were not known outside their families or commu-nities but whose papers might shed light on the lives and experiences ofIowa women through history.</p><p>Over time, these methods yielded results. In the first two years of its ex-istence the Archives acquired only about 40 collections of letters, diaries,speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, minute books, and other such primarysource material. As word of the Archives grew, collections were donated ata more rapid rate. But I soon discovered that these collections were notnearly as diverse as I had hoped. That is, they represented a somewhat nar-row spectrum of women. For example, by the end of the first three years,the Archives had the papers of just a few African American women, de-spite our best efforts. Even though the staff had established contacts withand solicited papers of African American women in various parts of thestate, the results were disappointing. Part of this, of course, is inherent in ar-chival work. Fieldwork often involves planting seeds that will not bear fruitfor years or even decades. An archivist may ask for someones papers, re-ceive a tepid response (if any), and not hear from that person again until 20years later, when she decides its time to find a home for her papers.</p><p>Another obstacle archivists face is that most people have never givena thought to their papers. Many do not even know what an archives is,and if they do, they do not realize they have anything that might be ofvalue for historical research. History to them is the Civil War or WorldWar II. Its presidents. Its politicians. Its museums and artifacts, notletters and diaries unless they are very old. This is especially true ofwomen who cannot imagine they have ever done anything that meritsremembering outside their home. And if this is true of privileged white</p><p>26 COLLECTION MANAGEMENT</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>women, how much more so of African American or Indian women orLatinas, whose lives and work and achievements have been overlookedand devalued for so long.</p><p>AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: A COLLECTION INITIATIVE</p><p>It became clear early on that if the Archives were to represent the di-versity of Iowas population, its staff would have to make a concertedeffort to reach underrepresented groups. It was not until we hired an ar-chivist to focus on collecting the papers of African American women,however, that we built a strong collection in that area, and even then, ittook time to acquire these collections. The fundraising took some time,but by the fall of 1995 the Archives was able to hire Kathryn Neal as as-sistant archivist to undertake the African American Women in Iowaproject. Louise Noun, co-founder of the Archives, had encouraged theArchives to reach out to African American women and then UniversityLibrarian, Sheila Creth, persuaded the University of Iowa Foundationto raise money to support such a project. Since Kathryn Neal describesthis project in her article in this issue of Collection Management, I willnot go into great detail, but will discuss it briefly. The project was ini-tially funded for two years; the Libraries was able to secure grants to ex-tend it for an additional year and a half. Had the project lasted only twoyears, it would not have been nearly as successful. It takes time to iden-tify leads, establish contacts, visit with potential donors, and persuadethem of the value of donating their papers. Multiple visits are often nec-essary. As a result of Neals efforts, however, the Archives acquired thepapers of more than 50 African American women, and completed 15oral history interviews.</p><p>After Kathryn Neal left in 1999, the number of collections being ac-quired slowed to a trickle. The University of Iowas Graduate Collegeprovided partial funding for a graduate assistant for two years to con-tinue Neals work, but that was not as effective as having a full time ar-chivist out in the field who had already won the confidence of potentialdonors. The graduate assistants had no background in archives and thusrequired very basic training. Therefore, their work consisted primarilyof organizing and writing guides to collections. The Archives has at-tempted to maintain some visibility for the project by taking tabletopexhibits to Ill Make Me a World in Iowa, an annual event held at theState Historical Building in Des Moines to celebrate African Americanculture in Iowa, and by including updates on the project in the Archivesnewsletter.</p><p>Kren M. Mason 27</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f N</p><p>ew H</p><p>amps</p><p>hire</p><p>] at</p><p> 15:</p><p>24 0</p><p>5 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>TARGETED COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT</p><p>For the most part, the African American Women in Iowa project hasbeen a successful model for targeted collection development. It gave theArchives high visibility, established contacts around the state, and dem-onstrated the...</p></li></ul>