Written by Jamie Seemiller, Acquisitions Archivist, Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Department
On Saturday January 21, 2017, over 100,000 people flooded the streets in downtown Denver to protest. The Women’s March on Denver was one of many marches across the country in collaboration with the Women’s March on Washington. The march took place at the door step of the Denver Public Library. As the Acquisitions Archivist in the Western History and Genealogy Department (WHG), I felt that this event gave us a unique opportunity to reach new donors and to preserve the history of the event.
On Sunday, we posted a donation call on the WHG Facebook page. The post reached 25,440 people and was shared 234 times within the next few weeks. We received over 250 emails that resulted in donations of over 1,200 digital photos/videos, 105 protest signs and 12 pieces of ephemera such as “pussy” hats, buttons, and artwork.
In an average year I have about 80 in person donor meetings and receive several hundred emails and phone requests, so this kind of response was exciting and overwhelming. While we normally review every potential donation in a staff acquisitions committee meeting, we decided to forgo our normal procedure. We felt it was more important to encourage “citizen archivists” and engage with the community.
During the collecting phase, I corresponded with donors by email, phone and in person. I strive to have every donor sign a gift form and to give me background about the items they were donating. In order to manage the flow of donors and materials coming into the library, we created two excel spreadsheets one for the physical materials and one for digital donations. We had a volunteer inventory the physical materials. Meanwhile, I documented the digital donations and downloaded them on our server. Each individual donation was placed in a folder with the donor’s name in order to track their provenance.
The next step was to appraise the collection. First, we decided to review any materials without a gift form. For the digital material, any donation without an gift form was removed from the collection. This amounted to 18 donations and 160 digital photos. For the protest signs, we decided to keep signs that had a unique message or design. We kept 8 of the 40 signs that did not have gift forms.
Next we discussed how we are going to provide access to the collection. We agreed that we would like to have every donor represented in the online collection. We decided that we can not keep everything, but by curating the donations one by one we can fully represent the event and the individual stories that brought people to the march. While appraising the digital material a metadata spreadsheet was created for import into our digital collections, and a priority list for digitization of the physical materials. Any videos selected will be available on YouTube. We plan to share the collection with the public with a program and exhibit in September and to have the digital materials online this summer.
Note: This piece was originally shared as a Collection Highlight in the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists Newsletter.