Kentucky Archives Week began in 2002, following a national trend of states or localities celebrating a local archives week. Since 2002, Kentucky has held its Archives Week in October, under the leadership of the Kentucky State Historical Records Advisory Board, the Kentucky Council on Archives, and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. In 2008, Kentucky transitioned to a month-long celebration to be held each year in October. Kentucky’s Archives Month also coincides with a national celebration of American Archives Month.
This planning guide brings together several documents used over the past several years, along with other ideas for planning an Archives Month event or activity. In releasing this publication, the Kentucky Archives Month Coordinating Committee is pleased to acknowledge the groundbreaking work and publication of the New York archival community, which has inspired this effort.
Why Archives Month?
Kentucky Archives Month is held to "celebrate archives and historical records," with the underlying purpose to promote historical records repositories, what we as archivists do in those repositories, and the importance of archives and manuscripts to society. We want to connect with the general public, the media, and elected and appointed officials. Archives Month events should educate, inform, enlighten, and/or entertain, but it's important to remember that the first purpose of Archives Month is to promote who we are and what we do.
What is Kentucky Archives Month?
Archives Month is an annual, month-long celebration of the importance of archival and historical records to our nation, our state, and our lives. The reason for holding Archives Month is to increase awareness with the public and with our public officials. Many people don't often think about records until they need a birth certificate, death record, or a title search. Then, obtaining these essential documents becomes vital.
Participation in Archives Month is Important
Your participation in Kentucky Archives Month is important because increased public awareness of historical records translates into increased financial support of archives, both in publicly funded institutions and in private organizations. Archives Month and other outreach efforts help the public, and resource allocators, such as trustees, administrators, and state legislators, understand and appreciate that historical records have value not only for an understanding of the past, but that they also make a contribution to today's society. By participating in Archives Month you can advertise your repository's collections and the work you do with those records to your community, colleagues, and resource allocators, and demonstrate the value of the records and archival work. Archives Month provides a coordinated and concentrated opportunity to hold public programs that highlight your work and the ways historical records make it happen.
An Opportunity for Recognition
Archives Month is a great opportunity for you to hold events in your community and invite local media coverage. It's also an opportunity to get your local officials involved in your activities. Politicians might be interested in attending your event. Get them involved, give them credit, give them an award; later on it could pay big dividends. It's also a perfect time to acknowledge individuals and groups who have contributed to the success of your organization. Remember to involve your local officials, state legislators, teachers, and local community and business leaders. One opportunity for recognition and an opportunity for media exposure is a proclamation signing ceremony for Archives Month by the county judge/executive, mayor, or fiscal court. Make a "big deal" out of it by inviting the media to the official's office for a formal signing ceremony or presentation.
Try to build relationships with your local media outlets. This, of course, is easier in the smaller local communities where everyone knows everyone. Having a friend at the local newspaper, radio, or television station is a real plus. Media outlets, whether print or broadcast, have four goals-to inform; to advise; to entertain; to make a profit. The key is to make it easy for the media to attain these goals. As you probably already know, there are a number of possible contacts at any one media outlet. For example, at a newspaper there is the editor, metro or city editor, section editors, copy editor, reporters, etc., and the other media, television, and radio have their counterparts. Knowing to whom you should direct your materials is important, so you'll need to select the best contact. Remember that as important as this event is to you, it will compete for attention with a number of other news issues and developing stories. Be prepared to do follow-up calls, deal with many busy people, and be flexible to meet the media's needs for information.
Disseminating press materials should generally begin about one month before the event will take place, and usually two weeks prior notice is needed by newspapers. Remember to try to identify the appropriate individual to contact at each media outlet. Once you have a contact name, mail or fax the "pitch" letter or press release, and follow up with a phone call a few days later.
Prior to the follow up phone call, make a list of talking points about Archives Month, or your event. Then in your call "sell" your story using the talking points. At that point you may be asked for additional information. Make an effort to provide this in a timely manner.
Be prepared also to have an appropriate individual or individuals readily available for a radio, talk show, newspaper interview, or photo opportunity. Make sure these individuals are knowledgeable about the event, and have the talking points and all important information memorized. Also, given the time constraints on the media, make such interviews as convenient as possible - work with the reporter's schedule, or arrange the interview at the studio or newspaper's office. Many radio stations will conduct interviews via telephone.
The Press Release
There are several important points on writing and distributing press releases. There is a style or format that should be followed for writing a press release. Many print media outlets won't even look at a press release that is not properly formatted. Since media staff usually has a deadline, they don't have time to fix the release. It should be in a format they can use quickly. Sometimes the exact text of a press release becomes a writer's whole column, with the addition of some introductory and closing material. Thus, write what you want them to say. Don't expect them to fix, add, or try to figure out what you're trying to say.
There is almost no end to the type of events you can hold during Archives Month, or at any time during the year. Archives Month is the perfect time because it will focus attention on what you're doing, possibly even with heightened awareness because of other events in the state. Events can include interpretive displays, lectures, or workshops. Events can be thematic, such as "Family Heritage in the New Millennium," historical, whimsical, genealogical, pictorial, etc.
Some examples are:
- Hold an open house and tours through your facility, highlighting unique materials, or arrange for public visits to several nearby repositories.
- Develop an exhibit using materials from your repository that would be of interest to researchers and the general public alike.
- Ask an author or researcher who has used your collections to present a lecture on the value of the collection/s they used, or on their research topic.
- Present a film festival using films or videos held by your repository.
- Conduct lunchtime lectures and talks by archivists, local historians, and others who are familiar with your collections.
- Organize historic site or house tours in your town or county.
- Present workshops for teachers on how they can utilize your holdings to bring local or state history to their classes.
- Introduce your archives to teachers and their classes by inviting them to visit your archives for a tour.
- Organize a "how-to" workshop for beginners in genealogy in cooperation with the local genealogical group in your community.
- Ask a knowledgeable local photographer to do a workshop on identifying and preserving old family photographs.
- Tape record or videotape oral history interviews with older members of the community. Invite one of the interviewees to give a lecture for the community on family life in the community in their youth.
- Organize an "Antiques Roadshow" type event with local antique dealers featuring family heirlooms from your community.
- Help local teachers to conduct class projects to write the family history of each child in the class. If possible have the children use your local historical records at your repository. Bob Greene's To Our Children's Children, is a good resource for this activity.
- Based on records in your archives, try to recreate an appropriate period in the history of your community for a community-wide celebration.
- Host an archival scavenger hunt for students to search out significant events in the community's life.
- Trace the genealogy of a property. Like families, buildings and properties have unique histories that can be traced through historical records.
- Organize a dinner dance/fashion show featuring foods, clothing styles and music popular in earlier times, as documented in local archival materials.
Some money will be necessary to get things done. Now, it's possible to stage and run events for virtually nothing if you can get everything - goods and services - donated. When that's not possible, some amount of fundraising is needed. Unless you have extra money built into your budget, you'll probably need to do some sort of fundraising to stage a good sized event. Fundraising can be of several types: One, you need to raise some money to do an event; Two, you have an event as a fundraiser; and Three, you do both. For a small event like an open house or lecture (where the lecturer speaks for free), little or only a small amount of money is needed.
Ways to fundraise are to seek outright monetary donations from individuals, businesses, organizations, etc., or donations of goods and/or services. (The local flower shop might not want to donate money, but they might be willing to send a bouquet for a raffle or provide a gift certificate.) For this you'll need to make contact through letters and personal visits, with the personal visit as the better approach. You might approach a large business such as a bank, insurance company, or large retailer that might be willing to underwrite the entire event.
What's in it for the donor? Including them as an event supporter on promotional materials is good advertising for them and shows that they are involved and committed to the community.
When the event itself is to be a fundraiser an "Antiques Roadshow" type event might be an opportunity to also have an antiques sale, a workshop, or a lecture with a paid presenter where you can then charge an admission fee. For a book and document road show and sale, you can charge a booth or table fee, vendor fee, hold an auction or raffle, etc.