“Where can we find a comprehensive list of archival repositories in the United States?” This is a question Eira Tansey (University of Cincinnati) and I (Ben Goldman, Penn State University) asked in early 2016 when we started a project to map the vulnerabilities of American archives locations to the future impacts of climate change. With the amazing help of geospatialists at Penn State (Nathan Piekielek, Geospatial Services Librarian) and Tara Mazurczyk (Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography) we explored how sea level rise, storm surge, temperature fluctuations and increased precipitation might effect 1,232 archival locations in the continental United States. Eira and I shared initial findings at the Research Forum of the 2017 Society of American Archivists’ Annual Conference, and submitted (with our collaborators) a manuscript for publication this past July.
While we are excited to share the results of this project with our archival colleagues and comrades, one of our lingering disappointments with this effort has been the lack of a comprehensive dataset to work with. The best option we could find came from OCLC’s ArchiveGrid (thanks to Bruce Washburn and Merrilee Proffit), which provided a useful dataset to conduct our research, but clearly did not fully reflect the size of the archival community. By contrast, IMLS’s Museum Universe data file contains over 30,000 entries. It became clear to us that in order to fully understand the future impacts of climate change on documentary heritage in the U.S., we needed better data.
Now, thanks to the Society of American Archivists Foundation, we can begin to pull together a better dataset. Eira and I were awarded a $5,000 Strategic Growth grant from SAA Foundation in May, and over the course of one year (July 2017 – June 2018) are attempting to find, aggregate, standardize and openly share a vast dataset on archival repository locations, with help from an amazing Research Assistant, Whitney Ray.
We hope to use this blog to share our progress and highlight interesting or useful information related to this effort. We welcome the wisdom and comments of our archival colleagues everywhere, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any thoughts or ideas!