Go For It!

Julie Devenney, social media officer for ARAScotland & Archive Hour writes about ArchiveHour for SHSMG in the latest blog.

Why don’t you set it up?” said an archivist friend to me, back in May, after I’d been grumbling again that there was a @museumhour and an @ancestryhour but no @archivehour!

Why don’t I?!” I had not been long offered the position of social media officer for ARA Scotland and that thought was still mulling over in my mind.

Why set up @archivehour?

After speaking to fellow archivists, we believed there was a need for an open, friendly, inclusive and easily accessible space for archivists, record managers and conservators to discuss the issues that affected and interested them. A place where conversations could happen and we could help each other, give advice, support and also inspire one another too. We hoped it would foster greater engagement in the Archive profession and allow both information professionals and users to keep up to date with changes in the sector and discover new, relevant resources.

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How we set up @archivehour

Getting advice was an important first step and I asked for advice and support  from people from both within the Archive and Records Association (ARA) organisation and without. Not just from within the archive sector, but those involved in social media, museums, libraries, etc.

After getting the green light from the ARA Board to start the initiative, we emailed all the other ARA nations, regions and sections and invited them to participate in Archive Hour. We felt it was important that Archive Hour was an ARA wide initiative and hoped as many ARA groups as possible would get involved. Luckily eight other ARA social media officers jumped on board immediately. There are only a handful of paid positions within the ARA organisation, all the committee members are volunteers, so we were delighted that these social media officers believed in the potential of Archive Hour and were happy to dedicate some of their free time to making it happen.

The idea was that each would host @archivehour once (or twice) a year, organising their guest host and promoting it on Twitter. With each of the varied sections and regions doing their part for their month,  as a whole, the Archive sector would have a space that had diverse topics that would interest all the different aspects of the profession.

We agreed to launch on the 26th of September and go ‘live’ on the 26th October. This gave us a date to work towards and we came up with a plan going forward. We each picked a date to host and approved of the logo for the @archivehour account.  Instruction sheets and visuals were created and distributed to help the promotion of Archive Hour on Twitter and provide guidance for the guest hosts. This was all done via email as we all live and work across the UK and Ireland.

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ARA Scotland was up first hosting @archivehour so all that was left to do was pick a topic (we chose digital preservation as it is currently a hot topic) and a guest host. We really wanted to start Archive Hour with a really special first guest host so we were thrilled when we approached the Digital Records Unit at The National Records of Scotland and five of the team agreed to join us, tweeting from their own personal accounts.

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As the experts, they came up with the eight questions to be asked during the ‘hour’ and, thanks to our great hosts and all our followers who engaged with us, Archive Hour was a great success! Professionals from across the globe engaged with our hosts and the topic. We had a fantastic level of engagement on the day and a very positive response from followers telling us what they got out of Archive Hour,  sometimes in ways which we had never imagined!

Thinking of setting something similar up?

I couldn’t have set Archive Hour up without all the help, support and advice from various people and organisations, but if you are thinking of setting up something similar then my advice would be…GO FOR IT! Whether you have a job or you are a volunteer like me,  if you are offered a position or project then grab the opportunity when it comes along as you never know where it may take you!

Use your network and contacts. I sought advice from David from SHSMG and he was great, also directing me towards further points of information and contacts. I was lucky to have the ARA organisation (and in particular the ARA Scotland committee) behind me and I was able to use the expertise and knowledge of many of its members, such as their graphic designer. Ask everyone you can think of, we are very lucky to have a friendly and helpful heritage community!

Go to events like the SHSMG meet ups (No, David and Julianne aren’t paying me for this!) Meeting like-minded professionals is invaluable. Back in July I attended the meet up with Stewart Hardy, marketing officer with The National Library of Scotland. Listening to his expertise and thoughts gave me the confidence to put forward my ideas about Archive Hour to the ARA Scotland committee.

Lastly, use what you have available to you! If possible, use the ‘brand’ or ‘name’ of the organisation you work or volunteer for and there are many different ways you can do this. I used free apps like Canva to create visuals using colours that were in keeping with the ARA logos in order to have everything look uniform, given that we were posting across nine different ARA social media accounts and the @archivehour account. Also having the ARA ‘name’ and reputation behind me when emailing others to come on board certainly helped!

I really enjoyed hosting October’s #archivehour. It was a great experience to be involved in a project that can be owned by the whole archive sector and has the potential to benefit the sector in so many different ways.

This month’s host is the ARA Film Sound Photos section. Their topic is audiovisual heritage and they have two great hosts, the digitisation unit at the University for Creative Arts (@UCAdigitisation) and Barnsley Archives (@BarnsArchives). I can’t wait to join in with their topic and I’d be delighted if you joined in too!

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