Maryland Collaborations in Archives & Special Collections

Author: Elizabeth Novara, Maryland Caucus Chair

To continue the theme of archivists and collaborations that Laurie’s blog post began a few weeks ago, I would like to focus on some fairly recent collaborations in the state of Maryland. There are currently two groups within the state that coordinate gatherings of archivists and information professionals. Since the 1970s the MARAC Maryland Caucus has organized off-conference caucus meetings, tours, and social events for MARAC members who reside within or close to the state of Maryland. Like all state caucuses, the Maryland Caucus can also advocate for archival issues that arise within the state.

The Maryland History and Culture Collaborative (MHCC), which first met June 2006, “is an informal gathering of information professionals from throughout the state of Maryland whose job responsibilities include the acquisition, preservation, and management of collections related to Maryland history and culture.” (For more information see the MHCC website). MHCC is “informal” in that it does not require formal membership or dues and has no established leadership or bylaws. Both the Maryland Caucus and the MHCC have listservs to which anyone can post at any time, but the MHCC listserv seems to have more traffic than the Caucus listserv.

These two groups have many overlapping members and interests. The Maryland Caucus reaches out to anyone in the archival profession within the state who is a member of MARAC, while the MHCC appeals to all information professionals (at archives, library, or other institutions) who have an interest in Maryland-related materials. MHCC also has an interest in collaborative projects with Maryland-related materials such as traveling exhibits, digitization projects, and other initiatives. One of these projects that has been successful is the Civil War in Your Attic project, “a multi-year initiative to locate, digitize and provide worldwide access to the private documentary heritage of the American Civil War era located in Maryland.”

Almost two weeks ago, the two groups held a joint meeting to discuss possibilities for further collaboration. One of the main discussion points was that MHCC members do not pay dues and therefore do not have a budget to host meetings, special events, or workshops. For this reason, meeting attendees suggested that MARAC and the Maryland Caucus were better at providing educational and training opportunities to the region. It was recommended that MHCC could be a good resource to use in finding host institutions for MARAC workshops and that MHCC could also be a sounding board for MARAC conference session proposals and speakers. In addition, one of my impressions from this meeting was that the Maryland Caucus should continue to host off-conference social events and happy hours, while MHCC might be a better place to have more formal meetings with both MHCC members and Maryland Caucus members.

Overall, there was a positive consensus that the two groups should continue to explore a collaborative relationship. Members continue to feel that both groups provide different networking and other opportunities to the state of Maryland. Hopefully, the groups can find additional and fruitful ways to collaborate on state-wide archival and historical projects, much like what the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) has achieved. For the moment, members of both Maryland groups are mainly focusing on increased networking and educational opportunities.

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