If you build it, they will come...

On Wednesday, October 19th, staff members at the Tennessee State Library and Archives invited me to speak to a group of archivists and records managers at the Tennessee Archives Institute. My topic concentrated on social media, blogging for archives, and The Posterity Project. I entitled the presentation, "If you build it, they will come" -- an obvious reference to the famous line in the movie, Field of Dreams.

I used this line in the movie to make a point: When I first began experimenting in social media in 2008, I started with a blog and little more than word-of-mouth advertising to help launch The Posterity Project into an online information resource with a sizable readership. Not too bad for an obscure blog about Tennessee archives and history! The world of archives may seem like a narrow niche, but there are many people interested in what archivists do and the collections that they help to preserve and protect for future generations. I believe that having a social media outpost is critical in the 21st century information age in which we live. While it's not enough to merely "build it" and wait for readers, establishing a social media footprint is the necessary first step in opening a line of social media communication between your institution and the general public. Just build it and they will come!

My goal for this presentation was to provide the audience with some basic information about social media, and to provide some advice on how archivists might use social media to help promote their collections and share their information with the public. While a lot of what I talked about came from my own personal experiences, I do want to acknowledge the work of a pioneer in social media for archives that has greatly helped me in my own learning process. Kate Theimer at ArchivesNext has been immersed in the world of social media for many years, and has written extensively on this subject as it relates to archives. I consider her to be the foremost expert on this subject, and consulted her work extensively in preparation for my own presentation to the Tennessee Archives Institute. If you want to learn more about social media for archives, I would highly recommend reading her book, Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections. It helped me tremendously in my preparation, and it is definitely worth a read.

In my presentation, I highlighted a few of the archives in my home state of Tennessee that are doing great work to utilize social media to help draw attention to the importance of their collections, and generate interest among local citizens and members of the general public.

I want to publicly thank the folks at the Tennessee State Library and Archives for inviting me to speak at the Tennessee Archives Institute. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for archives and social media with this group.

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.