History and Methodology

HISTORY

The Arizona Archives Matrix project was first proposed during several Arizona Archivist Roundtable sessions from 2003-2007. Roundtable participants discussed how Arizona’s archivists could effectively collaborate as a group on issues such as unprocessed backlogs, underrepresented communities/topics, and collection development. Of particular concern was the realization that several marginalized communities were not being properly supported in the historic record amongst the State’s archival repositories. This was made explicit in Sarah Boles’ 2006 report, “A Preliminary Survey of Under-Documented Communities and Subjects in Arizona.” Sensing an opportunity to address some of these concerns, the Arizona Archivist Roundtable began looking for funds to support a large-scale collaborative project that would provide an accurate snapshot of collections contained in archives across Arizona. Funding was secured with assistance from the Arizona Historical Records Advisory Board (AHRAB) and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to develop a series of yearly workshops for archivists in Arizona. Held each year, the Arizona Archives Summit brings together archivists who handle a diverse group of historic records that document the history of Arizona.

The first Arizona Archives Summit was held in January 2009. Topics of discussion were state-wide collection development, the use of More Product, Less Processing  (MPLP) when working with backlogs, reuniting split collections (physically and digitally), and addressing un(der)documented communities in the State. In fall 2009, a working group was formed that began to research effective data models for collecting collection-level information from repositories; data collected in a standardized matrix would directly address many of the issues raised at the 2009 summit. Planning and implementing the first round of the Arizona Archives Matrix took place in 2010, with several meetings held across the state to (1) formulate an appropriate series of questions for each institution planning on responding and (2) assisting repositories that had queries along the way. Twelve institutions provided data for this first round of the project. Data collection was complete by November 2010 and subsequently analyzed in December/January, just prior to the January 2011 Arizona Archives Summit meeting. Early results indicated that much of the data was weak, as both the functionality of the survey tool and accompanying instructions were inadequate for users. Much of the 2011 meeting was spent discussing how the matrix could be improved. It was then decided that the Matrix Working Group would focus its efforts on refining the survey tool over the next year, and ask that existing contributors enhance their data following the new guidelines, as well as encourage new members to participate.

The improvements to the survey tool were significant and resulted in a much cleaner set of data from fifteen current and new contributors. Attendees at the January 2012 Arizona Archives Summit were presented with a thorough overview of Arizona’s collections development and management programs through an analysis of over 5400 unique collection descriptions. Click here to access these results as well as the raw data files that generated them. Preliminary discussions were also held in January 2012 that focused on the development of a separate, culturally-responsive survey tool that would benefit Native American archives across the state. It is hoped that the existing matrix tool will serve as a useful tool for facilitating these important discussions.

METHODOLOGY

  • Get feedback from the January 2011 Arizona Archives Summit attendees on improvements they would like to see with the forthcoming round of the matrix project and survey tool
  • Ask new and existing contributors to supply 50-100% of collection-level information to the improved survey tool. Participants were asked to provide the following data respective to each collection:
    • Identify the collection as processed, unprocessed, or partially processed
    • Identify whether or not the collection is accessible for researchers in its present state
    • Select two subjects (primary/secondary) from a set list of 45 subjects that reflect the content of the collection
    • Select a geographic scope from a set list of geographic regions in Arizona (mostly counties) in which the collection’s content takes place
    • Select date ranges from two fixed selectable columns reflecting a particular decade in each column that covers the inclusive dates of a collection
    • Determine whether or not the collection is in the institution’s collecting scope
  • Provide a detailed set of instructions and subject definitions for participants to facilitate the ease of filling out and/or enhancing data
  • Request Collection Development Plans (if available) from each institution
  • Ask for permission from each institution to disseminate results in an online format
  • Create a web site that details the matrix project (history/methodology/results) and its benefits to the archivist/research community
  • Encourage existing and new members to continue contributing in an effort to document notable trends/improvements every 2-3 years
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