A Snapshot of Corporate Archives
Published: May 15, 2019 by Havilah Steinman
What does Citi Center, Levi Strauss & Co., Vanguard, Cargill, Carhartt Inc., IBM and The Chautauqua Institution have in common? They all have corporate archives! The Society of American Archivists Student Chapter (SAASC) hosted a fantastic event where archival professionals offered insight into their industry. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus on Citi Center, Levi Strauss & Co. and Carhartt Inc., but keep a look out for the article representing the other presenters on our Medium page later this year. Hosted by Sarah Thornton, iSchool student and chair of the SAASC, this invaluable event opened up the archival world to students at the iSchool.
Citi Center for Culture
Kerri Anne Burke represented Citi Center for Culture and has been with them for over three years. She spoke in detail about the Citi Heritage Series which showcases Citi’s accomplishments and contributions. These have been installed in the United States and overseas to unify Citi’s global offices. Burke works with both internal and external clients by sharing the Heritage collection with customized tours specifically geared to where those clients are from or what their interests are. While Burke did not expect to get into corporate archives, she really enjoys her work. She encouraged students to not be afraid to say yes to opportunities, and communicate cross-departmentally once established in a company.
Levi Strauss & Company
Lynn Downey from Levi Strauss & Co. provided wonderful insight from her work as an archivist and historian. Speaking to the creative nature of her position, Downey created the company’s first archives by working through marketing materials, photos, VHS tapes, 3mm films and, of course, clothing! She also worked to locate things that had originally been lost in the 1906 San Francisco fire. As the direct creator of the archives, Downey tirelessly worked to educate other departments of the value of the archives, and how they could be used. Today, the archives are used extensively to provide context for advertising and consumer relations, as well as visual imagery at retail stores. Downey encouraged students interested in archives to become part of the corporate archives world by doing some volunteering and informational interviews.
Dave Moore, current brand archivist and historian at Carhartt Inc. also shared his experiences during the event. Similar to Downey, he was brought into the company to start the archives. He spent the first couple years going through the items that had been kept, which he commented was rather sparse. He worked to build relationships within the company and make his reference services more accessible, and in doing so established the value of the archives themselves. Moore believes this opened up a new world for the employees, specifically the content creators at Carhartt. He presented the archives as heritage, which could act as a vehicle for launching new products. Moore advised students to not be afraid to sell themselves in an interview, and practice their marketing skills if interested in archival work.
Archival Opportunities at the iSchool
If you’re interested in archives, the Management, Digitization and Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Records MLIS Career Pathway is an excellent place to start. You could also check out the iSchool’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) degree program and the Virtual Center for Archives and Records Administration, a student group which hosts numerous conferences and events geared towards archives. Whether completing the MLIS or the MARA degree, completing an internship in the archival field even without prior experience is also a great option. Our Community Profiles blog has a section dedicated specifically to alumni working in Archives and Preservation, and it’s a goldmine of insight into the field! Archives are a fascinating part of the library and information science field, and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about them!