Archives Month in the MARAC region


Archives and Lifelong Learning

There are many conceptual approaches to the world of archives, as evidenced in the history of MARAC Archives Month themes. In the past, education about archives might have tended to focus on the value of original documents for scholars, but in truth archives are available for all, and this includes all age groups. The idea that archives are the sole preserve of “professionals” in a closet world of “serious research” has been transformed utterly by broadened perspectives in education just as the online world of information has exploded the parameters of access and applicability.

Lifelong learning is an approach to learning that has evolved from a simplistic idea that learning actually does take place later in life, after school or college. This notion seems merely quaint to us today, for in truth lifelong learning is measured and understood in the many and various contexts in which it unfolds. Archives and repositories have learned to open up to seniors in retirement, to grade school students in search of a project, to teams of docents conducting history tours, and to the casual inquiry from a person of any age seeking an answer to a question. Archives have been stimulated by, and in turn continue to serve, many constituencies: genealogists, home schoolers, book groups, and most anyone interested in continuing education, professional or personal. As archivists, our goal is to build on the eclecticism of age and purpose through outreach to all groups.

History Day has wonderfully encouraged high school and junior high school students by grounding research in the archival context. As we aspire to an open universe of information – the best of all possible worlds – we also strive to develop programs and methodologies of outreach to touch all relevant age groups. How many archivists have themselves discovered their calling by delving into archives as researchers?  We would imagine that there are plenty! At what age did that happen? Possibly in graduate school, but it can occur at any time of life. Our original curiosity will be rewarded by reaching out to the youngster, the scholar, or the senior by demonstrating  by open invitation that archives are places of discovery and self-discovery.

July 6, 2012 / MARAC Outreach Committee / Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC)