How Collection Planning and Collaboration Supports the Cultural Heritage Institution and Community Memory

History News magazine cover - Autumn 2011This special History News: Your Turn feature complements the article by Melissa Mannon entitled “Cultural Heritage Collaboration: How Collection Planning and Collaboration Supports the Cultural Heritage Institution and Community Memory” which appears in the Autumn 2010 edition of History News.

[Read PDF of Full Article]

Melissa Mannon

Melissa Mannon

The “Documentation Strategy” enables institutions to systematically gather and maintain materials that are vital to the story of civilization. It has been used by some archivists as a tool to support collection planning for the past three decades. Cultural heritage professionals working in museums, libraries, and archives can modify this approach to promote diverse partnerships, professionalism, and focused purpose, while increasing the likelihood of success in documenting cultural heritage.

In this edition of History News: Your Turn:

How does your institution work to support the documentary record? Is collaborative collection development across cultural disciplines a good idea for your institution and community? Jump in and share!

Quotation mark

The state of Arizona is 15 months away from celebrating its centennial. For whatever reason, the efforts for initiating this celebration have been slow, in part due to the lack of funds, poor economy, disagreements on what should/can be done to celebrate, and an appearance of “who cares?” Nevertheless, those people involved in the protection, preservation, and conservation of the written record of our state’s history have begun a collective effort to capitalize on this historic moment.

A generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services led to a survey of all institutions which house archival materials. While the response to the Arizona Connection to Collections Project survey was low in comparison to the number of institutions known to have archives, it is a worthwhile beginning. Key findings indicated major concerns and town hall meetings held throughout the state allowed individuals to add additional information. Questions at the end fell into several categories: Now what? How can my institution benefit? And how can “we” as members of this archival community reach and serve more members?

The key idea that collaborative collection development and preservation across cultural disciplines is a good idea for our institution, community, and state must be fostered. In that endeavor, the Arizona State Archives has created the AZArchives listserv which is open to all archivists and those with archival responsibilities. (In this state, it may be that over 66% of staff who handle archival collections have had no formal preservation or conservation training, and at least 25% of the work is handled by volunteers.) Thus, this listserv can become an integral part of collaborative collection development and preservation, but only if the information is distributed to the greater Arizona community that it exists.

The next effort as a result of these town hall meetings is to promote the value of our institutional archives and the materials that are still in private homes. Getting the word out to the public to explain the purpose in saving and protecting these materials will be a collaborative effort. The intention is to:

  1. Form a coalition of existing interested groups
  2. Develop marketing strategies including the Arizona Humanities Council, the Museum Association of Arizona, the Friends of Arizona Archives, several new state archival interest groups, and the Arizona Preservation Foundation
  3. Develop a formal plan much like the state historic preservation plan
  4. Seek new grants to provide educational opportunities
  5. Seek grants that can be distributed to smaller institutions for preservation/conservation

It is hoped that these collaborative efforts will empower collecting institutions to be better stewards of their archives, but also to inform the public of their worth. I believe that it is a first step that is vital to the survival and protection of our state’s history.

Donna Reiner, PhD
Donna Reiner, PhD
Interim Executive Director at Rosson House-Heritage Square Foundation & Guild, and Commission Member at City of Phoenix Arts & Culture Commission


Related/Additional Resources

Mannon is author of: Cultural Heritage Collaborators: A Manual for Community Documentation. For information on collaborating to preserve cultural heritage see

It’s Your Turn

How does your institution work to support the documentary record? Is collaborative collection development across cultural disciplines a good idea for your institution and community? Please share below.


Leave a comment
  1. Erica Holthausen 17. Nov, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    I have a degree in history and used to work as the Development and Marketing Director for the Museums of Old York, a terrific organization in York, Maine. I truly believe that there is tremendous power in collaboration and community engagement. Community memory is so important to developing a sense of place — and in turn a sense of how we fit into that place.

    I also believe that collaboration and collection development should spread across cultural disciplines and should include members of the community whom we wish to serve. As a Development Professional, I was never considered a museum professional. I considered that an asset, in large part because I could look at things from a slightly different perspective. One of the most powerful events I went to was held by the Essex National Heritage Commission. It was a conference at the conclusion of a survey of the county’s cultural heritage. It brought together land trusts, libraries, city and town archives, historical societies, art and history museums, local farms and fisheries — in short, everyone who had a relationship to cultural heritage. And, of course, the public was welcome. The exchange of ideas was powerful and the entire day was energizing. New connections were made and groups started to see how they were similar, instead of how they were different.

    Imagine the potential!

  2. William Hosley 29. Nov, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    I get the idea here and agree with it. But “collaborative collection development and preservation across cultural disciplines” is sooo not a bumper sticker. It’s an idea still in need of a succinct hook. When we communicate in the language of the public we can reach them. Acronyms, jargon and coded language may strengthen the inner circle, but it is also a moat that risks trapping our ideas inside.

    • Melissa Mannon 12. Jan, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      William, I definitely agree with you on that one. I’ve begun using the catch phrase “Preserving Memories” when I work with the general public. I also generally like the term “Citizen Archivist” that the U.S. archivist started using last year, but I think that too needs work. The question in my mind along these lines is: how do professionals learn to work with the public and respect what they can bring to collaboration to preserve cultural heritage while still retaining the standards and conveying the professionalism in our work that comes from years of training and experience?


  1. Tweets that mention How Collection Planning and Collaboration Supports the Cultural Heritage Institution and Community Memory | History News -- - 12. Jan, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AASLH, Melissa Mannon. Melissa Mannon said: conversation continues…How Collection Planning & Collaboration Supports the Cultural Institutions & Community Memory […]

Leave a Reply