[photo credit: bahri altay / shutterstock.com]
We have recently debuted a new internal tracking system for our CPC partners. We have a lot of contacts with people who work in presidential sites and libraries, and while my email is a good way for ME to keep track of conversations and partner activity, it is not so good for other people. So Amber, our web developer, built a tracking system in the back-end of our content management system. Now instead of my email and a spreadsheet that lives only on my desktop, we are tracking our interactions with partners in our CMS, and that means it is available to the whole team at any point in the process.
Recruiting partners, adding metadata into CPC, and finalizing partner information on the CPC website generally takes many steps and a long time. I generally reach out to a potential partner at least three times before we can finalize a partnership, and then it takes many more emails to handle the details such as the partner agreement and the data export of metadata for CPC.
This isn’t a problem—it is just the process that is necessary to build partnerships and grow CPC. In many cases, potential partners don’t know us and need to learn about the Miller Center and CPC before they are willing to consider joining the project.
Then we have many partners that don’t yet have digital items but in many cases they are working on it. So I email a partner and then check back in periodically to find out where they are in their process. One partner that I first reached out to in November 2015 was interested, but they needed to put their items online before they could consider a partnership with CPC. By August 2016 the site was up!
That timetable is actually fast—it normally takes a long time for an organization to put their collections online, and it takes a long time to redesign websites. One partner we work with took more than two years to redesign their website. It takes a long time in part because many partner organizations are beholden to outside web design companies to build their new websites. And honestly, building a new website is detailed and complicated work. It cannot be done on the fly.
I’m excited about our new tracking system because it is one step toward moving CPC past a temporary grant project and into life as a full-fledged program. The IMLS grant continues into 2017 but we are working on building more permanent systems and processes for CPC that can see it into the future. So although it has taken me a long time to put all the partner information into the tracking system, I know that it is effort well spent because it shares and preserves valuable information.
The CPC team has been building up its collections, adding partners and digital items. As of now, CPC has about 250,000 digital items, more than 30 partners, and covers almost every U.S. president. We’ve come a long way!
Recently, we have partnered with Professor Kathryn Brownell of Purdue University to begin creating educational resources using the CPC materials. We strongly believe that CPC will be more useful to educators if resources are available for them. Professor Brownell has created Recasting American Presidential History in the Classroom. Her work is focused on undergraduates students and reconsiders how the presidency is taught.
She says it best:
“…this website will encourage students to study the American presidency from a sociocultural perspective. This website aims to begin a classroom conversation about the American presidency in ways that capitalize on a generation of insights from social, economic, cultural, and political historians.”
Offering secondary sources, primary sources, discussion questions, and research activities, Brownell looks at the U.S. presidency from a variety of different angles, reconsidering the traditional approach of teaching the presidency that focuses on a “top-down” approach to history. Right now, there are three modules completed, with the remaining seven scheduled to be done by the fall.
Tomorrow Brownell and I are heading to the National Council for History Education conference to debut her project. We are excited to offer this unique educational resource. And we are thrilled to be able to do it at the NCHE.
We’d like to send a BIG thanks to the Clinton Presidential Center and the AASLH for hosting a fantastic Presidential Sites and Libraries conference this week!
Thanks also to those of you who took the time to hear our presentation, to chat about CPC, and to tell us about your wonderful collections. It is an honor to be included in such an impressive contingent of representatives from these priceless American resources.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out presidentialcollections.org… and especially take note of the survey link in the top right. We’ll be developing materials (read more about those here) to help raise the tide for all sites and libraries and would love (LOVE) to receive your guidance and feedback on how we might be of service.
And in the meantime, as ever, follow us on Twitter for the latest and the greatest!
Safe travels, conference-goers. Many of you will be hearing from us again soon!
I have spent the last few weeks working on a summary document about the IMLS Summit Meeting that we held in mid-May. It was a great meeting with an overwhelming amount of ideas, considerations, future plans, and cautions all circling around the room over two days. I am not going to recount the entire summary document here but I would like to touch on some major themes that might not have been new or unexpected but stuck out clearly in my muddled brain after all of the talking stopped.
First, this project will focus on asset discovery and access for users, as well as communication and collaboration with partner organizations. Although I had drafted a mission statement before the meeting, I feel that the previous sentence might become the new one. It includes the real heart of the project to me–discovery, access, and collaboration. These ideas are the goals of the whole project. There are obviously many, many specific details to work out in regards to the technology, the policies, the content, etc. but at its very basic core, this project is about (and I will say it again) discovery, access, and collaboration.
There was never a sense in the meeting sessions of territorial posturing or guarding of assets. There was only a clear sense that getting more information from more organizations to more people had a clear benefit for all of us, what we called in library science school, a “public good.” So much of this field is focused on the public good, but it is exciting and inspiring to be part of a project whose goals are so clearly focused on that.
One of the big parts of this project is working with our partners. Right now our partners consist of five presidential sites (centers, libraries, museums, etc.) that have agreed to share information about their collections with us for the beta product. The concept behind this project is to create a website where people can come and search and find presidential materials. But we are not housing or hosting most of said materials. We are referring users to the organization that actually has the digital item. So the goal is to drive traffic to these partners’ websites so that more users are able to find and enjoy their collections.
I feel so strongly about the focus on collaboration and partnership for this project. This is not a project that the Miller Center can do alone. And it is not a project in which we alone benefit. In the long term, I believe that this project can benefit many presidential sites and libraries as well as many different types of users–the scholar, the student, the teacher, the presidential history buff, and more. The more organizations that participate in this project, the more useful it will be to users!
I am thrilled to have our five partners at this early stage in the project. And I very much look forward to reaching out to other partners as the project progresses. We are only starting with five partners at this point in order to keep the scale manageable. But once we feel like we have a clear plan, we can’t wait to expand the project to interested participants. And we hope that we will find many interested presidential sites and libraries who want to be part of this project.