DHC launches ‘Ask an Archivist’ service

Ask an Archivist dance serviceThe Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC) has announced the launch of “Ask an Archivist,” a new service that will provide guidance to artists and dance companies through free phone or online consultations on how to save and share their legacy materials. This program is generously supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.


For more than a decade, DHC has offered direct assistance to dance companies and independent artists, providing archive assessments, inventories, digitization services and help with organizing, preserving and developing sustainable long-term plans for legacy records. In 2010, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, DHC developed templates and workflows for archive assessments and inventories, and evaluated the needs and challenges faced by dance companies in preserving and using the records of their work.


Artists at all stages of their careers benefit from good records management practices, which enable them to actively use their archives for re-staging, marketing, education, engagement, creative repurposing, and fundraising. DHC receives a steadily increasing number of queries from artists and dance companies seeking information or guidance on archiving issues, from what to do with obsolete format videos or decades’ worth of paper records, to how to effectively manage digital assets.


The establishment of the “Ask an Archivist” program enables DHC staff to provide one-on-one consultations and conduct follow-up to ensure archiving projects stay on track. Acting Executive Director Imogen Smith will lead the program; she has directed DHC’s artist services since 2011 and has worked with artists around the country to create assessments and inventories, prepare AV materials for digitization, and create legacy plans.


Additional specialized advice will be provided by members of DHC’s Board of Trustees, who are experts in the field of dance archives and represent major dance research collections nationwide, and by David Rice, DHC’s Director of Digital Projects, a nationally recognized consultant on audiovisual preservation and web archiving.


In addition, DHC will develop and test a suite of online tools and resources, augmenting the NEA-funded Artist’s Legacy Toolkit and Records Management Guide currently available on DHC’s website. Curricula for artist-targeted workshops and webinars, and a manual of best practices for community-based archivists working with performing artists, will lay the groundwork for an expansion of shared archival services to dance communities in the future.


With “Ask an Archivist,” artists nationwide, including the emerging and under-resourced, will have access to trustworthy advice from dance-savvy archivists about handling digital, AV and other artifacts. The program will help build community networks through social media and project blogs, sharing of case studies and linking of peer groups. By raising awareness of available resources and strengthening expertise within the dance community, the project will build grassroots capacity and encourage knowledge-sharing throughout the field.