Reusing Archival Content to Connect with New Audiences

Margot Note

Margot Note

January 31, 2022

In online marketing, thought leaders suggest ways to reuse and repurpose content. For example, a popular blog post can be repurposed into an updated post, a series of social media posts, an infographic, or an expanded e-book. 

Through these means, the materials reach new audiences, allowing information to more easily be found and minimizing the effort to do so. 

The same can be said for archival content, enabled by actionable ideas that archivists can implement easily. From experience working as a lone arranger for ten years, I know first-hand how to adapt, repurpose, and remix content with limited time, money, and labor. In addition, in my consulting practice, I have worked with organizations that have archival materials but no professional archivists, so I have developed methods to share collections outside of traditional archival practices.

Reuse > Creation

Reuse trumps creation in several ways. Archivists can make archival materials more widely known by finding various ways to remix content. Doing so presents the archives as more than just a physical repository. Materials exist online, allowing 24/7 access to researchers across the world. Creative reuse also displays leadership. In an environment where time and money are scarce, archivists can make their collections more findable, especially by non-traditional archival users. In addition, reuse demonstrates expertise in collections, information management, and the digital environment.

Why Repurpose?

Repurposing materials saves time and uses less bandwidth to create content. In addition, archival information captured in different formats and available at different times reinforces messages, grows engagement, and reaches new audiences. It also allows archivists to gain more authority and increases the return on investment for the labor used to create content. Another benefit is that it extends the life of the materials. 

Candidates for Repurposing

The best content to repurpose is evergreen content, material that is continually relevant and fresh for users over a long period. For example, at a position I held at a historic preservation organization, I harvested imagery and captions from books, brochures, and newsletters created over fifty years. The organization owned the rights to the photographs, and I knew that past employees selected the best, most aesthetically pleasing imagery. I also knew that the captions had been vetted and approved for publication; this knowledge was critical to my work because the copyediting and approval process of new content was labyrinthian and best avoided. 

Everything that I chose was timeless both at the time of publication and at reuse. As an archivist, I had at my fingertips a vast amount of quality information that took very little time to present to contemporary audiences. In a similar vein, I also chose popular content. At that same position at a historic preservation organization, I chose iconic sites like Angkor Wat, Easter Island, and Hagia Sophia, which always attracted interested researchers. Hence, repurposing content related to these sites proved successful. Finally, I also focused on easily updated content. If some of the materials needed minor tweaks to their descriptions to make it current, I did so and reformatted them for distribution. 

Examples of Repurposing

The ways that archival content can be repurposed are endless. Here are some examples that I have used:

  • Updating or expanding finding aids, resources, and blog posts
  • Creating or updating FAQs and user guides
  • Rewriting internal documents for external use
  • Finding where audiences meet online and share content 
  • Creating social media content
  • Sharing posts across platforms
  • Creating pins for Pinterest
  • Reusing content for blog posts, webinars, podcasts, videos, and infographics
  • Creating round-up posts 
  • Creating crowdsourcing projects

Create Once, Use Many Times

Archival work demands deep work, intellectual labor, and creative thinking. Therefore, whatever an archival repository creates, it should live perpetually to attract new users. The timelessness of repurposed archival content allows the investment in time and labor to pay off in the long run.

Margot Note

Margot Note

Margot Note, archivist, consultant, and Lucidea Press author is a regular blogger and popular webinar presenter for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archival collections management software for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Read more of Margot’s posts here.

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