Significance and Storytelling, with ArchivEra

An ArchivEra Success Story

Military Women’s Memorial Goals

  • Intellectual control over collections
  • State-of-the-art extensible technology
  • Public access
  • Multimedia capabilities
“ArchivEra offers outstanding value compared to other CMS options and is well equipped to handle our unique and varied collections.”
Amy Poe
Collections Manager (2020-2023)

T he Military Women’s Memorial houses a unique collection that brings to life the firsthand experiences of America’s servicewomen. It is the first major national memorial to honor all servicewomen, past and present, and is home to over 8,000 donations from thousands of servicewomen, veterans, and their families and friends representing all eras and services, as well as uniformed civilian women working with organizations supporting the military such as the American Red Cross, USO, YMCA and Salvation Army.

These donations encompass items relating to military women’s service in and with the U.S. Armed Forces, including books, manuscripts, oral histories, audiovisual recordings, uniforms and other textiles, firsthand accounts documented in correspondence, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, and objects such as memorabilia, awards/medals, or other items relating to an individual’s time in service.

Director of Collections and Curator, Britta Granrud, and Collections Manager Amy Poe sat down with us to discuss their implementation of ArchivEra, which came about due to the organizational switch from a Mac environment to a PC environment, making their customized database built for Mac access obsolete. In any case, that custom-built solution could not enable public access to their collections; being able to do so was a major driver in their choice of a Web-based collections management system.

Per Ms. Poe, the platform switch gave them an opportunity to move to an industry standard archival CMS with extensible and stable technology. In addition to the all-important public access, their wish list for the new system included robust intellectual control and record keeping, with granular rights and location management, and full accessioning and processing capabilities. Ms. Poe discovered Lucidea and ArchivEra through the virtual SAA Conference she attended as she was entering the archival profession. The Memorial’s collection is not purely archival, so ArchivEra’s expanded capabilities (including multimedia) were a good match for the museum objects and artifacts that make up a significant portion of their holdings—setting ArchivEra apart from the other systems they evaluated.

According to Ms. Poe, “The functionality to support all our goals existed in ArchivEra, and the high level of client support, along with vendor hosting, plus the manageable price point made it the right choice for the Memorial.”

One of their goals relates to the Memorial’s member database of over three million servicewomen. Ms. Granrud and Ms. Poe hope to capture the story of every one who served. Each has a unique member number; this is their link for integrating the member information into related catalog records, whether those reflect objects or membership details, or document an oral history.

In time, they plan to use the ArchivEra API to integrate with/link to various databases outside the CMS, e.g., their oral history collection that contains more than 1,400 interviews, and their research library’s collection of over 2,000 records.

As for public access, visitors have been extremely receptive to the portal and are using it to do their initial research. In addition to the general public, PhD. Candidates use it, authors are using it, and internal staff are using it. Per Ms. Granrud and Ms. Poe, portal access results in significant research workflow enhancement because users make more targeted requests that take less time to complete.

When asked about their favorite artifacts in the collections, Ms. Granrud told us her favorites include photographs of servicewomen, both those taken by services official photographers which were “very posed”, and candid shots taken by the women themselves. “We get an overall look into the different eras and services, and can see how the services chose to portray women in the military, as well as how women saw themselves, out in the field, off duty, and in uniform.” With ArchivEra’s multimedia management capabilities, staff can attach those photos to collection records, and link them within the system for curation in context.

Ms. Poe shared that she enjoys the correspondence preserved in the collections; “It comes straight from the person who experienced and lived through the events described. You can see the resourcefulness, persistence, and determination. Our many materials are rich with layers of significance and storytelling; we have scrapbooks, a mix of ephemera, such as travel postcards sent and received … these things paint a detailed picture of what it was like to be a woman in those times, and one who chose a career path out of the norm and stepped beyond boundaries.”

Ms. Granrud and Ms. Poe spoke about the benefits of working with Lucidea’s Client Services staff, who have relevant sector knowledge that made the implementation go especially smoothly. “Coming from a background of shared understanding always adds value. When you work with Lucidea’s sector specialists, they understand things like gift agreements; they understand the donor agreement process. They understand the challenges of having worked to maintain intellectual control over several decades and how that can be improved.”

In closing, Ms. Granrud and Ms. Poe recommend ArchivEra because “it is a robust CMS that meets so many needs: supporting workflows, supporting research, and providing online access via the portal, while offering flexibility and adaptability”. Per Ms. Poe, “ArchivEra doesn’t feel out-of-the-box. It is much more of a personalized experience. In addition, the Client Services Team were in fact “teaming with us”; they are truly solutions oriented. They never simply said ‘here’s what it does’; instead they were focused on ‘let’s see what you want to do with it and how we can make it work for you’. We look forward to discovering how much more we can do with ArchivEra.”

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