Eira Tansey

Semi-Annual Review, June 2017 edition

Someone in library/archives land used to do a periodic review of their life’s work on their website, and while I can’t remember who it was, it’s an idea I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I maintain a detailed yearly activity report for my day job, but no one really sees that beyond a few people. I thought it’d be nice to maintain a public record of what I’ve been busy with that includes not just my salaried work, but the work I do at home and in my local community, which are as much a part of my identity as being an archivist. Sorry (not sorry) that this is long, I’m a busy gal.

Work at UC: A lot of the records management work I do has dramatically shifted in the last several months after I put out the first university-wide general records schedule. It’s been an invaluable resource, and it’s spreading greater awareness of records management obligations at my institution. As a records manager, I frequently get asked to step into interesting roles concerning compliance at the university (like serving on search committees in the administrative side of university life, or reviewing procurement proposals for information systems). I always appreciate that I have a window into higher education administration, because it’s a perspective I don’t think many faculty often see.

I also took over the reins of our library’s Digital Preservation Policy working group recently, and it’s been an exercise in realizing how many digital preservation policies at other institutions are a) based on this model and b) are focus-format driven as opposed to content-driven (I cannot be convinced that format alone should drive appraisal and preservation decisions). I’m kind of throwing out the play book and drafting our own policy, because I want it to serve areas of the library that include both central and decentralized approaches to digitization and born-digital work, and also comprehensible to people who are not digital professionals. Later this summer, I hope to finally write down the workflows I’ve started putting in to place for handling incoming born-digital materials within my unit.

I was recently accepted to ALI, and my practicum proposal is to develop a better method for acquiring student archives, since our university archives is very administration-focused. I’m really excited about spending a week in Berea with a bunch of smart people.

Work in the profession: I’m moving up into Chair this year for SAA’s Records Management Section. I think we’re one of the more active SAA sections, thanks to the recent leadership of recent chairs, especially Beth Cron and Brad Houston. I’m also serving as the Midwest Archives Conference 2018 Chicago Conference program committee co-chair, along with Daria Labinsky. We’re working on getting the CFP out before SAA, and I’m confident it will be an amazing conference.

I’ve been the Resident Caretaker of ProjectARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change) since the November presidential election, and for a while was hosting standing monthly conference calls where people could dial in and share what environmental cultural heritage stuff they were working on. I also tried to coordinate a thing called Project mARCCh to get librarians and archivists to turn out at the March for Science and People’s Climate March. Fellow #AdventureArchivist Stephanie Bennett and I marched together in the People’s Climate March in DC which was exactly the form of group therapy and group exercise I hadn’t realized I needed so badly.

People frequently ask “What is ProjectARCC doing about this?” and I have to explain that ProjectARCC isn’t really a cohesive organization right now, but a leaderless entity that people can have the freedom to do whatever they want with, as long as they aren’t assholes about it. For example, I’m seriously considering launching a podcast under the ProjectARCC banner. For the time being though, a couple of us occasionally check the blog and social media accounts. So when folks ask, “Would ProjectARCC consider doing XYZ?” I typically encourage them to write up a plan and go for it. (NB: people are far more likely to suggest things than to follow through on implementing them).

What I’m writing/researching/editing/speaking about:
My main solo writing project at the moment is trying to tease apart the way in which records and the legal emphasis on documentary forms were (are) an integral part of white colonial settlement of American land, pre-and post-Revolution land tenure, and the dispossession of indigenous lands. So I’m learning about things like surveys, land titles, and treaties, all within the context of American history between the 16th-19th century. I quickly realized that I have a shockingly limited understanding of native history, and I’m kind of worried about fucking this up as a non-native white person. So I’m trying to take my time, go slow, and prioritize reading as much material by native writers and scholars as by white historians. The very rough draft will be the paper I give at SAA (Session 107) and I am planning to send off a manuscript by September.

Work continues with my Penn State colleagues on mapping archives’ exposure to climate change. Ben Goldman and I were awarded an SAA Foundation grant to begin building a comprehensive data set of archival repository location data. The museum community is way ahead of the game with the Museum Universe Data File, but there is no analogous data set for archives. Capacity to do spatial analysis of archives is severely hindered without such a data set. The data set we’ve been using for our mapping work comes from OCLC, but it way overrepresents research-institution based archives.

I’ve been speaking a lot this year, which is great because I LOVE doing it, but it’s also a lot of work. I generally do not give the same talk twice (because it’s boring, and because jetting around to give the exact same talk is an appalling waste of fossil fuels), which means whenever I’m asked to do one, I’m writing a new talk, slide deck, etc. I’m really proud of the talks I gave at PASIG and as part of the Beinecke Speaker Series.

I made my first foray into non-academic writing recently, and published this piece about experiencing weird weather as a Midwesterner in Belt. I’ve long admired Belt for providing an incredible outlet for regional writing, and good gravy did it feel good to get paid for my words after only experiencing the gift economy of academic writing. All praise to fellow archivist Stacie Williams who helped me navigate the world of freelance writing.

At home: My husband and I recently bought a beautiful 1930s brick cottage in one of Cincinnati’s old streetcar suburbs. My two main criteria were “must be on a direct bus line to work” and “not in a flood zone.” Transitioning from renting to first-time homebuyers has been a wild experience that provokes a lot of hand-wringing about The Future, permanency, and economic security. Cincinnati has always been my home, and it feels good to put down some permanent roots as I enter my 30s. Our friends are really important to us, and a huge priority in finding a house was enough space for our friends to come over and just hang out. I have a bit of a yard now, and am trying to figure out a long-term plan for landscaping and gardening. We’re considering replacing the front lawn with native plants because a) fuck mowing and b) pollinators need all the help they can get.

In my local community: For the last couple years I’ve been involved with a local Planned Parenthood supporters group, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the women in the group are critical to maintaining my sanity. Ohio has been in dire straits for years now with regards to reproductive healthcare, and it’s probably only going to get worse. We’ve had a noticeable uptick in volunteers and requests for tabling since the election. I’m winding down my 2-year stint at Secretary for my Toastmasters club. I say No to a lot of requests from my local faith, civic, and activist communities in order to protect my non-work time for the decompression I need plus time with my husband/parents/friends. I don’t really feel guilty about it anymore but it does feel kind of weird to be saying No to otherwise very cool projects on a regular basis.

Self-care: I’ve been good about waking up to go to the gym early, but I’m still working on getting to bed early enough every night. But…surprise, somehow I have been doing way less hiking now that I’m not going out once a month like I did last year when I section-hiked the Sheltowee Trace. I’m getting a little squishier around the middle than I typically prefer, and I really miss the forced highly oxygenated focus of being in the woods all day, so I’m planning to re-hike the ST again next year. A friend and I backpacked in a state forest right after the Paris Agreement withdrawal, and it was incredibly therapeutic to sleep in the woods where the wind sings you to sleep and birds wake you up in the morning. It was also a good dry run for a backpacking trip a friend and I have planned in Yosemite next month (yes, we got a permit!!!)

What I’m currently obsessed with: I recently went to the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and it was mind-blowingly great. I didn’t know she sewed many of her clothes, and in my dream world, some woman-owned clothing business would reproduce and sell the beautiful white tunics and shirts she made so I can have a Georgia O’Keefe wardrobe.

I also recently discovered The Effort Report podcast, which features two professors talking about academic work life. The episodes get super into the weeds, and the perspectives are heavily STEM-skewed (a good example is this actually-quite-interesting episode on indirect costs), but the topics are great: time management, research productivity, and prioritizing the various forms of work demanded in a research institution. And in important food news, I finally tried some Albanese gummy bears and they are next level.

Categorised as: life


  1. SB says:

    Any believe we didn’t talk about grass because I AGREE. Need to find a chill way to tell my landlords we can do better than a yard of weeds that mimic grass. And that O’Keefe exhibit is magically coming to Winston I AM SO PUMPED. I’m especially excited to see her sewing projects. Thanks for aharing, this is a cool -and inspirational- pexercise.

  2. Amy Dennison says:

    Wow. You are an amazing woman.