Research-driven approaches to improving archival discovery
The National Anthropological Archives (NAA), part of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, holds some 18,000 cubic feet of materials of relevance to qualitative researchers. These archival collections—manuscripts, fieldnotes, audio recordings, drawings, maps, and still and moving images—are used by not only anthropologists, but increasingly scholars from a range of qualitative research fields. In 2016, the NAA received a grant to support a 3-year post-doctoral fellow to conduct research that would lead to the improved discovery and use of archival resources. This article discusses some of the practical ways the fellowship was designed to ask interdisciplinary research questions, and describes how that premise, as well as findings from a pilot study run in the first year, are helping to improve the research experience for our increasingly interdisciplinary users. Both the project’s preliminary findings and its overall design may provide valuable insights to qualitative researchers and their institutions.
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