The Boston City Archives boast a wealth of knowledge and history about our storied city. How could it not? Boston’s roots run almost 400-years deep, after all. Its collections are rich in culture and lore; its exhibits dripping with insight on our heritage.
Just saying “Boston City Archives” aloud evokes sentiments of a cavernous dungeon chock full of old manuscripts reminiscent of Game of Thrones. But that’s hardly the case. In fact, the Archives are as contemporary as new enterprise cloud applications. You get what I’m going for.
The City Archives Twitter handle often dispatches 140 characters of fun facts and throwback photos, even sometimes putting Bostonians and Twitter followers up against each other by posing: “When and where was this taken?”
With such an abundance of history at the archivists’ fingertips and surely stacks upon stacks of old photos, videos, daguerreotypes and documents it must be a daunting task to decide which are social media worthy and which go back into the perpetually growing pile.
— Boston City Archives (@ArchivesBoston) March 14, 2014
BostInno chatted with Marta Crilly, Archivist for Reference and Outreach with the City Archives, who helms @ArchivesBoston to find out how exactly a city like Boston, so ample in colonial, revolutionary, industrial and innovative history, is able to convey all of that across networks users spend mere minutes perusing. This is what she told us:
How do you decide on what photos you’re going to tweet out everyday?
It really depends on the day. As we’re cataloging collections, we’ll often find photos that fit well with a certain day, so we go ahead and scan those and schedule them for that day. For example, today is the anniversary of the MSPCA’s founding and my co-worker had found a photo a few weeks ago that she had ready to post.
Other mornings though, I come in with nothing planned, and so I look through our collection catalogs and find something appropriate. I try to get a read on what’s going to sync with what people in Boston are feeling. For example, if it’s February and everyone on Twitter is annoyed with cold weather, I might tweet a sunny summer photo of boats on the Charles so we can all remember why we like living in Boston.
Of course, if there’s a holiday or a historic anniversary, we go through our collections and plan in advance. (For government holidays like July 4, Columbus Day, Evacuation Day etc, for example, we always go through our Committee on Celebrations records).
How many old photos do you go through before making a decision?
I make decisions about which photos to use as fast as possible. As soon as I find a good photo, I go with it. We have a small staff here (4 people), so we’re always quite busy and I’m usually juggling a couple of different things every day.
Manning the Archive’s Twitter handle, what are your goals and what do you hope to achieve through social media?
We preserve Boston’s municipal records so that Bostonians can use and enjoy them. We have incredible documents and photos at the City Archives, and our goal is for Bostonians to experience those items. Social media is a wonderful way for us to reach large numbers of Bostonians and for Bostonians to see their city’s records without having to make a trip to the Archives.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I really love interacting with people who love Boston’s history as much as I do. It’s so great to connect with other nerds who share my excitement about an old photo or document.