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October 18, 2016

#ColorOurCollections: Promoting Digital Archives

Jeanette Sewell

Libraries and digital archival repositories are getting in on a popular new trend. Since 2015, the adult coloring book market has exploded. Featuring everything from cats to science fiction TV shows and more, these exquisitely detailed coloring books aren’t just fun—they can also be an accessible way to raise interest in a variety of topics. Archivists and librarians, for example, are using them to transform their digitized archival materials into free, downloadable coloring pages and books that promote their unique collections.

In February of this year the New York Academy of Medicine launched #ColorOurCollections, an online event to highlight and spark interest in unique materials ranging from early English book illustrations to textile design patterns, city maps, fashion and nature drawings, and all kinds of other fascinating things. Participating institutions included the New York Public Library, the DPLA, the Bodleian Library, and the Smithsonian Libraries, among others. More libraries and institutions have continued to create their own coloring pages as the year has gone on, and the #ColorOurCollections hashtag continues to grow on Twitter.

One of the things I enjoy most in my current position as a Cataloging and Metadata Librarian is interacting with digital archival materials for the Houston Area Digital Archives website. My primary goal is always to find new and exciting ways to make history and digitized archival materials interesting to people. It often is not enough to simply upload items into content management systems and expect them to be discoverable or even for people to understand their significance. Coloring books are a great promotional tool because they encourage interaction with collections and promote the value of preservation. They also help make materials more accessible. Specifically, the Houston Area Digital Archives promotes our coloring books to students, educators, and other librarians online and at conferences like Digital Frontiers and the Texas Library Association as a fun way to encourage interaction with local history.  I also enjoy creating coloring books because it is an opportunity to expand archival representation by featuring the records of groups such as women and the LGBT community.

An example of a coloring book from [Ed. note: this link is no longer live] Color the Big Top: Houston Area Digital Archives Coloring Book, Volume 2</a>.

So how can you be a part of #ColorOurCollections and make your own digital archival coloring book? Check out the following resources to get started:

You can also click here [Ed. note: this link is no longer live] to view and print the Houston Area Digital Archives coloring books. I hope you’ll explore the #ColorOurCollections hashtag and have fun creating your own coloring book!

About the author

Jeanette Sewell is a Cataloging and Metadata Librarian at the Houston Area Digital Archives.