Experience The Future Of History & Culture in Los Angeles: Our New Leadership Role In “LA As Subject”

This morning, LA as Subject members met at the Los Angeles City Archives for the organization’s bi-monthly Archives Forum meeting.

Following ten days of voting online, other members cast ballots in person to choose four new Executive Committee members and an Executive Chair for the organization.

The vote tally revealed that I was chosen to lead the Executive Committee as Committee Chair for a two-year term beginning in August.

To say that I am excited about this opportunity would be a gross understatement!

LA as Subject is truly like no other organization — here in Los Angeles or elsewhere.

Initially convened by the Getty Research Institute in 1997, the Archives Forum of LA as Subject has evolved into a research alliance of more than 230 separate collections across Southern California.

The member institutions are dedicated to collecting, preserving and improving access to the unique sources of information telling the stories of the history and culture of L.A., as well as the lesser-known stories behind the neighborhoods, families, and Angelenos — both famous and not-s0-famous.

The University of Southern California Libraries now serves as the host institution for LA as Subject.

USC Libraries has paid staff dedicated to ensuring that LA as Subject is a success, including their tireless support of the wonderful marquee event — The Annual Archives Bazaar held every October.

This free, all-day event (held this year on Saturday, October 22 — full details here) brings together more than 70 exhibitors showing off parts of their collection, answering questions, and presenting panel discussions, film screenings, and workshops.

If you have never attended the Archives Bazaar, I encourage you to save the date now, as you just can’t visit so many wonderful collections featuring Los Angeles — all in one day, all in one place.

In addition to the Bazaar, members also meet every two months at the Archives Forum. The meetings allow members to network with others in the profession and share best practices.

Held in a different location each time, the Archives Forum allows participants to see how other members’ collections are organized and observe different preservation methods.

But as a matter of professional development and pride in my institution, I wanted to share my leadership, skills and experience with the LA as Subject membership and lead the road ahead for the next two years.

As the Digital Resources Librarian at Metro’s Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library & Archive, it is my role to maintain the Library’s web presence, manage our social media endeavors, catalog our print and online collections, and lead our digitization efforts.

While our collection and services have been known and admired in transportation circles for some time, LA as Subject provides an opportunity for the Metro Library to take on a leadership role within this amazing network of under-exposed archives, museums, libraries, and other historical-cultural institutions.

In my opinion, you cannot begin to explore the history, culture and “uniqueness” of Los Angeles without considering a very few key foundations: water, the film industry, boosterism and transportation.

We have been blessed with the inheritance of our predecessor agencies’ collections, allowing us to tell the story and share the images of mobility in Southern California back to the 1870s.

Our collection of local transit and transportation history is both large and unique: 40% of our collection is found nowhere else in the world — just one more reason for us to assume a leadership role in LA as Subject.

Working as the LA as Subject Web & Technology Committee Chair, I have helped the organization design and launch a new, interactive website, develop and foster a presence on Facebook and Twitter, as well as plan and deploy new technology to assist LAAS’ member institutions and the network as a whole.

Now it’s time to take the next steps — to leverage our collective strengths in taking this wonderful array of collections and positioning ourselves as a national model for regional cooperation, creating an online portal as the “go-to” resource for those interested in Southern California history and culture as well as those who simply ask, “What is L.A.?”

But first, I will be working with the membership, our Executive Committee and our USC Libraries staff in establishing and executing a strategic planning process to determine both short-term and long-term goals and how to accomplish them.

I am looking forward to engaging the members, cultivating new ones, sharing best practices more effectively, establishing collaborative partnerhsips, exploring volunteer, technology and research initiatives, investigating funding opportunities, and promoting our members and collections more broadly.

As Measure R empowers Metro to plan, construct and operate the most ambitious mobility agenda in the nation, we know that the nature of Los Angeles as we experience it is beginning to fundamentally change.

My vision for LA as Subject is that collaborative projects, new technologies, and an even stronger commitment to sharing our expertise and collections will likewise fundamentally change how those who live here as well as those who study us from around the world experience the history and culture of the Los Angeles Area.

–Kenn Bicknell

Digital Resources Librarian