November 9, 2021 • History Factory
There are things you simply don’t do. You don’t put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. You don’t pour the last cup of coffee without brewing another pot. And you don’t launch an anniversary campaign without a company archives.
Unwritten rules like these keep everything in equilibrium. No organization wants to be the one that throws everything out of whack by going through a milestone sans company archives. Unfortunately, things happen.
Establishing an archives in advance of your organization’s next anniversary doesn’t just ensure you’ll have a worthy celebration. It also guarantees your organization will have a long-term archival strategy built in and ready for action for years to come. Oftentimes, capturing and preserving your organization’s history is an explicit or implicit goal of an anniversary—and even if it isn’t, an archives can provide value that will endure long after the confetti has settled.
Whether you’ve been looking for justification to budget for an archives or just learned about a new unwritten rule, we won’t tell, and we’ve got your back.
Anniversaries are good excuses for things like buying a new outfit, going on vacation or, at the very least, splurging on a nice dinner. Are corporate anniversaries all that different? No way.
Want to rebrand? Announce an acquisition? Throw a party in a swanky hotel downtown for your employees? Your anniversary is the perfect time to do it all!
Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to take the leap and invest in an archives to enhance your organization’s next milestone celebration?
(Full disclosure: You should plan on investing in an archives a few years out from your anniversary or milestone, but we’ll break that down in a minute.)
So much of an organization’s anniversary revolves around looking back, learning from the past to carve a path for the future, and gaining an appreciation for your company’s heritage. All that history and nostalgia permeating every anniversary planning meeting provides the perfect impetus for you to say, “Hey, shouldn’t we invest in an archives to keep all this great stuff preserved?”
Who could argue with that?
So. Make the dinner reservation. Buy the plane ticket. But whatever you do, use your company’s anniversary as an excuse to (finally!) set up an archives.
Anniversaries are like parties: not as much fun to plan and host as they are to attend. But if your organization has its own archives, that analogy can be totally inapplicable. Here’s why an archives is an anniversary-planning team’s best friend.
If you haven’t yet attempted to gather, organize, itemize, sort, preserve and document all your company’s many artifacts, let us tell you right now: it isn’t easy or quick. It takes time, digital equipment, infrastructure and people who know the ins and outs of archiving to make sense of any of it. So when your team is creating content and needs to find that one interview of your company’s CEO from Forbes in 1997—or was it 1998, or 2001? Your archives will make finding that article way easier. For example, some archives come with an archivist who can help you zero in on what you’re looking for and help you with research. Or, if your archives are digitized and you know what you need, you can access it yourself. A well-maintained archives is like having your company’s own personal library—customizable to your specifications.
Even in the best circumstances, some documents, artifacts and archival material can be easily damaged. Airborne moisture could have permeated files you thought had been kept safe in filing cabinets over the years. Vulnerable materials like photographs, handwritten notes and original ideas scribbled on cocktail napkins are just begging to be put somewhere climate- and light-controlled. Investing in a specialized archival space gives all these pieces a safe home, allowing you (and your successors) to strategically and creatively use them for years to come.
Every anniversary has an overarching theme. If one of the messages you want to reinforce is that you’ve been a great employer and one of the top 50 companies to work for, how do you know when you first made that list? And before it existed, what were some other examples of employee satisfaction? You only do justice to the point of view you want to sell when you back it up with proof in the form of artifacts from your company’s history. Without an archives, you’ll have a frustrating time finding everything you need to tell your story—and you might not even be able to tell it the way you want to. But with an archives? You know what you have to work with and you know where to get it. Quite the time (and sanity) saver!
If you stick around your company long enough to celebrate the next anniversary, you’ll do yourself a favor by setting up an archives as soon as possible. Once it’s established, it’s a legacy your company can build off as long as it exists. The benefits you reap from your archives for your upcoming celebration will only increase for your next milestone down the road. You may not be in the same position for the next go-around (hey there, retirement!), but by setting up an archives, you’ll ensure that every future celebration has the enormous advantage of an established system. (If it were up to us, that’d put you smack dab in your company’s Hall of Fame.)
An archives is an investment because it serves your company long-term. To get the most out of your investment for your next anniversary, the best time to establish your archives is yesterday. What does this mean for next year’s milestone celebration? You know, the one that’s mere months away?
Let’s take a step back.
Setting up an archives is a time-intensive process. That means the first thing you need to think about is how much time you have before your next milestone. If you have two or more years, great! You’re in the perfect position to start collecting materials. Next comes sorting, identifying, cataloging, digitizing, and storing — in a nutshell. Don’t worry if it feels early—with so much to do, the time will fly by!
Is your anniversary less than a year or two away? Don’t worry, you still have options to triage access to content. Plus, when you’re done planning and pulling off the perfect celebration, you’ll have that much more time and energy to devote to building your archives on the back-end of your anniversary. That’s right—your milestone can still act as a launchpad to long-term gain!
The point is, the archival process is mostly manual. And it takes time. You need as much runway as possible between establishing your archives and your next big celebration. Not only will you ensure your system is up and running like a well-oiled machine. But you will also get to know your system well enough to research and access everything faster than you can say “our anniversary video has gone viral!”
Anniversaries are catalysts. And sometimes it takes a catalyst to turn such a game-changing proposal into reality. So go on, be the hero and make the case!
Talk to your stakeholders about the value of an archives—not only around anniversaries but as a long-term strategy. If nothing else, let them in on some unwritten rules. After all, friends don’t let friends embarrass themselves on their first trip to Chicago.
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