Aaisha Haykal, Manager of Archival Services, Avery Research Center of African American History and Culture

Aaisha Haykal, Archival Manager at Avery Research Center of African American History and Culture, has known from childhood that she wanted to work in a library. In her current position, she handles acquirement’s, public programming and supervising student workers (graduate students). Although she has only been at this institution for two years, she has implemented several new programs. She has published research and conducted workshops and conferences about Avery’s collections and museum management. The Avery Research Center has become one of the nation’s most eminent institutions that collects, preserves, and displays artifacts of Low country African American history with an emphasis on Charleston.

Before beginning her tenure track at Avery, she was the university archivist at Chicago State University where she managed collections, books and university history. Before she began her museum career, she obtained double majors in African American Studies and English and Textual Studies from  Syracuse University in 2009, and an MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 2011. Ms. Haykal stated that she decided to move to Charleston from the “Windy City” for more opportunities. She also asserted that she has a particular interest in preserving and managing African American History because she did not learn much about black history in grade school.

Although she is the archival manager, she has collaborated with other departments within the institution to create and implement social media/on line resources. One key point she raised during our conversation is that as a result of Avery being closed for renovations, they have had to stay on top of social media/on line updates. This includes Facebook posts and announcements about events on Avery’s web page. As a former graduate assistant at Avery, I noticed that their social media platform was “weak” or lacked a following as they are not on more popular social media outlets like Twitter or Instagram.  Ms. Haykal stated that although Twitter is effective, it is time consuming and their small staff of five does not include someone for that specific role. I asked whether they would be interested in hiring someone for social media explicitly, and she said that they were unsure of that. One question arose in my head after her comment, “How can they reach their audiences if they are not in constant dialogue with them?” I in turn asked the question, “Who is Avery’s targeted audience?” Ms. Haykal reaffirmed what I thought was their target audience which is middle aged and older. Although they have an online newsletter for grades five and up, I am not sure if local school districts are aware of it.

Another key point she mentioned was that although Avery only does Facebook posts and website announcements, their contributions to the Low country Digital Library and South Carolina Digital Library have expanded their audience. Even though their Facebook posts may not be seen, if an individual researcher or organization is searching for information about African American History in the Low country or any other topic they specialize in, these aggregators (SCDL and LCDL) are easily accessible and navigational.



One Comment Add yours

  1. wendytribaldos says:

    I suspect that Ms. Haykal´s situation of having to deal with social media as part of many other responsibilities is more the norm than the exception in the museum world. I wish she would delved more deeply into the specifics of the Avery´s web design endeavors.

    I think the Avery should have used the opportunity afforded by the closing of their physical exhibits to revamp their website in order to connect to their audience while catering to their needs. Although it is a bit late for the latter, a more active social media presence could be tackled in the coming months to help the public keep their connection to the institution alive while its institution is closed.

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