Having a user base of over 1 million people spread out across the United States poses some special challenges for the National Association of REALTORS® Archives. How can we provide equitable access when users are so geographically dispersed? How can we allow users to search, discover, and connect with our archival collections on their own, without the mediation of an archivist?
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is the largest trade organization in the United States, dedicated to helping its members become more profitable and successful through professional development, research and education, public awareness campaigns, and political advocacy. The NAR Archives, located in Chicago, Illinois, documents the history and development of the association and of the real estate profession in the United States from the late 19th century through the present. Our holdings include departmental records, minutes from our Board of Directors and committee meetings, NAR’s Code of Ethics, policy and procedure manuals, research surveys and reports, press releases, journals and newsletters, member rosters, annual convention records, advertising campaigns, and a large audio-visual collection. We serve NAR staff in Chicago and Washington, D.C., 1,200 local and state REALTOR® associations across the country, and a membership of 1.3 million REALTORS®.
In the distant past, members sent their archival research questions through the mail (staff conducted the research, then replied in the same manner). More recently, the NAR Library’s OPAC included records from our archival collections, but these were often minimally described and contained no digital surrogates. This arrangement did little to aid discovery or increase access to the Archives.
However, with the introduction of NAR Archives’ public catalog, powered by Eloquent Archives™, this all aims to change. Users can connect with our holdings through a simple search interface, browse the Archives by subject, or enjoy perusing our Featured Collections. Archives staff are working to update our records with appropriate metadata and digital images, with the goal of providing digital access whenever possible. While there is still a significant amount of work to be done to achieve this goal, Eloquent Archives™ provides a solution for the NAR Archives to connect with all of our users, regardless of the distance between us.