About & Contact

by Sally J.

Email: practicalarchivist@gmail.com
Telephone:  608-616-0058
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Dear Family Archivist,

I never imagined I would be an archivist when I grew up.

To be honest, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an archivist.

When I applied to college, I was forced to choose a major. So I decided to become a rock n’ roll photo-journalist. You know, the next Annie Liebovitz. This is precisely what happens when you ask an 18 year old to choose a career, my friends. And yet they still make you declare a major before you start college. (Shakes head slowly.)

Fast forward to 1994. I had a BA in History and Anthropology but decided against getting a Master’s or PhD in either. Mostly because I didn’t want to teach high school kids or college kids. After traveling and living abroad for a spell, I got a decent job at a great book store in The Only City I Wanted To Live In. I was madly in love with my boyfriend (now my husband) and pretty darn happy, but retail had started to lose its appeal after a few years. I was ready for whatever was coming next, I just didn’t have any idea what that was…

One day my coworker brandished a course catalog and announced that she was going to library school to earn her Masters in Library Science.

Library school, here in town?

Grad school?


I read the catalog and discovered something jaw droppingly amazing: I could specialize in unpublished historical materials and be trained as an archivist. The best part? All the archives classes were taught by working archivists from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Becoming an archivist made a lot of sense. I bet if you polled people who knew me in high school they would not be the tiniest bit surprised that I turned out to be an archivist. Clearly, this was what I’d been waiting for. I felt at home as soon as I started my classes, and went on to meet some of my very favorite people in the world. OK, I’ll stop now before this turns into a “Have You Hugged An Archivist Today?” public service announcement.

Since earning my Master’s degree, I’ve had the honor of working on collections at the Library of Congress Prints & Photos Division, the Wisconsin Historical Society, Memorial Library Special Collections, American Girl, and the Chicago Chapter of the American Red Cross. I delight in helping family, friends, and clients take better care of their family collections.

If you need help organizing, preserving, or sharing your family archives, you’ve come to the right place.

Check out the selection of free information. Get your hands on a free bonus ebook by joining the mailing list. Purchase the recordings of a recent workshop, or enroll in an upcoming live one. If you need help right away, call me to set up an appointment for one-on-one consulting. Your great-granddaughter will be glad you did.

Yours in history,

-Sally J.
The Practical Archivist

P.S. If you are concerned about the quality of the advice I give and whether or not my expertise is legitimate, first of all good on ya for being an informed consumer (an all too rare thing these days) and second of all please do click here to examine my online CV. Cheers!

Press Coverage:

Beyond Organizing: Storing and Preserving Precious Photos and Videos (Austin American-Statesman)

Jacobs also proposes the “3-2-1” rule: Three copies of a file in two different format types in more than one location. For example, have copies of your photos on your computer hard drive, on a DVD and on a photo website. Saving in multiple formats is especially important for videos, where the commonly used file formats seem to change more frequently. Finally, keep some of these copies somewhere other than your home should disaster strike.

Click here  for full article.

Making History (Madison Magazine)

Using some practical guidelines, Jacobs helps her clients sift and winnow their collections and provides technical assistance in areas such as how to scan old photos to preserve and share them with current and future generations.

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Guarding the Gown (Wisconsin State Journal)

Jacobs suggests seven questions to ask a dry-cleaning service before you let them touch your wedding dress.

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Click here for a PDF version with images.

What I Do (Cap Times)

In our crazy, modern world, it’s hard to think about photographs. Part of what I do is work as a cheerleader and I always try to get the message out that archiving things in a particular way is going to make you really happy down the road — you’ll only regret not doing it.

Click here for full article.