Archives and typhoon damage in the Northern Mariana Islands

On Sunday August 2, 2015, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was hit by Typhoon Soudelor with winds of up to 105 mph. There was massive damage particularly on the island of Saipan, home to the Northern Marianas College where the territorial archives is maintained. Christopher Todd, the territorial archivist, reports that the archives were largely undamaged by the storm, but roughly half of the Northern Marianas College has been completely destroyed. Saipan has not had running water or power for two weeks and it will likely be a month or more before these services are restored. In the meantime all staff are working full time for the American Red Cross emergency response team and trying to locate a generator to power the archives’ HVAC system before the records begin to deteriorate.

Colleagues from SAA and CoSA are in communication with Chris Todd, with FEMA contacts through CoSA’s Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records project, and with colleagues from the West Coast and Pacific Islands to explore how the archival community can help address this situation.

We will continue to monitor this and share information as it becomes available.

Not-so-strange Encounters: Interact with SAA Leadership in Cleveland!

One of the concerns I’ve heard periodically over the past year of my presidency is that members feel disconnected from our organizational leadership. We’ve tried in a range of ways to address that from this blog, to presence on twitter and Facebook, and encouraging contact on specific issues. At the Annual Meeting in Cleveland, there several ways you can connect with me, with vice-president/president-elect Dennis Meissner, treasurer Mark Duffy, and will the member of Council. Think about taking advantage of one (or all) of the following opportunities:

1. Attend Council meetings: Council will meet to address a range of association business on Monday 8/17, 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday 8/18, 8 a.m.-12 noon, and Saturday 8/22 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. All these meeting are open to the membership—we are, after all, your elected governing body. Interested in what’s going on with educational program curriculae? Intellectual property? The Archives and Archivists listserv? Or maybe you just want to see my blinged-out gavel? Check the location and agenda items at You are truly and sincerely welcome to attend–if you feel more comfortable letting me know in advance, just hit me up on email at

2. Attend the Leadership Plenary on Friday 8/21 at 8:30 a.m. In keeping with “trying new approaches” we’ve decided to make what has been traditionally the Presidential Address plenary into a broader Leadership Plenary. This forum will be an opportunity for you to hear from president-elect Dennis Meissner about his thoughts and plans for the coming year, which I’m really excited about because it will bring “substance” to our work in advocacy and awareness. You will also, for perhaps the first time ever, hear from a representative of Council, Helen Wong Smith, to address an important initiative of that group focusing on cultural competency. And yes, I will still do a presidential address reflecting on “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives.”

3. Town Hall with SAA Leaders. On Thursday 8/20 at 12:15 p.m., we will be reprising our lunchtime forum from last year. SAA officers, Executive Director, and representatives of Council will answer questions from attendees about how SAA works, how to get involved, or whatever is on your mind. Just stop in and let us know what’s on your mind.

4. Exhibit Hall Office Hours. Again on Thursday 8/20 at 5:15 p.m. SAA officers and Council members will hold “office hours” in the Exhibit Hall during the official “opening.” This is a great informal opportunity to engage with us one-on-one. Particularly for those of you who “took action” to raise awareness of and advocate for archives over the past year, I hope you’ll stop by and introduce yourselves to me…and I just might have something for you in return! (Think in shades of purple…)

Finally, you’ll find Council members attending the meetings of sections and roundtables for which they serve as liaisons, Dennis and I will be attending a number of those meetings to which we’ve been invited, and generally, we will all be around—at the All-Attendee Reception, in the coffee line, at sessions, and in the halls of the Convention Center.  Honestly, do come up and introduce yourself. You elected us, and we are honestly more than willing to talk with and listen to you.    And if you’re not coming to Cleveland (sigh), you know where to find me until August 22 (

We are hear because of you and for you–so interaction is highly encouraged!

2015 SAA Service Project: Shoes and Clothes for Kids

SAA kids schoolContributed by Nicole LaFlamme, Cleveland 2015 Annual Meeting Host Committee,  J.M. Smucker Corporate Archives

As we gear up for our annual conference, local Cleveland students will be gearing up with backpacks, sneakers, and clothes for their first day of school, August 17th. Many of us will be driving or flying into Cleveland at the same time kids are heading off to school, making for a hectic morning commute. Archivists will anticipate luggage arrival and remember all travel essentials. We’ll sort out travel-rumpled clothes while hoping conference rooms aren’t over-air-conditioned or that the Miami heat hasn’t followed LeBron to Cleveland. We’ll be finding our way around, reuniting with friends we’ve missed over the months, and figuring out our schedules.

It’ll be a similar situation for Cleveland-area kids. Back-to-school also means new schedules, finding friends, and pressures to appear presentable amongst peers. Many students can’t afford the items necessary to begin the school year, while others are unable to attend school at all due to financial restrictions. Poverty is an especially big deal for children in Cleveland, where 54.4 percent live in poverty – defined for a family of three as below $18,769 a year (Census Bureau, Sept, 2014). The cost for equipping a grade-schooler jumped 20 percent between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, parents estimated paying $642 per child for school supplies (Huntington Backpack Index, 2014). This does not include the price of clothing. Studies have shown that the inability to buy clothing can affect self-esteem and significantly affect social participation.

Luckily, there is an opportunity for us to help local kids while engaging in some social participation of our own. A group of volunteers is needed at the Shoes and Clothes for Kids (SC4K) warehouse in Cleveland to help count, sort, and pack items into boxes for distribution to area children. This Packing Day is a fun opportunity that involves some physical labor (making boxes, opening boxes, moving boxes). SC4K positively impacts the lives of over 25,000 children each year by giving them the self-esteem and confidence that comes from having brand new shoes and clothes.

A second chance to participate will be available during the conference. SC4K donation boxes will be set up within the Cleveland Convention Center for you to drop off new articles of clothing (in original packaging or with tags attached) and school supplies. Keep in mind the first things a child puts on in the morning are socks and underwear – essentials no one wants to be without.

If you are interested in giving back to the host-city, helping kids, doing some pro-bono organizational work, and meeting up and having lunch with peers, please contact me. To register for the Packing Day, please e-mail: or call 330-684-7629. While at the conference, keep an eye out for the SC4K donation boxes.

SCK image

To help out kids of the four-legged variety, SAA will be collecting wish list items for the Cleveland Animal Protective League ( The shelter’s needs range from items for the animals to office supplies…and many are “suitcase friendly.” For SAA’s novice and champion knitters, cat and dog blankets would be welcome as well! We’ll be sharing more about ways to help Cleveland’s pets-in-waiting as the meeting gets closer. To see the Cleveland APL’s wish list, visit

Animal protective league

Challenge #9: Archives in Five Words

There is considerable talk about the need to have an “elevator speech” in which one summarizes what archives are, or what archivists do. Many of us have been using the time parameters of an indeterminate number of floors to hone down a statement involving a number of thoughts in sentences and phrases.

In this month’s challenge for “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”, we hope you will go one step further (or a couple floors less) and reduce your elevator speech even more. In five words or less, what sentence or phrase would you use to pique the interest of someone so they will listen to your full elevator speech, or engage in a discussion with you about archives and archivists?

Maybe rather than a general speech we direct “at” someone, we need to lure those unsuspecting “elevator riders” into a conversation with us about archives and archivists. It helps when we can explain archives to a lawyer by talking about records as legal evidence, to a land surveyor by talking about maps and field notes, or to a teacher by talking about the critical learning skills that students gain in analyzing primary records. Starting with an intriguing opening phrase may be just the thing to initiate the dialogue that will let you “riff” on the theme of the value and importance of archives.

So share with us your best five words for engaging people in conversation about archives and archivists. Then try out some of those that appeal to you on an unsuspecting person and see where it may lead!

Have You Seen the New

GregoryHunter-2015Gregory S. Hunter, Ph.D. CA, CRM
Editor, The American Archivist

SAA rolled out a new website for The American Archivist in April. This elegant destination for the entire run and future issues of the journal is built on a robust online publishing platform—Pinnacle, powered by Atypon and available through Allen Press—that offers tremendous functionality. For users, it provides a better experience accessing and logging into the system and includes new features such as favorites and email notification. Continue reading

Live Dangerously: Take the First High-Stakes Archival Essay Test!

The press is focusing this month on the debate about the value and impact of high-stakes testing for students. As archivists, we have had our own array of experiences with examinations, whether for the Digital Archives Specialist Certificate, the Academy of Certified Archivists exam, or our graduate program examinations. But there’s one test on which we all need more than a passing grade—and that’s explaining archives and archivists to others. It is the “core competence” that we all must have to raise awareness and demonstrate the value of archives. So here are four essay questions (also known as “story problems”) that we invite you to answer in 500 words or fewer. And as my favorite English teacher, Mrs. Arrick, would say, “Be clear, be concise, be compelling.”

Submit your essay (we won’t grade it!) to: or post your comment on the SAA website at:

And the questions are:  (answer one, and stay within the 500 word limit!)

1.    You’re attending the SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland. You and a few friends walk into a local clothing boutique and the owner greets you with “Welcome, what brings you to Cleveland?” (She knows you’re from out-of-town because, of course, you’ve forgotten to take off your name badge.) You reply: “I’m here for the Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting.” And she says, “Oh, that’s so cool. What is it you people do anyway?” Your friends scatter and begin looking through the clothing racks. It’s up to you to respond….and your answer is:

2.  You’re at your sister Jean’s wedding reception and notice that your grandmother is talking to the new in-law family, pointing at you and saying something that results in a look of alarm on their faces. (They’re from a family of accountants.) Your sister hurries over to tell you that grandma is claiming that you’re an anarchist, and asks that you please introduce yourself to her in-laws and tell them what you REALLY do. You sidle up to Minnie and Joe and say, “Hi, I’m Jean’s sister/brother and I know that Grandma has been telling you about me, but is a little confused. I’m an archivist and….” Provide the rest of your explanation:

3.  You’ve been asked to make a presentation to your historical society’s board of directors about new acquisitions to the archival collection. During your presentation some board members nod enthusiastically, others smile, and you’re feeling like you’ve been a hit. Then one very influential board member looks up slowly from the handouts you’ve provided and, squinting over his half glasses, says in stentorian tones, “Now tell me, just what IS an archives anyway?” You respond:

4.   You’ve been invited to Career Day at your former middle school (this is not a “Seinfeld” episode!) and asked to speak to the 7th grade social studies classes about the archives profession. The teacher introduces you: “Class, this is _______.   She/he works with cool things like the Declaration of Independence. Please tell us more about how you do that!” And you say:

Let the test begin!

Speaking up on archival issues: Supporting the District of Columbia Archives

Since 2003 SAA has periodically written letters or submitted testimony on behalf of the District of Columbia Archives.   Another round of budget hearings are beginning in the D.C. Council, so we have taken the opportunity to reach out again to submit testimony in support of that very rich and important archival collection.   The testimony submitted can be found at:

One of my Council colleagues, Tim Pyatt, puckishly suggested that perhaps instead of calling this the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” we ought to instead call it the “Year of Making Statements about Archives.”    There are indeed a lot of things going on that raise archival issues of concern and challenge us as an organization, and those of us in leadership positions, to try and determine what we can say that draws attention to concerns and options or solutions in a productive but compelling, way.

Many of us in the membership have different views or different concerns that we feel SAA should be addressing.  When you do, I encourage you to contact me, our executive director, Nancy Beaumont, or a member of Council to raise those concerns.   Please help us to be better informed on issues you’d like considered by using the suggested format for sharing information on the issue located on the web at

Will we always develop statements that make everyone satisfied/happy?  Not likely given the diversity of opinion in our profession, but I can honestly assure you that we will give all requests serious consideration, and as elected leadership, will do our best to indeed  be representative of SAA.  (and here’s another good reason you need to vote by April 13 for SAA leadership–these will be the people to make future such decisions!)

The extent of “issues” in the past year are more evidence that we need to take a strong role in demonstrating the importance and value of archives and archivists.  Archivists have much to offer, and we continue to seeks ways to effectively make contributions to  national, state or even local discussions and debates.

Please contact me anytime you have issues to raise at: