Statement on the Use of Non-government Email Accounts for the Conduct of Public Business

Over the last few weeks, substantive press attention has been focused on the use of a non-government email account by Hillary Rodham Clinton during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. We all understand there are many layers of reasons for the press focus on this particular issue at this time. Nonetheless, there is an essential issue of concern to archivists here, and I asked the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy to develop recommendations for the SAA Council to consider as a statement on the use of non-government email accounts by officials conducting public business. After reviewing the group’s recommendations, the Council has agreed to issue the statement now available on the SAA website at: http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/statement-on-use-of-non-government-email-accounts-for-the-conduct-of-public-business?

I’ve already heard from members about this needing to be done in a more timely way, and I’m sure I will hear from those among us who feel the content should be different. I understand that commentary and encourage those who have comments to share them with me—it is truly part of the democratic process to give voice to your concerns, however “traditional” or “trite” some may think it is for me to say that. Nonetheless, after many, many years as an adult in this society who votes and watches my local, state, and federal government with responses ranging from pride (yes, it does happen sometimes!) to relief, amazement, and on to bewilderment and apoplectic anger, I remain a firm believer in what democracy CAN be. As a parent at my daughter’s school once said, it can be messy and chaotic to make decisions.

That seems to have happened in this case—it has taken longer than you or any of us in leadership would have wanted. I’ll work harder to see if we can expedite statements in the future. We are also working with our very good partners and colleagues in the Council of State Archivists and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators to develop a fuller collaborative statement that can provide a basis for our position as archivists on this issue in the future.

And there certainly is a future for this issue. Just as a personal exercise, check out how many of your own government officials are conducting public business from personal email, Facebook, or Twitter. My own beloved city councilman (he gives me faith in democracy) uses a personal email, an issue that got a “Wow, I need to stop that right now” from him.

Further, I realized that although SAA is not a government agency, I have been using a personal gmail account that I set up solely for my “presidential” business. In the tradition of “people in glass houses,” I’ve asked the SAA Office to set up an email account for me (and for future presidents should they choose to use it). I’ll ensure that email constituting “records” is transferred, and will apply, as other presidents have, the SAA records retention schedule at the end of my presidency.
More issues and thoughts on this? Here’s where you can now reach me:

president@archivists.org

I encourage you to contact me now or in the future.

Call to Action #6: Voices from the Archives

One of the wonderful things about archival records is that they can “give voice” to people from the past:  a civil rights activist from Alabama, a farm wife from Kansas, a Chicano politician from Texas, a World War I pilot, a factory worker from Detroit, a fly fisherman from Montana, a schoolchild in Alaska.  What amazing voices exist in your archives?

This month we hope you’ll share some examples of individuals from the past who have a unique, surprising, or very compelling story to tell.  They need not be “famous.” In fact, we hope you will tap into the diversity of voices and experiences that our records represent — the people who might normally go unheard but who have compelling stories that we can share.

Please take time in March to share with us at least one “voice” from your archival collections.  Keep it simple and concise.  In just a paragraph (or two), tell us the highlights of the individual’s life or role and indicate why you think his/her voice is important.  You may want to include a quotation or photo if it helps to tell the story.  Here’s the website link:
http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/voices-from-the-archives

After you’ve submitted the story through the SAA website, think about how you can share this person’s life with others — maybe via a Facebook or blog post to your users, tweeting quotations from a diary, engaging a journalist to do an article in your local newspaper.  Find a way yourself to give voice to the incredible people in your archival “neighborhood”!

Addressing Archival Issues: University of Oregon Records Release–and Beyond

In response to several member requests for SAA to consider commenting on the recent incident relating to the release of records at the University at Oregon, I sought advice from several groups, the Council discussed options, and we reached agreement on a response. For background on the issue and the Council’s response see http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/saa-response-to-member-request-re-university-of-oregon-records-release-incident

I’m gratified to hear from members when they think that SAA should make a statement or respond to a current situation, as well as their thoughts on what we do or don’t “say.” Each situation that emerges poses challenges when a response is requested on behalf of SAA rather than by individuals. In the two most recent cases—the acquisition by the University of Texas at Austin of the García Márquez papers and the University of Oregon records release incident—there has been considerable traffic via email, twitter, and Facebook. Members and other archival colleagues have written that “SAA ought to do something.” Continue reading

Who is an archivist? Letter to the Editor of USA Today

Yesterday an article in the USA Today online edition referred to a man who collected child pornography as an “archivist”.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/11/child-exploitation-dark-web-prisoner/22100993/ (note: content is challenging to read).
Dean DeBolt posted information on this to the Archives and Archivists listserv, and several members urged a response from SAA.  After quickly seeking advice on this, I prepared a brief letter to the editor focusing on what an archivist is and appropriate use of the term.   It was an opportunity to point out (in less than 180 words) what defines an archivist–and that is much more than being a “collector” of anything however laudable or objectionable.

 

I’ve submitted the letter, and am not sanguine about whether it will be published.  I also posted it in the “comments” section on the article, and it is showing up on Facebook comments.  For the future, perhaps having something on this order that has been discussed and developed with more time and attention would be a good thing to have in our “toolkit”.   Meanwhile, if you have other comments or thoughts, let me know.   Here is the brief statement I submitted:

Continue reading

Why people love archives

It’s time for the fifth challenge as part of “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives!”

We recently heard from many of you about why you’re an archivist and what you love about archives. The results were inspiring. You get it, you know what we do matters, as evidence by literally hundreds of statements, many very heartfelt and compelling. Words and phrases emerged like “making people more compassionate and self-aware”, “fighting for the continued existence and better sharing of stories”, facilitating relationships across time”, “solving mysteries”, “memory, accountability, identity and culture”, “supporting democracy, knowledge and innovation”, “defending the rights of people.” Many, many more words and statements were offered that demonstrate how many of us are truly dedicated to and passionate about our profession. Continue reading

“Who’s Missing From This Table?” NEA Reflections on the Process of Inclusion

Here is a great example of the important undertakings by regional organizations, and I hope will encourage others to also share significant initiatives in their regions through this blog.

The following post is from Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator (2015-2017) New England Archivists


As New England Archivists’ inaugural Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, I have been asked to write a few words on how New England Archivists (NEA) reached this point in the process of becoming a fully representative and welcoming professional organization, and sketch out some big-picture ideas regarding what I hope to accomplish during my three-year term.

In the NEA’s 2010 Strategic Plan, NEA formally recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion for our viability as a professional organization seeking to represent and support all of New England’s archivists. To act upon this commitment, NEA established a two-year Diversity Task Force to examine the issue. This task force of six worked with NEA leadership between 2011-2013 to explore the history of diversity efforts within NEA, to engage in conversations around diversity with the membership, and ultimately to recommend some next steps.

In their final report to the Board in June 2013, the task force made a number of recommendations, among them to “institutionalize NEA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by creating a permanent body devoted to assessing and promoting the organization’s progress in this area.” It is this recommendation that led to the creation of the Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator position on the Board.

Continue reading

Addressing issues of concern: University of Texas Acquisition of García Márquez Archive

In December, several members requested that SAA Council consider issuing a García Márquez statement regarding the UT decision to not disclose the purchase price for the García Márquez archive.   After seeking advice from the Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct, the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy, and pursuing a sometimes challenging discussion, Council arrived at the response posted on the SAA website today.   http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/saa-response-to-member-request-re-university-of-texas-acquisition-of-marquez-archive Continue reading