Message from the SAA Council

The following message was sent to SAA Members today by email.

Dear SAA Member:

The SAA Council was outraged to learn on Saturday afternoon, August 6, that someone placed an anti-transgender and gender nonconforming flyer by the #I’llGoWithYou ribbon and flyer on the ribbon table in the conference registration area at the Hilton Atlanta.[i] The language and tenor of the unapproved flyer were disrespectful and vile. This behavior is repulsive and inexcusable and will not be tolerated by the SAA leadership.

If the hate flyer was left by an SAA member, this is a violation of SAA’s Code of Conduct and a threatening act directed toward members of SAA’s community in what should be a safe space for all of our members and attendees.

The location – a public space near the conference registration desk that was not monitored in off-conference hours – and the anonymity of the culprit is important because we can never know if the hateful message came from within our community or from an ill-willed person who had access to the hotel space. Unfortunately the hotel security office did not capture the act on security camera.

Incidents like these are terrorizing – intended to intimidate and diminish. In his keynote address during Plenary 1 on August 4, Chris Taylor referred in a compelling way to the levels of understanding and response from individual to marketplace. If we frame our responses as individual (all of us), group (any SAA group), association (SAA), and the broader (archival) community, these are examples of what we can and are doing to respond:


  • We can each continue to work at being a diverse and inclusive community, even when we experience fear and even when it’s difficult.
  • We can be active bystanders. (This program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes what we can do when we are not directly involved.)
  • If you see something, say something. Let someone in SAA know.
  • Reach out to members and visitors who may feel threatened, who may need encouragement, or who may just want to talk, share, and understand.


  • Reach out to members to discuss, inform, and/or identify things your group can do. Plan sessions. Collaborate with other groups on shared priorities.
  • Refer to SAA’s Core Values and Code of Ethics and Diversity and Inclusion Statement, which reflect our expectations for how members and visitors will interact with each other, and our Code of Conduct, which guides how we respond to incidents and behaviors that break our norms.


  • The core of our mission statement clearly states: “SAA promotes the value and diversity of archives and archivists.”
  • We have revised our Diversity and Inclusion Statement.
  • We created a page for the Council Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion, and developed a resource page on recent and current SAA Diversity and Inclusion groups (e.g., the Diversity Committee, Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable, and others) and activities that we hope will grow as we do. These will help you identify possible groups to contribute to or join (if you haven’t already).


  • We can share what we’re doing on diversity and inclusion, including lessons learned from challenging events.
  • Engage other communities, learn from what they are doing, and share what we learn.

Throughout the Joint Annual Meeting, attendees heard that SAA is continuing to work toward its strategic priority of being more diverse and inclusive. We can’t prevent hate incidents. What we can do is call out incidents if they happen, inform members and others about ways to respond, raise awareness, and discuss issues even when that’s challenging. And we can include.

We hope you’ll join us in discussing these issues and sharing ideas about what we all can do at #SAAincludes.

If you have concerns, questions, or suggestions, share them with SAA President Nance McGovern (, any member of the Council, your component group leader, or Executive Director Nancy Beaumont ( We’re working on this together and we’re going to make progress.

The SAA Council


[i] Responding to SAA members’ requests, the #I’llGoWithYou ribbon and flyer were provided so that allies could support and help protect transgender and non-binary attendees when using restrooms and other gendered spaces. To learn more about this national campaign, visit


Pop-Up Sessions Year 2

In 2013, the Annual Meeting Task Force submitted its final report. Since then, Program Committees have implemented new ideas to engage SAA members and expand how the SAA Annual Meeting is put together. In Cleveland in 2015, the Program Committee instituted the first pop-up sessions. The idea was that attendees could submit proposals for topics or ideas that “popped up” since the initial proposal submission deadline. Five of the pop-up session slots were filled by Program Committee selection in advance, and the remaining five sessions were selected by the vote of attendees onsite. According to the post-conference survey, 75% of respondents rated the pop-up sessions overall as “excellent” or “very good,” but only 32% gave high marks to the submission and selection process.

Because the response to pop-up sessions overall was so positive, the 2016 Program Committee continued this great idea and made some modifications. We also chose to focus on ideas that “popped up” since the initial call for proposals – and we received 30 submissions (an increase of 9 from 2015)! We were pleased that, as requested, none of the proposals replicated submissions from the initial call. We believe that the submission process is solid and benefited from consistency over the two years.

The biggest change we made was to the selection process. We chose to engage the memberships of CoSA and SAA by setting up an online voting system and inviting all members to vote for their five favorite sessions. When the two-week voting period closed, all proposals had received some votes and 583 individuals had participated—more people than had registered for the conference at that time! Now added to the schedule, the top five pop-ups in session number order are:

  • #111: Archives and Digital Inequality (Myles Crowley and Katharina Hering)
  • #211: Deconstructing Whiteness in Archives: Opportunities for Self-Reflection (Samantha Winn)
  • #311: Archival Records in the Age of Big Data (Richard Marciano and Bill Underwood)
  • #411: Practical Options for Incoming Digital Content (Jody DeRidder and Alissa Helms)
  • #611: Improving Finding Aid Visibility: What Are Y’all Doing? (Amelia Holmes and Eileen Heeran Dewitya)

So far, we consider this response a success. The number of proposals increased and nearly 600 members voted. By looking at the votes, we can see what topics are of top interest to archivists. We’re glad you submitted, voted, and are invested in making this year’s conference a success. And we’re excited to see the results of all this in Atlanta!

Cheryl Oestreicher and Barbara Teague
2016 Program Committee Co-Chairs


Statement on the Orlando Shooting

Like so many people throughout America and across the world, we SAA members are shocked and saddened by the horrific violence that unfolded early Sunday morning in Orlando. Our wishes for hope and healing go out to all who have been harmed by this senseless act.

During this troubled time, I would call attention to the shared values that support us in our work. Let us redouble our efforts to ensure that our repositories become places of inclusion that celebrate the diversity of our society and the historical record. Let us strive to promote free and equitable access to the primary historical record that promotes understanding of the truth and that fights against ignorance and misrepresentation of the American experience.

We join with our colleagues in the library and museum communities in striving to create safe and welcoming places in which all might expand our understanding of and appreciation for our shared American culture.


Update June 17:

To my colleagues who have commented below and on social media—I thank you. Thank you for calling out what was missing in my statement. Thank you for sharing your frustration and anger about the erasure of queer voices and voices of color that happens all too frequently. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn. I hear you.

And I want to say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t name that the violent and ugly shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Club targeted people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. You are right: Context does matter, naming does matter—and we cannot forget that it is a culture of fear and hate, of racism and homophobia, that led to the shooting. The Orlando shooting is our problem, too. I’m sorry this sentiment wasn’t present in my original statement.

I feel deeply for the victims of the shooting and their loved ones, and for the LGBTQ community and communities of color for whom the Orlando shooting has said, “You are not safe and you are not valued.” This is one reason why I believe our work as archivists is so important. When we preserve the records and share the histories of our marginalized communities, we are working toward alleviating the fear and hate that led to the Orlando shooting and to so many other violent acts that our country has witnessed. I’m proud of the many archivists who are leading the way—and holding me and our organization accountable. SAA is its members. Thank you.


Update June 30:

To continue this thread, I would like to call attention to a recent statement posted on the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable blog that does a fine job of suggesting how we archivists might use the tragedy of the Orlando shootings to reflect on how we go about our work:

Diversity and Inclusion: Aspirations That We Must Realize

While not singled out in our strategic plan, one of SAA’s key strategic priorities is to grow and nurture greater diversity. Diversity within our membership, diversity within the archives profession, and diversity in the collections we hold. In a sense, this priority is too important to represent as a line item in a strategic plan. Rather, it is embedded throughout the plan and poured over everything we do. It is, perhaps, the area we acknowledge as needing the most work on the fastest timeline.

We have made small, measured starts in very positive directions. We have an active and dedicated Diversity Committee that helps us set a course. We have several roundtables that continue to increase our awareness and push us in good directions. We continue to develop and extend our scholarship programs and, in 2016, we have committed ourselves to placing more minority interns in SAA boards, committees, and working groups.

These are good steps, but small ones, that only scratch the surface. How do we gain traction as rapidly as possible so that we as a profession come to reflect the growing diversity we see in American society?  And how do we grow our own thinking so that we do not see “diversity” narrowly, but instead see it in its great fullness?

I think that part of the answer comes in working on ourselves, as individuals, first. We need to crack the nut that encloses us and begin to develop a true appreciation for diversity and, perhaps more importantly, a real desire for inclusion. Chris Taylor, a wise colleague at the Minnesota Historical Society who is dedicated to working on these issues in our own institution, reminds me that diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. And that means a personal choice. I believe that when we as individuals come to appreciate the value of diversity, and inculcate a spirit of inclusiveness, then we will start to gain real, continuing traction in meeting our shared goal to diversify SAA, our profession, and the archival record. We then become forces that can help to reshape the policies of our employing organizations, as well as the ways in which we as individuals approach hiring, mentoring, and including. These are the sorts of things that have some power to diversify our work and our profession.

In the SAA Council, we are taking initial steps down that road by developing training in cultural competency that can eventually be rolled out to all of our members in a variety of formats. We are also working some additional content into the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2016 program, including a diversity forum. And we are planning to build a much larger effort into the 2017 Annual Meeting program that relates to diversity and inclusion.

I look forward to this work and to realizing the aspiration that drives it. I hope that you do, too.


Advocacy: One Destination, Many Roads

Earlier in February I visited the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and had the opportunity to discuss a topic vital to the profession. SAA’s strategic plan calls out “advocating for archives and archivists” as a key priority. My predecessor Kathleen Roe spent her presidential year pressing this stratagem forward with energy, resolve, and a very personal passion. SAA achieved some real successes as a result:

  • We established a Committee on Public Policy (CAPP) that shapes and drives forward the advocacy work that focuses on the public policies and resources necessary to ensure that archival records are preserved and made accessible. It is intended to engage with governments. To date CAPP has published a number of issue briefs that can guide thinking and action by SAA members on a number of important topics.
  • We established a Committee on Public Awareness (COPA). Whereas CAPP focuses on public policy, COPA is concerned with influencing opinions about the value of archivists and archives among the general public and among stakeholder groups other than legislators and regulators.
  • We continue to compile “elevator speeches” and personal stories that speak compellingly to the value of archives. This work is, and must remain, a continuous endeavor.
  • We have a created the first of what we intend to be a long line of advocacy video clips, each of which will be intended for a particular audience. The first one, “Archives Change Lives,” was unveiled at SAA’s 2015 conference and speaks directly to archivists, rather than to external audiences.

All these efforts amount to a good start, but only a start. We know that many other efforts must be launched to begin gaining traction in archival advocacy. Among them would be:

  • A robust lobbying presence in our nation’s capital.
  • Ongoing advocacy training for archivists.
  • Media kits that can be rolled out to support a variety of initiatives.
  • A rich array of advocacy tools and resource materials on SAA’s website that archivists can utilize for their own initiatives.

These resources will not come quickly or cheaply, but they are all important to build the sort of powerful and integrated advocacy effort that other professions have been able to create.

And I think one other advocacy endeavor is equally important. The advocacy pieces delineated above will only be truly convincing if they are supported by an infrastructure of convincing data.  Our great advocacy stories, which reflect singular experiences, need to be grounded in statistical data that suggest their cumulative value. When we can marry the stories to the underlying data, only then will we have created a compelling value proposition. Then, our advocacy messages will achieve impact and real sufficiency. There are models for us to follow in identifying and compiling such data, especially the work of the Center for the Future of Museums.

I’ll be talking more about this direction in days to come. In the meantime, I hope that you will comment with ideas about how we can begin to create a data-informed value proposition for archives.

The Dues Referendum

Shortly, SAA will be conducting a referendum on a dues increase. Last May, the Council recognized a need for this increase, citing its support for maintaining a growth strategy for SAA as measured by the quality of its member services and the Society’s leadership role on behalf of archivists and the archives profession. The Society has set itself on a growth-oriented path with an ambitious five-year Strategic Plan, healthy but leveling membership numbers, a high-demand education program, a publications program that is working toward a successful e-publishing business model, and nascent advocacy and public awareness efforts. This growth strategy can be sustained only if SAA maintains an appropriate balance of revenues from both member dues and non-dues sources (i.e., product and service sales). Continue reading

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.