SAA @ ICA: Report from International Council on Archives Congress

With Trudy Peterson’s retirement as SAA’s and the Academy of Certified Archivists’ representative to the International Council on Archives Section of Professional Associations (ICA-SPA), the two organizations asked me to serve as their 2012-2013 representative—and attend the ICA Congress in Brisbane, Australia, August 20-24.  Trudy’s shoes truly are difficult to fill, as she has been a prominent leader in ensuring a strong connection between archivists in the U.S. and around the world.  We’re very grateful for her service.

Although there are many similarities between the ICA Congress and our own Annual Meeting, there are also some marked differences:  An incredible opening ceremony celebrated the aboriginal origins of Australia in music and dance; each morning a single keynote speaker was followed by a keynote panel before sessions began; and, of course, there was morning tea and afternoon tea—complete with pastries.  Most sessions were between 30 and 45 minutes long and many had only one speaker. Although English and French are the official languages of the Congress, most sessions were presented in English. Simultaneous translation into one of six languages (English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Russian) was available for many sessions.

The Section of Professional Associations met twice during the Congress and I was able in those meetings to gain an understanding of the organization’s roles and activities.  The purpose of ICA’s sections is to encourage debate, stimulate research, and develop solutions for key archival issues. Sections present papers and author articles to disseminate their findings throughout the profession worldwide. SPA represents associations that are interested in the administration, preservation, and use of records and archives. It was established in 1976, has more than 80 members, and is managed by a Steering Committee on which I now serve. The group’s longer working meeting occurs each April. I’ll be reporting out on that meeting separately.

Given my own professional interest in preservation, I was fortunate to participate in a full-day workshop on disaster preparedness that yielded some interesting new sources of information and techniques employed elsewhere in the world. I also attended sessions focusing on digitization and electronic records, open government, and connections between and among cultural communities, including a fascinating discussion of archival issues following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

There was also an informative session on the Universal Declaration on Archives, which SAA endorsed last year. Please register your individual support of this document.  The more “registrants” we get, the stronger will be our message to the non-archival community throughout the world.

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