2017 SAA Annual Meeting Program

I’m pleased to share this guest blog post from Terry Baxter, Program Committee chair for the 2017 Annual Meeting. I’ve mentioned in previous updates how  exciting  the 2017 program theme is: Alike and Different and how important the Saturday event is -The Liberated Archive: A Forum for Envisioning and Implementing a Community-Based Approach to Archives. The 2017 program embraces SAA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The SAA Council Working Group on  Diversity and Inclusion will be organizing discussion sessions and providing additional resources to encourage the broadest and most active participation  in discussions during the forum and throughout the Annual Meeting. Looking  forward to seeing you in Portland OR this year and please be sure to include Saturday in your plans! Thanks for your update, Terry:


It’s hard to think about summer, and the upcoming Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, during such dreary early-winter days. But the Program Committee has been hard at work to ensure that the education programming offered in July will be informative, stimulating, and useful.

The committee has already begun evaluating proposals. We received 196 proposal submissions (160 education sessions and 36 poster presentations) and will be working to evaluate and rank them prior to our in-person meeting in Chicago, January 9-11. At that time, the committee will select education sessions and poster presentations to reinforce the conference theme of alike/different, which acknowledges that we archivists sit under a very large tent and, although we have many similarities, there are ways in which we differ—sometimes fundamentally.

Work also continues on The Liberated Archive: A Forum for Envisioning and Implementing a Community-Based Approach to Archives, which will take place on Saturday, July 29, as part of the conference. A subcommittee consisting of Natalie Baur, Jarrett Drake, and Jennifer O’Neal has been working to develop both structure and content for the forum. (A full report of their activities to date was presented to the SAA Council at its November 14-16 meeting.) Both the subcommittee and the full Program Committee will continue to build on this work. As noted in the original conference call for proposals, a call for Forum content will be issued in January 2017.

The Liberated Archive asks: “If the archive is a site of social control, how might archivists partner with the public – especially at this critical junction for the profession – to repurpose the archive as a site of social transformation and radical inclusion?” At its core, the Forum is intended to bring together archivists and members of various Portland communities to identify ways in which archivists can support these communities in their pursuit of justice, self-awareness, and freedom. If we believe that archives have power—and more precisely the power to effect positive change—then it is our responsibility as archivists to assist others in using them as widely as possible.

How will archivists benefit from this exchange? The future of diversity and inclusion in archives is not an exercise in collection, description, and access. It is rooted in communities that want to hold power accountable, connect their members with each other, perpetuate language and religion, preserve locations and bioresources, and tell their stories through time. Archivists can participate in this future or they can sit on the sideline and watch their relevance diminish. The Liberated Archive will expose archivists not only to the mechanics of working with communities, but also the sense of commitment and joy that comes with deeply connected work.

The Program Committee welcomes your thoughts and ideas about the 2017 program and the Liberated Archive Forum. Feel free to contact Program Committee Chair Terry Baxter at terry.d.baxter@multco.us or conference@archivists.org.

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