Category Archives: Annual Meeting

Keeping Evidence & Memory: Archives Storytelling in the 21st Century (Presidential Address, SAA Annual Meeting), August 17, 2018 by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

A pre-recorded video version of this address is available here.

Good morning and welcome again to the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. I am honored to be speaking to you this morning as SAA’s 73rd President and would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to represent our organization this past year.

Three years ago, our SAA annual meeting theme was about Telling the Story of Archives as part of President Kathleen Roe’s Year of Living Dangerously. Recently the term storytelling just kept popping up everywhere for me. I subscribe to the Brain Pickings newsletter (edited by Maria Popova) which has the literary arts as a focal point. While I often delete the messages due to lack of time, I do save them if a subject catches my eye. And so, while I was reading what I had set aside, the word “Storytelling” appeared three times in conjunction with authors Iris Murdoch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Susan Sontag. In the next day or so, the SAA Annual Meeting Program came out and I signed up to attend A Finding Aid to My Soul, an open-mic storytelling session tonight. In May, I was interviewed for a blog post on diversity in archives created by Pass It Down, which advertises itself as a digital storytelling company. And finally, just last week, I was standing at the elevator and saw a Wake Forest flyer advertising the MA in Sports Storytelling Program.

Beyond simply telling our own archives stories, though, I realized the term can also be used in how we consider the documentary record. Archives storytelling is, in every way, dependent on recorded evidence and memory. Researchers use the records we collect to make sense of the past, present, and future. Through archives and their use, there is a cycle of storytelling with multiple characters and perspectives, different endings, and even never endings.

As Murdoch observes “we are constantly employing language to make interesting forms out of experience which perhaps originally seemed dull or incoherent.” The making of sense belongs to the genealogists, researchers, scholars, and students who visit us or view our materials online. We can only hope that what we have acquired and collected can provide those interesting forms.

We need to remember that as Sontag points out “To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.” This is why we collect about inadequately represented communities, create a documentation strategy, or interview and capture the stories of those who have been left out of the historical record. Wherever archivists focus their attention and effort can expand the number of stories told.

Finally, Le Guin observed that One of the functions of archives is to give people the words to know their own experience… Storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.”

However, how do we tell our story? The story of archivists? Who are we, and what do we want?

So, here is a short tale of what SAA (and when I say SAA, I mean all of us) has been working on over the past year. I’ll focus in particular on Advocacy, Diversity, the SAA Foundation, and Membership. There will be more to come in a forthcoming article in the American Archivist.

Advocacy
One of the primary ways we tell our story—for archivists, users, and the records, is through the practice of advocacy.  Nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of historical record issues for this past year or two, especially at the federal record level. Public records, including local and state records, truly are essential to the functioning of American democracy. In my years as SAA President and Vice President, we have created numerous issue briefs and position statements, signed letters and petitions, and responded to external requests representing crucial national records concerns. The most recent relate to our support of the Presidential Records Act, concern over the illegal removal of Iraqi records from Iraq, and opposing the nomination of Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA (given her destruction of records documenting torture). We spoke about the importance of Net Neutrality, the Use of Private Email by all government officials, the need for Transparency in Public Records, the Value and Importance of the U.S. Census, and Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record. For anyone interested in the labor-intensive and complex process by which these briefs and statements come to pass, please see my Off the Record blog post from July 16.

Why does SAA dedicate its time to advocacy and why is this important for us? Archivists play a special role in the preservation of the historical record and in many cases the preservation and access of these records are dependent on our local, state, and federal governments. Awareness building also allows us to share who we are with the public and why records are integral to their lives. Through these efforts we do our best to ensure that archival sources protect the rights of individuals and organizations, assure the continued accountability of governments and institutions based on evidence, and safeguard access to historical information and cultural heritage.

Diversity
Fostering diversity and inclusion within the profession continues to be a high priority for SAA. Fundraising for the MOSAIC Scholarship and the Brenda S. Banks Travel Award continues, and our key partnership with the Association of Research Libraries in the IMLS-funded Mosaic Fellows Program will last 2 and possibly 3 more years. I am also pleased to again announce that Council endorsed the Native American Protocols earlier this week.

The Task Force on Accessibility is updating our 2010 Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees and Users with Physical Disabilities and is expanding them to include neuro-disabilities, temporary disabilities, and others that may be in scope. A draft was shared earlier this week with Council, and member review will take place shortly.

Our Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force was proposed by our Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section, who were motivated by the Pulse Night Club tragedy as well as far too many other incidents in the past few years. The TF will provide guidance regarding policies, procedures, and best practices for acquisition, deaccessioning, preservation, and access of memorial collections. An update was provided in the Off the Record blog post on July 30 and a final report will be submitted by 2020.

Finally, sharing our expertise should be a priority. In my first job at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, I learned to process and describe collections and to grapple with the enormity, complexity and, quite often, the awfulness of American history. As a transplanted Yankee, it didn’t take me long to figure out the reason for the Confederate flag above the Capitol, or why the state holidays list included Confederate Memorial Day and Martin Luther King, Jr./Robert E. Lee Day (still). I understood too well why the street on which I was fortunate to attend the dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center also hosted a Ku Klux Klan march several years later. This is not isolated to Alabama, or even to one region of our country. The symbols of oppression and our violent past are all around us.

Last fall’s events in Charlottesville point to the need for archivists to use our skills and experience to assist our communities in researching and determining the history of the names, images, and monuments in our midst. The Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group has begun the process of creating a series of Diversity Toolkits available online for archivists and anyone else who needs its resources. The resources currently include materials for facilitating discussions, helping communities in crisis, researching monuments, and how to teach hard history at the K-12 level. A Bibliography for Monuments and Symbols of Oppression is also available on the SAA web site via an Off the Record blog post. The goal is to provide a starting point to learn more about these issues.

All this work is good. But more needs to be done. Diversity and Inclusion is not simply the purview of the Diversity Committee or our Sections or Council but is a responsibility for all of us.

SAA Foundation
Too many archival stories this past year have involved natural disasters–hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and the terrifying fires on the west coast. Fortunately, the SAA Foundation’s National Disaster Recovery Fund was expanded in 2017 to include eligibility for Mexico and non-US Caribbean Islands and to award up to $5,000 in grant funding. As you can imagine, Hurricane Maria and the Mexican earthquake damaged many archival repositories. To date, the Foundation has awarded nine grants to archivists and repositories in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico. We are grateful to our Latin American & Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Section for translating the application materials. We have a growing role to play in the American hemisphere and it is important we take that responsibility seriously.

The Foundation also supported a new travel grants program for 2018 to provide grants of up to $1,000 each for travel to attend the SAA Annual Meeting. We received nearly 80 applications for 10 grants! Sustainable funding for professional development is an obvious problem for archivists and so as I transition to the position of Immediate Past President and remain on the SAA Foundation Board for (at least) one more year, one of my goals will be to explore how we can connect with external foundations and match their available funding and interests with our needs.  In the meantime, I am happy to report that SAA Foundation Board recently approved $10,000 in travel grants for Austin 2019.

Membership and Professional Development
Recently, SAA has undertaken two recent membership surveys, one focused on institutional support for professional development and the other for the needs and interests of mid-career archivists. The results provided key data about what our members need for their success. I mentioned exploring foundation support for professional development, but we also obtained good information about what continuing education archivists would like to see SAA provide—courses on career planning, management, and leadership, among others. Your feedback in these surveys provide a path for SAA to follow over the next several years.

SAA members have recently reviewed the updated Principles of the Annual Meeting, the Code of Ethics, Best Practices for Internships as a Component of a Graduate Archival Program, and Best Practices for Volunteers. Treat these as the opportunities they are for having your voice heard. And never feel hesitant to contact your elected officers and Council.

These are only some of the SAA stories from the past year.

Here are some Recommendations for SAA’s Future.

First and foremost, we need to refocus our energies for Diversity and Inclusion. How can we better document and share the unique diversity projects being undertaken in so many of our repositories?  Archivists need to create case studies, essays, and articles and make them available through the SAA  website–this can help us ensure our important collection development efforts inspire others to establish new programs. The Diversity Toolkits also need to be finalized and we need all our members to contribute ideas and sources. If everyone in this room submitted a 500-word annotated source, the Toolkits would be a tremendous crowd-based resource for all. There will be a call after the annual meeting, so please plan to send in your suggestions.

Second, we need more information about the makeup of our profession so that SAA can work to meet the many needs of its members. In his 2016 President’s Address, Dennis Meissner called for the creation of a Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation. The Task Force, created last fall, presented some preliminary findings at the May Council meeting. What questions would I like to see answered about us?

  • What is the current breakdown in percentage of degrees held by archivists? Thirty years ago, the predominant source of archives degrees was history programs. In A*CENSUS (2004), the breakdown was 39.4% for the MLS/MLIS vs 46.3% for the MA/MS/MFA. It now appears that most archivists entering the field are coming from library school programs—but it would be good to have those numbers confirmed. However, there are still many, many people working as archivists who chose another path to this profession. How can archivists coming from different backgrounds—and, in some cases, philosophies—communicate and collaborate most effectively? How can our continuing education programs assist in fostering community among such a disparate group?
  • How can we better collaborate with the graduate programs which funnel students into the profession? I have heard comments about the number of graduates and the perception they are overwhelming a small job market. SAA has done many evaluations and reports which indicate we simply cannot afford the cost of an official accreditation process. So, it may be time to think creatively about what SAA CAN do.
    • We can collect better documentation of all archives graduate programs, no matter the discipline, and increase the understanding of their strengths
    • We could collaborate with archival educators and host an annual forum as an invited opportunity for all archives program representatives, educators, and practicing archivists to meet and discuss issues?
    • We can foster forums for the various degree programs to discuss curriculum and other issues impacting archives students
    • We can explore collaborative assessment projects for programs and highlight student projects from a variety of programs?
  • As a profession, we also need more information about archivists’ salaries, organized by location, type of degree, type of repository, and geographic location. These data would give us important information that would enhance our programming and advocacy efforts. Increasingly, job ads with no salaries are the norm—how can we encourage more transparency for the profession? The National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History recently introduced policies that any job ads shared on their site must have salaries posted. And as with the American Library Association, it would be good for SAA to provide an average salary by state in order to strengthen archivists’ negotiating power.
  • Knowing more about the various subsets of SAA membership would also be helpful, as we try to collect more valid and useful data. As I mentioned previously, what has happened to the Mosaic Scholarship participants, Mosaic Fellows, and Harold J. Pinkett Scholars? Are they still in the profession or have they moved to other careers? Why? How can we truly assess and improve our recruiting and retention efforts to expand the diversity of the profession? How effective is our mentoring program? Does our partnering structure work? How can we improve this experience? It is time to explore the ways we can truly examine our hiring and organizational practices.
  • It is apparent that the archives profession has many economic issues. These range from how graduates find the programs they attend, the lack of underrepresented communities participating as archivists, the increasing number of students, the limited number of permanent positions, and the overwhelming prevalence of Part-Time and Temporary positions, among others. SAA members recently reviewed the Best Practices for Internships and Volunteers, with many good ideas for revisions. However, in addition to these Best Practices I would suggest we proactively develop solutions for institutions to consider.Some possible ideas:
  • Investigate grant possibilities for the support, either profession-wide, or a consortium of institutions, much like our MOSAIC program to provide financial support
  • Fundraising in your home institution to create endowments or expendable accounts to support interns, and SAA-developed guidelines on how to make that happen.
  • Provide best practices to guide archivists communicating with their local graduate archives programs (who require internships as part of their degree process) to discuss these concerns further and develop ways to either provide support for interns, tuition remission, or provide the credit hours without cost to the student.

Given that the Task Force will most likely recommend the creation of an SAA Committee dedicated to Research, I would therefore propose the consideration of a subcommittee answering to the larger group. This subcommittee would be specifically dedicated to economic equity and collect data about employment matters, including benefits, internships, salaries, how and when graduates enter entry-level positions, promotions, retirement, and broader work topics such as developing apprenticeship programs and how to make our labor visible.

Until we have the data and the ability to thoroughly analyze the results, it is difficult for SAA to respond in a substantive manner.

It will always be difficult for a large/complex organization to move nimbly and be flexible, given competing priorities and SAA’s commitment to building consensus. Does SAA always get it right? Of course not.

However, I would argue that SAA succeeds more often than it fails. And I would like to believe that we are an organization that learns from its mistakes to do things better the next time.

Much like democracy, SAA is us, after all.

Challenges for the Archives Profession

While SAA faces significant tests, the broader archives profession also faces challenges. Sometimes these intersect and overlap, but not always. By joining SAA, you have already chosen a leadership position for the profession, and it is important to 1) be knowledgeable about organizations and affiliated professions other than your own and 2) consider how decision-making and discussions can also affect non-SAA members.

  1. The Value of the Public Record

Over the past three decades, there have been increasing pressures on the very concept of public records, something so key to the functioning of our American democracy. Secrecy and efforts to hide corruption and wrongdoing and “fake news” have been present in our political life dating back to the earliest days of the Republic. As we now live in a digital world, many of our basic beliefs about what can be controlled in the creation or alteration of a record, its authenticity and very meaning are called into question. Preservation and access to the public record, whether you are a government records archivist or not, should be a concern to you as a citizen.

The political spoils of our election system do have consequences for the historical record and have a direct impact on the efficacy of the archival enterprise. Current challenges for government archives sustainability include the overall shrinkage of governments and budget cuts for archives; the political appointments of individuals without archives experience or backgrounds; archives being subsumed by government bureaucracy and overwhelmed by unfunded mandates; and officials not understanding the role or importance of electronic records and digital preservation.

Citizens still have ways to challenge and question records restriction or destruction and protect open access, including FOIA requests, Sunshine laws, and calls for public comment on appraisal decisions. Just two weeks ago, CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) have brought Federal Records Act (FRA) lawsuits against the EPA, filed a FOIA request with the State Department, and after filing a complaint with NARA, an investigation is underway to determine if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the law by deleting records of immigrant families split at the border.

I would ask of you to serve as archives experts and responsible citizens to closely monitor your local archives, state archives and SHRABS, and NARA. Be an advocate and stay informed. Write letters to the local newspapers and talk with your legislators and representatives about the importance of archives. There are advocacy publications and affordable webinars forthcoming from SAA—use them. SAA and individual archivists have an important role to play as consistent and constant advocates.

  1. International Human Rights

I represented SAA at the International Council on Archives in Mexico City last fall and I came to some conclusions about the importance of SAA’s international activities. We have a major role to play in the American hemisphere and world, not only as a role model, but also sharing resources such as disaster funding, copyright discussions, and developing collaborative projects which can impact archivists in multiple countries. Given our meeting location in Austin next year, I would very much like to see a concerted effort to invite archivists from throughout the American hemisphere, especially Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and Southern America to join us and discuss both the questions and possibilities.

The documentation of human rights was also discussed. Past SAA President and former Interim Archivist of the United States Trudy Petersen reported on her work with Swisspeace, an effort (in collaboration with ICA) to preserve records in digital format in different geographic locations for protection purposes. They recently shared the draft Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk for comment from the archives community. Amnesty International is also announcing a project for the preservation of digital records. According to their press release, “the new archive will accelerate investigations into human rights violations and protect digital records of significant historical importance to the global movement.” It is important we support this work and recognize that both activists and archivists play a role in ensuring the preservation and access to these records.

  1. Allied Memory Organizations and Professions

The various communities comprising digital humanities, digital libraries, history, library, museum, and public history fields that overlap with the archives profession continue to expand and splinter. There is a distinct need to map our associated collection and memory professions and how our grants, projects, and research activities impact all of us.

Later today, we will be meeting with representatives of nearly 20 organizations, including the American Association for State and Local History, the Association for Moving Image Archivists, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Digital Library Federation, and RBMS, among others. We plan to discuss how we can more effectively collaborate and share information about data gathering, advocacy strategies, research methodologies, and user infrastructure, when we remain so incredibly siloed.

  1. Leadership and Service

I want to conclude this presentation with some brief points about your own leadership practice as I believe this is where SAA truly has so much to offer to each of you. Both SAA and the archives profession need you. It needs every one of you—your energy, your willingness to work hard, your perspective. Keep these things in mind as you write your own story.

Be strategic and mindful about your archives career and service. Dedicate yourself to what you truly care about and are willing to spend the time on.

Leaders are made, not born. Consider every experience you have as an important step on your path and as a part of your individual story.

Believe in yourself and share yourself with others. Smile and say hello to someone at this meeting you don’t know. Share a story from your archives. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. When a colleague calls on you for advice, answer.

Finally, I would also advise the following given how emotionally taxing our work can be at times.

Remember why you do what you do. Take time for reflection and introspection.

Take comfort in the friendship and support of your archives friends and colleagues.

Appreciate and feel the gratitude of your donors, no matter if they are individuals, offices, or agencies.

Remember the integral role you play in creating the historical record. Be creative and strategic on how you accomplish your vocation.

And here’s my final thought. While archivists are about records, what we really are about is people. The people who created and saved the records, present, past, and future and the people who want to use them to construct new narratives. Our mission is how can we best serve as thoughtful and dedicated intermediaries to ensure their stories and lives are not forgotten.

Thank you for sharing this time with me today.

Guest Post: What about Denver? Or Minneapolis? by Nancy Beaumont, Executive Director-SAA

What About Denver? Or Minneapolis?

Discussion of SAA Annual Meeting sites is cyclical and generally heats up in the spring, just as we begin registration for the upcoming conference. Members begin thinking about whether they’ll attend this year—and, inevitably, where they’d rather be going.

In a recent Twitter exchange, tweeters calculated the number of times the Annual Meeting has been held in each region of the country, commented about a return to the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, and suggested that we consider Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati, Dallas, Vermont, British Columbia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Boulder, Fort Collins, or Denver.  I’ve been contacted directly about Salt Lake City, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Miami, and a host of other cities.

So how do we go about selecting SAA’s Annual Meeting sites?

Every two to three years our meeting logistics firm, Conference & Logistics Consultants (C&LC), and I take on the resource-intensive task of site selection to ensure that we have sites booked at least three to four years in advance of a conference.

C&LC issues an RFP that is based on both SAA’s Principles and Priorities for Continuously Improving the Annual Meeting[1] and the realities of our conference as it has evolved. The Principles and Priorities stress affordability, accessibility, diversity and inclusion, technology, experimentation, fair labor practices, social responsibility, and “green” practices. And the realities? For starters:

  • Availability in July or August.
  • Regional rotation to ensure that all members can expect proximity at least every four to five years.
  • At least 600 sleeping rooms on two “peak” nights, and proximity to overflow hotels.
  • At least 60,000 square feet of meeting space to accommodate 8-11 concurrent education sessions + 46 section meetings + 30 appointed group meetings + various “affiliate” meetings + an 18,000-square-foot room for general sessions + additional space for an exhibit hall—all over the course of four days.
  • Free and reliable Internet access in sleeping and meeting rooms.
  • Inexpensive food options.
  • Access to cultural venues.
  • Reasonable weather.
  • Relatively easy and affordable access via air, train, or car.

C&LC’s continuously updated database includes details about convention centers and bureaus; hotels’ renovation schedules and room capacities; hotel chains’ announcements about new builds; and airlines’ services and hubs. To the extent possible without a government affairs staff, we maintain a list of states and cities whose laws and regulations may conflict with SAA’s Principles.

And so the matching game begins. I consult with the SAA Council all along the way—as we issue the RFP, receive responses, and narrow the list and craft a schedule.

In this last round the list was pretty narrow to begin with, particularly for western destinations. We hoped to consider Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Seattle—each of which declined to bid. See Salt Lake City’s response: “Thank you for your consideration of Salt Lake. The SAA date range from early July to mid-August are some of our busiest weeks in Salt Lake. Unfortunately in reviewing the projected attendance, space and utilization on the convention center; Visit Salt Lake will not be able to offer a proposal utilizing the convention center and adjacent hotels. We asked the Grand America Hotel to review the RFP for possible opportunity to offer a proposal and they also declined.  While 2021/2022 did not provide opportunity for Salt Lake to offer proposals for SAA, we do look forward to future opportunity when perhaps SAA could be considered.” [Emphasis added.] We have been invited to reapply in July 2020 in case SLC has not yet sold the space.

Each year I encourage the Program Committee to consider alternatives to 11 concurrent education sessions x 7 blocks.  Each year I alert the Council to the challenges of accommodating 46 section meetings. How might we innovate?  As long as certain traditions remain, we’re locked into venues that can handle them….

With Executive Committee approval, I have just signed contracts for the Boston Sheraton Back Bay in 2022 and the Washington Hilton in 2023. I depart for a site visit to Anaheim on June 19 to see if it’s a good fit for 2021. Wish us luck!

[1] https://www2.archivists.org/statements/principles-and-priorities-for-continuously-improving-the-saa-annual-meeting

Guest Post from the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee

2018 Program Committee Update: What Happens During the January Meeting?
Following our meeting earlier this month—and building on the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 theme of “Promoting Transparency,” the Program Committee is happy to share more information on our session selection process.

Meg Tuomala, SAA Program Committee Co-chair

Purpose and Process
Every year in early January the program committee meets at the SAA offices in Chicago. This meeting is a three-day, in-person meeting where we make discuss proposals as a group and make decisions on the education sessions that will be offered at the annual meeting. More on how the committee approached the review process can be found in the January/February issue of Archival Outlook.

Committee Membership
Because SAA is meeting with CoSA and NAGARA this year, the committee is composed of 15 members from all three organizations. Additionally, there are three co-chairs, one representing each organization.

  • Debbie Bahn (NAGARA co-chair)
  • Lisa Speer (CoSA co-chair)
  • Meg Tuomala (SAA co-chair)
  • Barrye Brown (SAA)
  • Catherine Carmack (NAGARA)
  • Dorothy Davis (CoSA)
  • Kate Donovan (SAA)
  • Matthew Francis (SAA)
  • Brad Houston (SAA)
  • Christina Orozco (SAA)
  • Arian Ravanbakhsh (NAGARA)
  • Dennis Riley (CosA)
  • Sara Seltzer (SAA)
  • Kristopher Stenson (NAGARA)
  • Mitch Toda (SAA)
  • Joyce Gabiola (ex-officio, 2019 co-chair)
  • Rachel Winston (ex-officio, 2019 co-chair)

SAA Staff Support
This meeting would not be possible without SAA staff. Here are just a few examples of the expertise and support that they offer to the Program Committee during the meeting.

Felicia Owens, SAA’s Governance Coordinator, plans all meeting logistics and makes sure the committee is well fed and comfortable in Chicago. She takes notes during the meeting to help with follow-up communications and messaging.

Matt Black, SAA’s Web and Information Systems Administrator, runs the meeting technology. In addition to getting committee members all of the proposal rankings and documentation we need in advance of the meeting, he runs ad hoc reports on session topics, proposers, session types, and other numbers throughout the meeting. This is integral to ensuring that the program is balanced and that we’re staying on track and hitting our mark.

Carlos Salgado, Manager of SAA’s Service Center, is on hand to help wherever and whenever needed. He takes notes during the meeting to help with follow-up communications and messaging, and plays a major role in facilitating all of the notifications that are sent to session proposers and speakers post-meeting.

Nancy Beaumont, SAA’s Executive Director, keeps the meeting on track and provides expert advice and guidance when the committee can’t seem to come to consensus on the discussion at hand. Her years of experience planning SAA’s annual meetings are an invaluable asset to the Program Committee. Nancy ensures that the meeting is focused, that our discussions move the program forward, and that our main goal—leaving Chicago with the program drafted—is met.

Johnny Hadlock from NAGARA and Barbara Teague from CoSA were also on hand this year to ensure that the needs of their memberships were represented and met.

Outcomes and Highlights
During our three days together we selected 72 education sessions and a handful of alternate sessions for the Joint Annual Meeting. This year we will offer a dedicated records management track and, as in past years, we have reserved a handful of spots for pop-up sessions. Look for a call for pop-up proposals later this spring.

2018 Program Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We’re Looking For: Taking Your Session Proposal from Good to Excellent

A Guest Post from by the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee:

The theme for the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA is Promoting Transparency. This theme acknowledges that archivists and records administrators embrace principles that foster the transparency of our actions and inspire confidence in both the record and our professions. We value transparency in the record and records processes, the responsibility it gives to our work and actions, and how it allows us to be held accountable by our constituencies. The programming offered at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 will use that recognition to clearly and openly address why and how we do our work.

In keeping with this theme, the Program Committee for ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 would like to share more on our process with the SAA membership. Over the course of the year we’ll be contributing to Off the Record to share more on different parts of our work. In this first post, we’ll share our thoughts on what we’re looking for in a proposal, posing the question: What takes a session proposal from good to excellent?

Program Committee members’ thoughts on what they’ll be looking for during proposal evaluation follow. We hope that proposers will use this to craft excellent proposals as the deadline for submission—Wednesday, November 15—approaches!

  • For me, a good proposal is free from ambiguities. Ideally, after reading the proposal I will have clearly understood the submitter’s target audience(s), topic and contents, presentation methodology, and intended take-away(s) for the audience. (Debbie Bahn, Washington State Archives)
  • An excellent proposal provides a hook that will grab your audience. Also remember a catchy title should show how your topic is relevant and useful, and deliver truth in advertising. (Dorothy Davis, Alabama Department of Archives and History)
  • To me, the best proposals have a clear focus and set of outcomes, regardless of topic. In other words, the submission addresses directly what information or experience they’re trying to convey and what they expect attendees to take away from the session. I’m more likely to approve a proposal with clear goals that doesn’t interest me than one in my area of focus that sort of meanders. (Brad Houston, City of Milwaukee)
  • A good proposal should have a direct and clear connection to the theme, not muddled or overly wordy. An excellent proposal would be direct but also communicate the enthusiasm the writer(s) have for the theme of the conference. Enthusiasm that would hopefully engage attendees if the proposal is chosen. (Christina Orozco)
  • Aside from being clear with why the proposal is important or has value to the profession, the types of sessions I find most rewarding are those that are framed to stimulate discussion and are less focused on simply recounting a case study. Proposals that demonstrate they are as much (if not more) for the audience to engage with or stimulate some new perspective, concept, or practice, and less for the panelists to hold forth on their niche project, would typically catch my eye for selection. (Dennis Riley, New York State Archives)
  • I like when archivists share “what really happened” with their work, both the successes and the failures. Presenting archival practice in all its complexity allows attendees to learn from speakers’ breadth of experience rather than sit back and wish their institution was equipped with the same resources and opportunities. (Sara Seltzer, J. Paul Getty Trust)
  • I place a high value on sessions that discuss real-world issues that archives and records management professionals face every day, and focus on practical ways in which we can overcome these challenges. Does the session invite discussion of solutions, or does it simply highlight problems? The former brings greater value to the participants and attendees alike, and will be given more weight in my mind. (Kris Stenson, Oregon State Archives)
  • Proposals that show creativity in thought and processes, but that are grounded in the practicalities of daily archival work, will be what I will be looking for in proposals. Submissions that demonstrate more than an idea of how things could/should work, but rather illustrate the actual archival work (successfully or unsuccessfully) will be given my top priority. Also anything that includes user studies/surveys would be a plus. (Mitch Toda, Smithsonian Institution Archives)
  • This year I’m looking for proposals that will bring something fresh and new to the program. Some examples include inclusion of panelists or commentators that aren’t in a traditional archivist or records manager role; alternative and interactive formats—such as performances, role-plays, or games; or sessions on emerging and radical topics that the profession is just starting to talk about. I want to see proposers challenge our assumptions on what a session at the Joint Annual Meeting can be! (Meg Tuomala, Gates Archive)

 

 

 

 

 

Statement from SAA Council

A recent post on the Campus Reform website has raised significant concerns among our members, our conference and discussion list participants, and the SAA Council. The piece references two presentations given at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland. Notwithstanding the author’s claim that she had “reached out to SAA, as well as the professors involved in the panels,” no member of the SAA Council or staff was contacted for comment.

SAA does not condone any acts of suppression, intimidation, or violence against its members and participants and stands with those who speak up about and work on inclusivity and diversity in archives, a core value that is valid and relevant to the archives profession. The SAA Council denounces those who have made or would make threats against our conference participants. SAA’s 2017 Annual Meeting program was created, developed, and presented by SAA members and local community leaders, and it is a program of which we are very proud.

The SAA Council also is concerned about a recent discussion on the Archives & Archivists Listserv in reaction to the Campus Reform post. SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont shut down the discussion thread on August 9 because several of the posters used unprofessional or intimidating language and the discussion was becoming redundant and circular. The purpose of the list is to foster discussion of archives and archives issues, including all aspects of the theory and practice of the archives profession. The Terms of Participation clearly prohibit personal attacks and inflammatory remarks of a personal nature. The SAA Council will be reviewing the role and future of the A&A List at its November 2017 meeting. In the meantime, posts will be moderated actively. If you have ideas about 1) how the List might be improved or 2) any new communication tools that we might consider as an enhancement to or substitute for the A&A List, please send your ideas to president@archivists.org.

We are seeking productive ways to continue the learning and important conversations that took place in Portland, and we welcome your ideas about how to do that.

Tanya

Portland in 2017: Confronting “The Whitest City in America”

Contributed by Maija Anderson, Host Committee Chair.

Just a few days after I finished writing a cheerful Host Committee greeting for SAA’s on-site conference program, I heard the devastating news that three men had been stabbed – two of them fatally – by a white supremacist who was hurling racist invective at two young women of color. It all took place on a MAX light rail train near a busy transit center in Portland. My initial reaction was both shock and a familiar sorrow. Portland has a reputation as a progressive, prosperous city with a low violent crime rate. However, like anyone with even a passing knowledge of local history, I also registered the event as a frightening recurrence of racist violence, which is as much a part of Portland’s legacy as its rose gardens, bridges, and breweries.

The following week, the Host Committee recognized that some archivists were questioning whether Portland was a safe place to visit for the Annual Meeting. We saw calls for archivists to protect each other, and for SAA to issue an official statement, which was forthcoming. Initially, I felt defensive. Portland isn’t perfect – for example, I anticipated that colleagues who expected an urban utopia would be shocked by our highly visible houseless population – but I still thought of Portland as a safe city. At the same time, I felt the Host Committee should respond. All of us on the committee were well aware of Oregon’s history of white supremacy, and Portland’s status as “the whitest city in America.” Most of us on the committee are white women, and are aware that we have the privilege of feeling safe, and experiencing racially charged violence as a freak occurrence. We recognize the reality that women of color encounter disproportionately high rates of violence. We wanted to provide a safe and welcoming environment, and we were not in a position to tell our colleagues, especially our colleagues of color, that they have nothing to worry about.

Taking into account the reactions from our peers on social media, email lists, and via personal contact, we explored opportunities to respond. For a variety of reasons, we chose not to issue our own “official” statement in response to SAA’s. We agreed it would be more effective to focus on peer-to-peer communication and support.

Several of us independently came up with the idea of promoting Portland’s many cultural resources led by historically marginalized communities. We felt that national news coverage had inadequately represented communities who have demonstrated resistance and resilience in the face of white supremacy. Follow #saa17 on Twitter to learn about community-based cultural projects, institutions, and businesses in Portland. Consider coming to open houses at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, where staff are generously opening their doors to attendees.

You can also expect the Host Committee to fully support SAA’s efforts, which will include “I’ll Walk With You” ribbons, active bystander resources, and more. Looking forward to the meeting, we welcome more feedback on how we, as your colleagues in Portland, can support you.

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:

Individuals:

  • 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.

Groups:

  • 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.

Association:

  • 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).

Community:

  • 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 (president@archivists.org), any member of the Council, your component group leader, or Executive Director Nancy Beaumont (nbeaumont@archivists.org). 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 www.illgowithyou.org.