Category Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Update from the Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force: Guest Post by SAA Council Member Steven Booth

At its November 2017 meeting, the SAA Council approved the formation of the Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force. This initiative, proposed by the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section, grew out of discussions held at the 2016 Annual Meeting surrounding the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL, and the need for resources and assistance to help local archivists who are personally affected by disasters/tragedies collect and preserve materials.

Since January 2018, the Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force has worked diligently towards fulfilling its charge of 1) creating and/or compiling material for ready accessibility by archivists who are facing a sudden tragedy, and 2) exploring the feasibility of creating a standing body within SAA that would update documentation as needed and serve as a volunteer tragedy response team.

Much of our effort to date has focused on researching and compiling policies and best practices, building relationships with allied organizations, and serving as contacts for communities and individuals that are managing tragedy-related collections. One of the first activities completed by the Task Force was a bibliography of articles and monographs related to archives, disasters/tragedies, and memorial and commemorative collections. We are currently using the bibliography to aid in our process of drafting policies and templates, and will continue to add resources to it, which will be shared with the SAA membership at a later date.

Additionally, we have successfully contacted numerous archivists and allied professionals from various repositories including the City of Boston Archives (Marathon Memorial), 9/11 Memorial Museum, Orange County Regional History Center, University of Houston Special Collections, Rice University, the HIstoric New Orleans Collection, Tulane University, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Louisiana State Museum to acquire information about their endeavors to document and preserve disaster/tragedy-related collections. We have also received samples of documentation from the Littleton Museum (Columbine High School Memorial), a memorandum of agreement between the Town of Newtown (Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) and the Connecticut State Library, and an archival job description for processing memorial collections from Syracuse University. As we continue to have conversations with our colleagues and discuss best practices, the Task Force is tracking the types of policies and procedures we hope to compile examples of and create templates for.

Following one of the charged responsibilities to collaborate with allied organizations, the Task Force Chair, Lisa Calahan and others on the committee have connected with several national organizations about our efforts and has received positive feedback from the Special Libraries Association, American Alliance of Museums, Oral History Association, and National Council on Public History (NCPH), although what “collaboration” looks like is yet to be determined. One positive outcome is that Lisa attended the annual conference for the National Council on Public History and participated in a meeting to discuss potential collaboration and resource sharing opportunities with NCPH members.

Lastly, an unexpected activity of the Task Force that is not represented in the official charge, but that we expect to continue, is to provide immediate advice for community members and archivists actively collecting memories of tragedy. The Task Force has been contacted by a Parkland, FL city commissioner to advise on best practices for managing memorial material, and interviewed by WBUR (Boston NPR) for an article on the 5-year commemoration of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

The Task Force expects to submit its final report and recommendations to the SAA Council no later than January 2020. In the meantime, if you are interested in contributing sample documentation and sharing your experience with disaster/tragedy collections or have suggestions for the Task Force to consider, please contact us here or send an e-mail to president@archivists.org, thank you!

Grappling with our Difficult Past: How Can Archivists Help?

Last fall, after the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, I wrote a post concerning memorials and monuments of oppression and how we, as archivists, could help communities grappling with these difficult issues. I also promised that the SAA Council’s Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion would begin working on a toolkit for archivists that would provide these kinds of resources for archivists working with their communities. This work is continuing, and if you have any resources you would like to share, please send it to Courtney Chartier, the Working Group chair.

This past month, I compiled a Memorials and Monuments of Oppression Bibliography for Archivists Working with Communities,  some entries are described below. I also hope we will be able to work with archives students to annotate these entries to provide further context for users.

As South African professor, activist, and artist Pitika Ntuli has said, “Monuments and memorials are vivid manifestations of a people’s heritage. They are a form of capturing history for generations to come. They instantly inform observers about where we have been, and what we achieved historically, culturally and politically. The need for monuments appears to be innate in human nature. This is evident from the many various markers that humans create.”

Although many of the resources I have found reflect the issue of Confederate memorials, there are also international examples that may prove helpful in confronting and documenting traumatic events, ranging from South Africa to Yugoslavia as well as contentious moments from our own past.

I have listed additional resources (sans annotation) further below. If you are interested in receiving the entire bibliography before it is available online, please contact me at president@archivists.org

Online Resources:

American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Webinar: Grappling with Confederate Monuments and Iconography
Recorded in 2016, this free webinar recording includes AASLH’s Bob Beatty as he moderates a discussion with author and public historian Kevin Levin, Gordon Jones of the Atlanta History Center, and Dina Bailey of the Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn how those involved with history can respond to tragic events, such as the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

National Council on Public History, Special Virtual Issue of the Public Historian. Monuments, Memory, Politics and Our Publics
This volume contains several articles and essays ranging from the study of public history and memory, memorializing historic sites ranging from Manzanar, Horseshoe Bend, Fort Sumter, and examining issues relating to the architecture of racial segregation, the Holocaust, and the role of public art.

Organizations:

International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
The Coalition is the only international organization dedicated to historic sites, museums, and memory initiatives. Their focus is on documenting for the purposes of truth and justice, especially in war-torn countries. For more on this issue, please see the previous call for comments on Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk

The Coalition also provides a Toolkit for Essential Engagement, Training and Coaching

Articles and Monographs:

Bonnell, Jennifer and Roger I. Simon. “‘Difficult’ Exhibitions and Intimate Encounters.”
This article provides a comparative analysis of two recent Swedish exhibitions: The Museum of World Culture’s No Name Fever: AIDS in the Age of Globalization; and Kulturen’s Surviving: Voices from Ravensbrück. The authors describe how these exhibitions “attempt to position their viewers in relation to violence and suffering of ‘others’ distant in time, place, or experience.”

Additional Resources

Selected Online Resources:

Confederate Monuments Syllabus: A Crowdsourcing Project About Confederate Monuments and Civil War Memory: From #NOLA to #Cville

History and Heritage, Memory and Memorialization: Confederate Monuments After Charlottesville: A Collection of Articles, Interviews, and Statements made by Historians

Labode, Modupe. Reconsideration of Memorials and Monuments, American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) (2016)

Southern Poverty Law Center: Teaching Hard History

Organizational Toolkits and Training:

History Relevance Toolkit

Selected Articles and Monographs:

Araujo, Ana Lucia, Editor. Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Levinson, Sanford. Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

Linenthal, E. T. and T. Engelhardt, Editors. History Wars: the Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Henry Holt, 1996.

Savage, Kirk. Monument Wars: Washington D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Schwartz, Barry. “The Social Context of Commemoration: A Study in Collective Memory.” Social Forces. Vol. 61, No. 2 (December 1982): 374-402.

 

 

 

 

SAA Appointments

Even as SAA Vice President Meredith Evans is preparing her Call for Volunteers for release this fall, I’d like to share a bit more about the entire appointments process. Having now been through the entire procedure, I think that selecting appointees is one of the most important duties of the Vice President/President-Elect, and it’s important that we are transparent in reporting on and documenting all we do. One of the greatest challenges is that we simply don’t have enough volunteer slots to accommodate the large number of applicants each year. Please consider leadership opportunities within SAA’s sections, which often do not have a lot of volunteers and often offer rich opportunities for involvement.

I would like to sincerely thank my Appointments Committee: Jelain Chubb and Bill Landis (co-chairs) and members Andrea Jackson, Elena Colón-Marrero, Sammie Morris, and Helen Wong Smith. The Appointments Committee does the important work of reviewing all applications and sorting them into easily reviewable spreadsheets with prioritized recommendations for the Vice President to consider. Special thanks also to Felicia Owens, SAA’s governance coordinator, who manages these spreadsheets and organizes them by committee, subcommittee, task force, and working group. The process is aided, too, by input from committee chairs who indicate their preferences for membership based on a particular need for a skill set.  When all is said and done, the buck stops with the Vice President. I spent a lot of time reviewing all the recommendations, keeping in mind the need to involve new members of the profession and new volunteers, as well as the critical importance of diversity in background, geographic representation, and repository type in broadening our understanding and perspective.

So, here are some basic numbers from the 2016-2017 appointments process. Please note I used the term diverse to apply primarily to archivists of color and LGBTQ archivists.

Number of volunteer positions available:  96

Number of archivists who applied:  180

Number of archivists appointed who have never held a position in SAA:  41  (42%)

Number of diverse archivists appointed:   34 (35%)

Number of interns appointed:  16 (out of 50 applications)

Overall, how many people participate in SAA leadership? Although my unscientific count via the SAA website could include some duplication, the total appears to be approximately 631 archivists who are participating in SAA leadership activities.

When you see the Call for Volunteers in Archival Outlook, on the SAA website, and in your email box, Meredith and I hope that you’ll give serious thought to applying. Do read the guidelines carefully, as they will provide advice for submitting your best possible application. (And please be selective about the opportunities. Those who indicate an interest in every vacancy seldom are appointed.)

And a special reminder to those of you who are now serving as interns for a Committee or Section: please apply for a position and use everything you have learned for your next step.

It is in the interest of SAA that we are able to involve anyone who wishes to contribute to the organization. I know that professional associations can sometimes be intimidating, but my focus in the next year will be to find creative ways for SAA to be even more welcoming for all its members. For now, would you like to talk more about how you can contribute to SAA? Do you have an idea you would like to share? Please contact me directly at president@archivists.org and we’ll talk!

Some Remarks on the SAA Council’s Recent Statement on White Supremacy

My very first job as a young archivist was at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, where I learned to process and describe collections and also to grapple with the enormity, complexity and, quite often, the awfulness of American history. As a transplanted Yankee, it did not take me long to figure out the reason for the Confederate flag above the Capitol, or why the state holidays list included Martin Luther King, Jr./Robert E. Lee Day (still) and Confederate Memorial Day. 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 the country. The symbols of oppression and our violent past are all around us, as indicated in this list compiled by The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/17/public-symbols-landmarks-racist-confederate-flag

SAA traditionally has not commented on issues or events not related to archives or records, but have reserved our judgments for areas in which our archival experience means something. The recent events in Charlottesville point to the need for archivists to use our expertise to assist communities in researching and determining the meaning and value of the names, images, and monuments in their midst, and whether what those symbols represent is historical truth or something else.

The Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group was created in 2014 to provide the Council with greater focus and direction in achieving the Society‘s strategic goals in D&I, explore meaningful new initiatives in this area, and coordinate the work of appropriate component groups to leverage their contributions into broader cultural competency for the Council, staff, and members. Now led by Courtney Chartier, its members include Steven Booth, Amy Cooper Cary, Meredith Evans, and Audra Eagle Yun. The group‘s highest priority in the coming months is to create a toolkit for archivists to use with local community members when they are faced with these hard issues. A number of individuals and SAA groups have already volunteered to assist the working group as needed, which is greatly appreciated. Courtney‘s team will submit a concept to the broader Council for discussion at its November meeting, a draft for review on the Council’s January conference call, and a final version for approval in May. If you have ideas or resources you think should be considered, please send them to me at president@archivists.org and I will pass them on to the working group.

I have been reflecting on some eloquent words by a friend, Mary Foskett, on Charlottesville, which I pass along with her permission:

“Throughout my week in Berlin, and even more since returning home, I have been thinking about what a difference it could make if we had more memorials and monuments, not fewer, to make us pause, take stock of our history, and commit to becoming our best selves as a people. Specifically historical markers noting the spaces and places and lives brutalized by our nation’s history of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy, and the courageous men and women who stood up against it, markers urging us on, together, to remember and to do better. Berlin has challenged me to contemplate more deeply the power of facing ourselves in the hope of becoming our best selves. Charlottesville reminds me that we haven’t a moment to lose. ”

As always, if you have questions or concerns, please share them with me at president@archivists.org  My next post, in early September, will be an expanded version of my Incoming President remarks at SAA’s Business Meeting on Friday, July 28.

Barriers to Participation Survey Report

Contributed by Kate Dundon and Matthew Gorzalski, Membership Committee

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed members about the barriers hindering participation in SAA.  We wanted to identify the issues affecting members’ engagement with the organization, and propose strategies to foster greater participation. The report is available on the SAA Membership Committee microsite. The survey returned 1,279 responses, or 21% of total SAA individual membership.  This blog post highlights some of the findings.

Slightly over half (52%) of respondents indicated that they’d like to be more involved in SAA.  When asked to choose from a list of barriers, respondents are most hindered by lack of financial support (58%) and lack of time (47%), followed by feelings of inexperience (28%) and uncertainty on how to become involved (22%).  Others (12%) noted unsuccessful attempts at appointment or election to a leadership position.

Comments from the free text response question revealed an interesting dichotomy of members’ perspective concerning SAA as an insular organization versus its efforts to engage membership in recent years. Many members experience feelings of intimidation and unwelcomeness that contribute to their hesitation to participate in SAA. These include: perception of cliquish leadership and membership; first-time annual meeting attendees intimidated by the size of the conference; low proportion of people of color in SAA; perception that SAA is dominated by the interests of academic archives; and the perception that the organization is dominated by liberal political views. On the other hand, others remarked that SAA has become significantly more engaging over time, particularly to younger members. One respondent stated, “New members have never had such opportunities for service.”

This survey has given us a better understanding of the complex barriers faced by members in participating in the organization. The Membership Committee compiled a list of suggestions for addressing these obstacles in our report, many of which were presented to us by survey respondents. Below is a small selection of the actions that we think would be the most impactful:

  • Continue to create more opportunities to participate virtually in order to mitigate geographic and financial barriers to participation. Consider live streaming annual meeting sessions, plenaries, and section and committee meetings. When feasible, provide recorded professional development workshops online for a fee.
  • Create a “Get Involved” section on the SAA website that clearly articulates the various paths toward involvement in committees, sections, etc., and centralizes information about all leadership positions. Open elected positions and committee appointments, with with estimated time commitments, could be posted to this centralized location.
  • Produce regular profiles of current SAA leaders or volunteers with a description of their path of service that led them to their current positions, perhaps in In the Loop or Archival Outlook. A respondent commented, “I think I’d have a clearer picture of how to start my own service with SAA if I saw examples of how others have done it.”

Do you have ideas about how to support engagement with SAA? Leave them in the comment section below!

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.