Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guest Post: Meg Phillips at the International Council on Archives (ICA) Meeting (Mexico City, Mexico)

Meg Phillips is the External Affairs Liaison for the National Archives and Records Administration and recently attended the ICA Meeting in Mexico City. This is a shortened version of the report she provided for her NARA colleagues:

The International Council on Archives held a joint meeting with the Association of Latin American Archivists (ALA) in Mexico City from November 27 to 29.  I attended for NARA.  I sit on the ICA’s Programme Commission (PCOM), support the ICA New Professionals program, and act as the Programme Commission’s liaison to the ICA Expert Group on Managing Digital and Physical Records.

Getting to attend ICA meetings for NARA is one of the highlights of my role as NARA’s External Affairs Liaison.  NARA is well-respected among the archives of the world and I feel that it is important that we are represented there.  There are always many questions and conversations about what NARA is doing, and opportunities to connect archivists from other countries to their counterparts at NARA.  And afterwards, I can bring back to NARA some highlights of the things I learned from our international peers.

In the interests of keeping this reasonably short, I’ll provide a top-ten list of tidbits that archivists might find interesting. 

Archives and Human Rights

1) As one of the PCOM members who supports the ICA New Professionals program, I got to talk to enthusiastic and interesting newcomers to archives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia, and the United States.  (The representative from the US was Mexican-American and passionate about community archiving among Mexican immigrant farm workers in his native California.)  One of the most memorable conversations I had was with the new professional from Argentina, who shared how the focus on using records to support human rights there is in tension with professional archival practice.  Funding opportunities, jobs, and institutional priorities are all going to records that document human rights violations or could be used to support human rights.  She explained that it is difficult to run a balanced, professional archival program that preserves history in general and conforms to best practices (keeping human rights records within their fonds) in that environment.

2) Former NARA Deputy and Acting Archivist Trudy Peterson helped run a workshop on behalf of the Human Rights Working Group, which ran an exercise where participants took turns reading articles from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and then the next person provided examples of archives or records that might be relevant to protecting – or proving a violation of – that right.  I found this exercise very effective.  I’d never spent so much time with the Declaration before, and I understand it and the human rights relevance of archives better now.  (The workshop did this in a combination of Spanish and English, muddling through with great good will.)

3) There were several presentations from Canada related to the system of Indian residential schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission work with which Library and Archives Canada has been involved to try to address the damage done to native Canadian cultures.  I shared some of the information NARA staff had compiled on BIA and (in particular) the Carlisle Indian School (Dickinson College) with Director of Library and Archives of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, who was interested to learn about the parallels in the US.  Carlisle Indian School (Dickinson College) was in the news this past year as the Army disinterred and returned the bodies of several children who died there.

4) Dagmar Hovestadt from the Stasi Archives in the former East Germany gave a great presentation about the role of the records of surveillance.  She said that, in addition to providing authentic evidence of what happened in the former regime,

“The archive itself has become a monument of surveillance.  It embodies in itself REPRESSION, REAPPRAISAL, and REVOLUTION.”

Digital Archives – and Digital Archivists

5) The Director of the Archives in the United Arab Emirates, which is particularly digitally oriented under a mobile-enabled government policy, has a Master’s Degree in cybersecurity.

‘Nuff said.

6) Erick Cardoso, the Director of IT at the Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico) and also in charge of digital preservation, has an IT background but is now pursuing an MA in archives from the University of North Texas.  One of my matchmaking missions was to find the people doing this work in Latin America, so I set up an email connection between him and our own Leslie Johnston.

7) I was a little starstruck to meet Bert de Vries, the Director of the Amsterdam City Archives, responsible for awesome map projects.

Disasters

8) The 2017 hurricane season revealed some unfortunate side-effects of ICA’s regional “branch” structure.  NARA is part of NAANICA – the North American Regional Branch of ICA – along with other US and Canadian archives.  In contrast to other regions of the world where there are many more countries and far fewer strong professional associations for archivists, NAANICA really only has two countries, and both of those countries are well-served by our own archives associations.

–  In contrast, CARBICA, which serves the countries of the Caribbean, is quite active.  CARBICA leapt into action after Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the region, reaching out to contact the archivists on the affected islands, organizing a survey of damage and needs, and negotiating with ICA for disaster recovery resources from the parent organization.

– Even though Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are in the Caribbean, NARA has not traditionally been part of CARBICA.  Now I realize that communication about the status of the US islands would have been much easier if we had been plugged into that organization.  In fact, there is some discussion within ICA of finding ways of tying NAANICA, CARBICA, and the Association of Latin American Archivists (ALA) together more tightly so communication among all of us in the Americas could be smoother, especially in times of emergency.

9) Emilie Gagnet Leumas, the chair of the ICA Expert Group on Emergency Management Disaster Preparedness, who is from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and earned her disaster recovery chops during Katrina, was whisked away by UNESCO to assess earthquake damage to historic libraries and archives in Puebla, Mexico after the ICA meeting.  Emilie was a little nervous about this last minute arrangement and not sure what kind of damage the team would find.  In fact, she fell in love with the city (“stunningly beautiful”) and reported that scaffolding stabilizing buildings was the major evidence of the earthquake’s destruction.  I emailed to make sure she was ok once I got home, and she wrote back:

“Puebla was nothing of what I expected. We never saw “damage” and piles of rubble like I expected. Everything was cleared and clean. There was some scaffolding holding up buildings and scaffolding in the Cathedral while men fixed the dome. Puebla is a stunningly beautiful, old colonial Spanish town. We spent time at the library and Archives surveying rare books and giving advice…. Puebla is on my list to return for a long weekend vacation. It was that beautiful.”

10) The Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico CIty consists of a modern new building built inside an old panopticon prison.  Although they did not have major damage during the earthquake, apparently it did cause a crack in the walls of the left wing of the old part of the building, so they didn’t come out completely unscathed, either.  The old prison has been beautifully remodeled and the center of the “eye” in the panopticon is a dramatic vaulted exhibit space.  Mexico City is a great city, full of amazing food, history, art, music, parks, and friendly people.  (Also traffic.  Lots of traffic.)  It hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but if I ever get a chance to go back, I will definitely go.

Finally….

the ICA’s New Professionals Programme just posted its invitation to apply for bursaries for the 2018 ICA meeting in Yaounde. This will be an archives adventure of the first order for a small group of new archivists, a guaranteed opportunity to meet the ICA leadership (which is extremely supportive of the New Professionals programme) and many other interesting archivists from all over the world, and also a chance to help the host archives, the National Archives of Cameroon, kick-start a new era of government support for archives and archives associations in Africa.

 

ALA President’s Response to USA Today

Dear all, here is a recent letter sent to USA Today by ALA President Jim Neal in response to libraries and archives being listed as a dying “industry.” As we enter 2018, please be reminded we are needed more than ever—to appraise, select, curate, and share our resources with those who need them. Happy New Year! Tanya

Tanya Zanish-Belcher
President, Society of American Archivists

Jim Neal ALA Letter

Guest Post from the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee

What We’re Doing: Proposal Evaluation and January Meeting

As you read this post, the thirteen members of the 2018 Program Committee are busy reviewing the 185 education sessions and 20 poster proposals (a record number!) received for consideration for ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018.

From mid-November to January 2 each committee member is reading, making comments on, and ranking every single proposal that was submitted. If you estimate a committee member spending 15 minutes on each proposal, that’s more than 50 hours spent reviewing! No small task.

In early January we will meet at the the SAA offices in Chicago to discuss the proposals in person and come to decisions on the education sessions and posters that will make up the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting program.

In the spirit of the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting theme—Promoting Transparency—a more detailed overview of our process will be published in the January/February 2018 issue of Archival Outlook. We invite you to read that when it comes out in mid-January.

We are thoroughly enjoying reading all your proposals and know that ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 will be a fantastic conference!

 

From the November SAA Council Meeting

At its November meeting, the SAA Council made several decisions that will be of interest to all SAA members.

First, the Council made the difficult (although unanimous) decision to decommission the Archives and Archivists Listserv, agreeing that this seemed to be the best time to regroup and plan for the future. In 2018, the SAA staff will be working on implementing a new Association Management System, paying special attention to the online community forums with which it will interface. The Council will also be taking time to review what guidelines and procedures will be needed to govern a new and inclusive space for archivists. Please contact me with any ideas at president@archivists.org.

I would also like to call your attention to the following:

  • The Council approved the Committee on Public Policy’s proposed revisions of the SAA Public Policy Agenda and Procedures for Suggesting SAA Advocacy Action, as well as issue briefs on Federal Classified Information and Controlled Unclassified Information and Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record.
  • Nearly 10 years ago, a working group of the Archives Management and Records Management roundtables created SAA’s “Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees with Physical Disabilities” and “Best Practices for Working with Archives Researchers with Physical Disabilities.” In November the Council approved creation of a Task Force on Accessibility to review, revise, and expand these Best Practices to include neuro-disability, temporary physical disabilities, and any other topics that should be considered within the scope of the document. I’m delighted that the following individuals have agreed to serve on the Task Force: Co-chairs Kathy Marquis and Sara White, as well as Krystal Appiah, Daria D’Arienzo, Alan Lefever, and Donna McCrea. Their final recommendations will be submitted by November 2018.
  • The Council has also approved creation of a Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force (proposed by the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section) to 1) create and/or compile material for ready accessibility by archivists who are facing a sudden tragedy and 2) explore the feasibility of creating a standing body within SAA that would update documentation as needed and serve as a volunteer tragedy response team. Vice President Meredith Evans will be making these appointments soon, and the group’s work will be completed in two years.

And finally, two pieces of news from the SAA Foundation. First, the guidelines for our National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives have been revised and expanded. The maximum grant award has been increased from $2,000 to $5,000 and, particularly in light of recent events, the Board will consider applications from Mexico and non-US Caribbean Islands. Second, the Foundation Board has agreed to explore the possibility of providing funding to assist archivists who need financial support to attend the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting. A subgroup of the Board will consider options for administering such a program on a one-time basis in 2018, including award amounts, eligibility, and criteria for vetting applications, and will report back to the Board by January 15, 2018. The cost of attending the Annual Meeting is often mentioned as a barrier to full participation in SAA. When I “retire” from my SAA presidency (but remain for one year on the Foundation Board), I will be exploring possible external funding sources for travel support. Stay tuned!

Disaster Resources

Earthquakes, fires, flooding, hurricanes. Fall 2017 appears to be non-stop disasters, particularly here in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. While families and communities may now be focused on survival and obtaining power, water, and shelter, the time will come when people are ready to turn their attention to the care of their cultural resources. What kinds of resources are available to aid in recovery? Many sources and links have been shared over the past few months, and I thought it would be helpful to combine them all into one blog post.

Funding:

First, please consider giving to the SAA Foundation’s National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives, which provides grants of up to $2,000 to archives in need. The NDRFA information page and application form have just been translated to Spanish (special thanks to Ana Rodriguez and María Isabel Molestina-Kurlat, co-chairs of LACCHA) to better reach all those who have been affected by recent natural disasters. As SAA President, I am a member of the Foundation Board, and we truly wish to encourage applications for these funds.

The Fund provides grants that support the recovery of archival collections from major disasters, regardless of region or repository type. Any repository that holds archival records or special collections is eligible to apply for a grant. The repository need not be a member of SAA. Grant monies may be used for the direct recovery of damaged or at-risk archival materials; such services as freeze drying, storage, transportation of materials, and rental facilities; supplies, including acid-free boxes and folders, storage cartons, cleaning materials, plastic milk crates, and protective gear; and to defray the costs for volunteers or other laborers who assist with the recovery. Access to these disaster funds as well as direct donations for Mexican and non-US Caribbean Islands archives are on the November agendas for both the Council and the SAA Foundation.

There are additional funding opportunities from federal and foundation sources for those in need. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairman’s Emergency Grants can provide up to $30,000 in affected disaster areas.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the granting arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has funding available.

Mellon Foundation: In the Eye of the Storm: How Federal Funding Rescues Arts and Culture in Times of Disaster.

The American Library Association has disaster funds available for those affected by hurricanes in the continental U.S. and Caribbean, as well as for those in Mexico affected by the earthquake.

Northeast Document Conservation Center: After the Hurricane, Resources for Saving Collections

Finally, the Asociación civil Apoyo al Desarrollo de Archivos y Bibliotecas de México (ADABI de México, A.C.) provides support for Archives and Libraries in Mexico.

Resources for Preserving Our Cultural Heritage:

For immediate advice or assistance: See the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Emergency Resources or contact NEDCC’s 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 855-245-8303, or Contact the National Heritage Responders at 202-661-8068.

FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution co-sponsor the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), a partnership of more than 50 national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies. To reach the administrator of the HENTF team, please email hentf@si.edu.

SAA provides a listing of Disaster Response and Relief Resources and also see May Day: Saving Our Archives Annotated Resources (SAA) as well as Hurricane Relief Resources (SAA).

Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, American Library Association, Disaster Preparedness Clearinghouse

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Courses in Emergency Management
for Cultural Heritage Responders

International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Finally, it is critically important that we all plan for future disasters that are sure to come. dPlan is an Online Disaster-Planning Tool for Cultural and Civic Institutions developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The development of the template was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).  As we look to the possibility of more disasters in the future, please keep in mind SAA’s Issue Brief on Archives and the Environment.

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, or ideas about how we can improve  disaster responsiveness for archives across the country, please let me know at president@archivists.org

 

 

Annual Meeting Remarks by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

Hello! Here is an expanded version of my remarks given at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland during the SAA Business Meeting, where I was given some brief time to share what I plan for us to work on together during the coming year. A year-long presidency is very short, but I believe we can achieve some tangible goals while also considering the future of the Society and of the archives profession. This post may be rather long, but I also think in the interest of transparency, it is important to share SAA’s current priorities.

It probably comes as no surprise for anyone that advocacy and outreach as well as diversity and inclusion will remain a focus for the Council and the Society in the coming year. Certainly we have already dealt with a number of diversity-related issues, including the tenor of discussion on the Archives and Archivists Listserv, the problem of white supremacy and how archivists can assist communities, and challenges associated with placement of the 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin.

Our Advocacy and Outreach efforts will include an SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on Access, which will review the 2009 Joint Statement with a goal of adding guidelines for born-digital materials. SAA’s Committee on Public Policy will also be reviewing and suggesting revisions to SAA’s Public Policy Agenda, which guides our decision-making in regard to making position statements and creating issue briefs. And given that we will be meeting with CoSA and NAGARA in Washington, D.C., there are already preliminary plans for lobbying training, Hill visits to implement this new training, and a possible meeting with the Congressional History Caucus. Stay tuned.

Diversity and Inclusion continues to be a high priority for SAA. This year we will implement the new Brenda S. Banks Travel Award (proposed by the Archives and Archivists of Color Section), which recognizes and acknowledges individuals of color employed in archives who manifest an interest in becoming active members of SAA. This award, which will be given to one individual per year, provides full financial support for attending the annual meeting and a 1-year membership. Thanks to the following Awards Subcommittee members for getting things started: Kathryn Neal (Chair), Gerald Chaudron, Shanee Murrain, and Margarita Vargas-Betancourt. As noted in my last blog post, the Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group will be creating and developing a toolkit that will be available to communities as they assess the historical value of the historical monuments in their midst.

Your Membership:  I want to explore ways to help every SAA member feel connected and valued. I would encourage every member to think about the value of SAA and why you are a member in the first place. What benefits does it provide that you need? Is it access to publications, the Annual Meeting, networking, opportunities for volunteering, leadership and skill development, standards, or continuing education?

And what should SAA provide that it currently doesn’t? What can we do to break down barriers to participation? The Council will be working on what we can do to make it easier for every member to achieve her or his true potential as a professional. For our November “Mega-Issue” discussion, Council members will review the most recent survey conducted by the SAA Membership Committee and consider ways in which to eliminate barriers to participation.

Archives and Archivists Listserv. When does a good thing become a liability? How do you balance free speech needs with professional development? Hard questions, indeed, and the SAA Council will be discussing the future role of the A & A Listserv at its November meeting. For those of you who may not know, the A & A Listserv was an independent entity for many years, with thousands of non-SAA members. SAA agreed to host the listserv as a service to the profession—both those in it and those considering joining it.  The Council has been down this road before, and I thought it would be helpful to share the report and minutes from that 2014 experience (see motions 5 and 6 on pages 12 and 13 of the minutes). Do you have comments you would like to share with me? Please let me know at president@archivists.org, and you are welcome to request anonymity. Unfortunately, whatever way Council decides to go, there will be people left unhappy. However, this also may provide us with new opportunities to discuss how we might better connect with each other, especially when we disagree.

Our Portland meeting was our second-best-attended conference ever, and I have no doubt that had a good deal to do with our excellent program. However, part of the Listserv discussion was more than a simple disagreement and may have put some of our members at risk, and that is completely unacceptable. These are dangerous times, and we must watch out for each other.

An important component of membership is assessing where we are. The recently appointed Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation will be anticipating SAA’s future efforts to conduct, facilitate, and evaluate research that will be useful as we make decisions about the future. Task Force members are: Michelle Light (Chair), Sarah Buchanan, Mahnaz Ghaznavi, Dennis Meissner, Dan Noonan, and Stacie Williams.

Finally, one of the most important responsibilities of each Council member is to practice Fiscal Responsibility and Stewardship of SAA’s finances through these challenging times. While our decision-making process is certainly not always about the money, funding does mean SAA can provide much-needed member services and even expand those services as we hope to do in Austin 2019. The SAA Foundation is also establishing additional financial resources for SAA members to access when needed and the Foundation already has awarded three grants for special projects. This is in addition to our very important National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives.

Of particular interest to me in the long term is my interest in expanding SAA’s financial support by collaborating and partnering with private foundations and other organizations that believe archives are important. We have long been reliant on federal funding agencies, but the time has come for us to find other resources that match our core values and give us more flexibility in decision-making.

I would ask all SAA members to think, for a moment, of the many individuals who attended the Annual Meeting and those who were not able to do, a total of more than 6,100 members—the depth and breadth of the experiences, energy, and commitment of all of you. During my time with SAA, I have always been impressed with the level of volunteerism our members demonstrate in doing the work of the Society and the profession. It is my job, in this brief time as your leader, to collaborate with you to harness all of that for SAA and for each other. The work we do is hard. It is emotionally challenging and sometimes difficult, and we face many of society’s broader challenges as well. I cannot guarantee this year will be easy for archivists or SAA (in fact, I already know it is not!), but I can promise that I will be there for you. I will also promise to guide SAA as we make very difficult decisions about our future with the goal being to do the best we can. If you have an idea or concern that you think should be considered or discussed, please contact me using the president@archivist.org e-mail address. Our organization is only as successful as our willingness to listen to each other.

As I close, I look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., where I will share a “State of SAA.” This address will compare and contrast today’s SAA to its past, review the results of the coming year, and provide some thoughts about where SAA’s future lies. In the meantime, let’s get to work!

 

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