A Final Note from the ICA Meeting, Mexico City

One final comment on the ICA meeting in Mexico City. I had the opportunity to hear Trudy Huskamp Peterson, SAA past president and former Acting Archivist of the United States, speak about the work of swisspeace. Trudy is chair of ICA’s Human Rights Working Group and also served as archivist of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She has worked with numerous governments, groups, and organizations on archives issues and was the advisor to the National Police Historical Archive of Guatemala (Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN).

swisspeace is a practice-oriented peace research institute based at the University of Basel whose mission focuses on contributing to the improvement of conflict prevention and conflict transformation.  The institute is developing and applying new peacebuilding tools and methodologies through its Archives and Dealing with the Past Project. Of special interest is a proposed program for providing safe havens for archives at risk whereby the digital records will be stored elsewhere for permanent protection and retention.

swisspeace has been developing these tools focusing on four principles which are part of their Conceptual Framework:

  • The right to know
  • The right to justice
  • The right to reparations
  •  The guarantee of non-recurrence



Draft Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk–final call for comments

While this draft of the Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk has been shared previously, the final deadline for public comments is coming up. Please review and share your thoughts by February 28:


The draft Guiding Principles are a set of principles providing guidance on archival and ethical principles to be taken into account when planning the transfer of analogue or digital archives or copies thereof to another institution for safekeeping.

International Council on Archives Meeting, Mexico City 2017

I recently attended the International Council on Archives annual meeting in Mexico City, held jointly with the Asociación Latinoamericana de Archivos. The conference sessions were interesting (for the most part, conducted in English, Spanish, and French with translation), and Mexico City was a fascinating hubbub of 22 million people and their cars. The conference itself was held at Unidad de Congresos, the Centro Medico Nacional Siglo XXI and the theme was Archives, Citizenship, and Interculturalism. There were participants from 83 countries, including many from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This was the first time the ICA conference has been held in Latin America.


Margarita Vargas-Betancourt has shared her conference experiences on the International Archival Affairs Section blog: https://iaartsaa.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/weekly-news-roundup-and-report-on-ala-ica-december-12-2017/

SAA Past President Gregor Trinkaus-Randall also shared his opinion on the value of attending ICA in Mexico City: “As to the conference, I always find it enlightening to talk to archivists from other countries. Now that I have been going for six years, I now have some colleagues with whom I connect each year. I thought that the sessions that I attended were interesting and informative and projected perspectives that we would not normally hear at SAA. Granted, the sessions that I attended were mostly preservation/disaster related, they were informative and wide-ranging.”

Meg Phillips from NARA shared her perspective in a previous guest blog post.

ICA is meeting next in Yaounde, Cameroon, in November 2018.

I was invited to meet with Dr. Mercedes de Vega, the current Archivist of Mexico and the President of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Archivos. A special thanks to translators and SAA members Margarita Vargas-Betancourt and Natalie Baur who also attended the meeting.  Dr. de Vega is interested in learning more about how SAA is organized and possible collaborations between our two organizations. We discussed recent disasters in both Puerto Rico and Mexico, and how to better connect funding resources with damaged archives. As a reminder, repositories in the U.S., Mexico, and Caribbean are welcome to apply for funding, and thanks to SAA’s Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Section (LACCHA), this information is also available in Spanish. Please share with anyone whom you think may be interested or in need.

I gave a presentation focusing on the recent activities of the Society of American Archivists, focusing on advocacy, diversity and inclusion, and membership. I also spoke about what I see as current challenges to the archives profession. Here is a condensed version of my remarks related to the challenges that SAA and the archives profession face:

Transparency and Public Policy
The number of requests we receive from SAA members demonstrate the high level of interest in public policy in the U.S., particularly with the most recent election. The SAA public policy agenda is defined as any government policy—federal, state, or local—that directly affects the archival record, through legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions, funding priorities, and other regulatory measures. SAA is committed to monitoring and supporting policies that will ensure the protection of privacy and individual rights and ensure the transparency and accountability of government at all levels. However, in just the past 2 to 3 years, we have witnessed growing challenges to so many archives-related policies, so much so that it is difficult for a primarily volunteer organization to react to every one of them as we would like, but we must continue to try. There are also additional records access issues related to declassification, copyright, confidentiality, freedom of information laws, and surveillance that also require archivists to contribute their expertise and to ensure that we are heard by those in authority.

Digital Infrastructure
Recently the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) shared a final report and hosted a forum assessing how their funding distribution has propelled the development of a National Digital Platform. Among their goals were the inclusivity of diverse communities and sovereign tribal nations that make up the United States; radical and systemic collaboration to advance services through collaboration; decentralization and interoperability—a coordinated effort to develop cooperative tools and services; and supporting the continuing education of the professional librarians and archivists who develop, use, and maintain these tools, among others. As librarian David Lee King noted in his blog review: IMLS is funding an incredible number of projects (such as the Digital Public Library of America and the Digital Library Federation) and yet, “Also – there are a LOT of institutions doing a lot of great things – but sorta on their own. Yes, they might have a project partner or two. But some of these projects could be made better, and have better sustainability, if they connected more directly with other organizations doing similar work, and maybe even sharing what they do with each other to build something better and bigger than they could on their own.” Development and sustainability, and inclusivity of all (especially smaller repositories), remain issues in this area.

Professional Development
Professional development is making sure archivists have the resources to be fully effective in all they wish to accomplish. Developing the appropriate programming and ensuring its availability and affordability is not easy. Recruiting and retaining a diverse profession, collaborative continuing education training with allied professions, and opportunities for leadership, mentoring, and networking are necessary for the success of archivists in the 21st century.

A*CENSUS, the first truly comprehensive nationwide survey of the U.S. archives profession, was fielded in 2004 and included reports on Graduate Education, Continuing Education, Diversity, Leadership, and Certification. Think about that:  2004. We need current and quantifiable information about ourselves, both as a profession and as professionals, to better assess where we fit into a complicated economy, culture, and world. There are so many questions, yet so few resources to answer them. This is one of the reasons why the SAA Council created the Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation, which is considering the research needs of archivists and SAA as an organization.

Finally, archivists have long expanded their professional practice beyond a passive acceptance of records brought to us, although that may still be part of our work. Being proactive about our collection development practices and, in many cases, assisting in the very creation of records, can expand what documentation exists. Collaborating with communities who are creating and preserving their own archives can challenge our traditional modes of operation. They require us to step out of our previously understood professional role and place other groups, and their archives work, first. Records do exist beyond our repositories, and our skills can assist others in preserving their own experience and diversifying our cultural heritage.

Empowering these community organizations and groups can be a good reminder of why we are archivists in the first place and allow us to share our expertise for the greater good. Simultaneously, it can also remind us that history can be complicated, people may be uncomfortable with that complexity, and how we see the world as archivists is not necessarily how everyone else sees it.

Finally, a number of SAA members involved with LACCHA had lunch together to finish out the conference:

24131796_10155225259733224_1030783243851314283_oGeorge Apodaca (Past Chair), Margarita Vargas-Betancourt (Past Chair and current Steering Committee member), Tanya Zanish-Belcher (Council Liaison to LACCHA, 2012-2015), Natalie Baur (Past Chair) and Joel Blanco-Rivera (Past Chair)


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







Guest Post: Matt Gorzalski and Michelle Sweetser, SAA Membership Committee

This Guest Post is authored by Chair Matt Gorzalski and Vice-Chair Michelle Sweetser of the SAA Membership Committee:

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed the society’s membership to gain insight into the condition of professional development support provided by employers.  The survey was a continuation of the Committee’s efforts to learn more about SAA’s membership.  It follows the Barriers to Participation survey conducted between February and March 2017, which highlighted lack of financial support for annual meeting and workshop attendance as a significant barrier to continuing education and greater participation in SAA.

The professional development survey was open from October 31 through November 22, 2017 and was disseminated via SAA’s website and social media accounts, In the Loop emails, and the SAA Leader email list.  The survey gathered 1,006 responses, or 18% of SAA’s total individual membership (using November 2017 figures).  This blog post highlights the findings.

The majority of respondents (66%) receive annual professional development support from their employers.  Others (25%) receive support in some years but not annually.  The remaining respondents receive no support (8%) or have no access to support because they are self-employed, a student, or retired (3%).

Graph 1
Figure 1: Support for professional development most frequently is offered in the $501-1000 and $1001-1500 ranges.

The Committee was also interested in temporal trends in professional development support.  Respondents were asked if they had been with their current employer for at least 5 years, of which 45% (452) stated “yes” and 55% (552) stated “no.”  The level of support for archivists who have been with their current employer for at least 5 years has largely stagnated or decreased.  Those who have been with their employer for less than 5 years are more likely to see increased professional development support (Figure 2).

Graph 2

Respondents were asked to name archival topics that they feel need greater emphasis among professional development offerings.  Archivists who have been with their current employer for 5 years or more identified the following topics (in no particular order): management/leadership; digital/electronic records; funds or fundraising, outreach; audiovisual materials, diversity; description/finding aids; and digitization.  Archivists who have been with their current employer less than 5 years identified (in no particular order): management/leadership; digital/electronic records; digitization; outreach; and lone arrangers.

A formal report on this survey is forthcoming.

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.


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.


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