My first archival conference was the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists that was held in New Orleans in August 2013. At first, I did not think I should attend the conference due to still being a graduate student. But my advisor, Dr. Dow, encouraged me to attend. Her advice was very simple, she told me just to go. So off I went.
When I arrived on the first day of the conference, I was overwhelmed by the size of the conference as well as by the number of people. I went to a few sessions and roundtables. Honestly, I felt completely lost at my first archival conference.
After attending and surviving SAA, I asked myself “How does a student and/or a new professional get involved in an archival organization?” At the end of 2013, Casey Davis sent out an email saying she was putting together a panel for the upcoming joint meeting of NEA and MARAC. I emailed back and said that I was more than willing to help. My involvement in archival organizations started by attending SAA in New Orleans even though at the time I did not realize it.
Now in two short months, I will be attending my second Society of American Archivists Conference.
So, what advice would I give first timers?
- Make a schedule or as I like to call it an agenda of the sessions and roundtables you would like to attend. On Saturday, I am going to a session called “Cross Pollination: Genealogy” because I am an accomplished genealogist and the subject is of interest.
- Determine what sessions and roundtables would help you in your current position as well as future positions. You never know what you will be doing in thirty years.
- Make sure you attend the sessions that you want to attend. I remembered at the last conference, I wanted to attend the Write Away Breakfast and meet Gregory Hunter. He was the author of the textbook that was used in my Introduction to Archives class at LSU. The only problem was I found out about the breakfast after it already happened. This year the breakfast is on the schedule.
- Do not plan every hour of the day. Leave room for fun and relaxation. On Thursday night, I am planning on attending a baseball game in order to …., well really I am going to celebrate the completion of my first SAA presentation.
- Know that is ok to be overwhelmed. Just remember to breathe and stay hydrated. I come from a large family, but I was overwhelmed by the conference.
- Go to the SNAP Roundtable Meeting on Wednesday night and the New Member/First-Timer Coffee Break on Thursday morning. Why should you attend? Because you might meet someone or come across a chance to get involved with the organization.
- Wear comfortable shoes as well as comfortable outfits. One of the best pieces of career advice I have received was to dress for the job you want not the one you have.
- Go to the Exhibit Area and speak with the vendors even if you are a student. You are not going to be a student forever.
- Sign up for the SNAP Lunch Buddy.
- Sign up for the Navigator Program.
- Enjoy the conference as well as the city. As my brother likes to tell me, “All work makes Blake a dull boy.”
- Ask for help or advice if you need it.
What is your advice for people attending SAA in Atlanta?