Thursday at Society of American Archivists Conference

Thursday started the conference sessions.

New Member/First Timer Coffee Break

Conference BannerOn Thursday morning, I attended the New Member/First Time Coffee Break. I know this will surprise you, but I had Green Tea instead of coffee. Unlike at my last SAA conference, I walked around the room and introduced myself to several people. One person I spoke with was Erin Lawrimore. She is the council liaison for the SNAP Roundtable and she is writing a blog regarding  her experience on the SAA Council. You can read her blog here. The topic of her blog is a great idea. The blog will give SAA members insight into the workings of the council as well as inspire people to take on leadership roles in either SAA or another archival organization. I ran into Myles Crowley, who I met in Pittsburgh as well as came to the REPS meet up at Max Lagers.

Plenary Speeches

After the coffee (more like tea) break, it was off to hear the Plenary Speeches. They were two speeches. The first speech was made by David Ferriero, who is the Archivist for the United States. He spoke about diversity and inclusion. He reminded us that we need to foster a culture that promotes inclusion and diversity. He reminded us that our nation derives its strength from being open to diversity as well as including everyone. We need to educate our workforce about the importance of having a workplace that values inclusion. He also reminded us to interview candidates for job openings through an inclusive lens.

The second speech was made by Chris Taylor, who is the Director, Inclusion & Community Engagement at the Minnesota Historical Society. He touched on a lot of different things in his speech. He reminded us that the word “diversity” is not only a charged word but has several different meanings. The word “diversity” can reflect things such as race, gender, mental state, and economic background. So, we need to be clear about what we are talking about when it comes to the word “diversity.” In his speech, Taylor said that in order to work on becoming a more diverse profession we need to ask ourselves questions such as: “What steps do we need to take to be more diverse?,” “What does success look like?,” and “How do we stay relevant?” In his speech, he pointed out that just because a repository has a diverse staff does not make it a repository that values diversity and inclusion if the minority has to assimilate into the “cultural norms.”

He also spoke about inclusion. In order to serve our communities we need to focus on inclusion. We as archival professionals need to make sure that people feel welcomed and comfortable coming to our repositories. We need to play an active role in making sure that our repositories reflect the entire community we serve and not just a part of the population. Our collection must represent all groups that make up our community. Everyone in our community has something to offer. If people do not feel comfortable coming to our repositories or donating material then we need to engage these people in order to see why there is resistance. He also reminded us that inclusion does not happen overnight, but it starts internal not external.

Taylor’s speech as well as Ferriero’s speech provided much to think about as well as to reflect on. One person made the following comment on Twitter regarding Taylor’s speech: “We need to be proactive in making sure our collections represent all groups that make up our community.”

Session #1

The first session I went to was Session 107: Movers and Shakers: Organizational Change in Established Archival Programs. I got a lot out of this session. The speakers touch on a range of topics.

One topic that was discussed was digital preservation. We have to explain to people that digital preservation is different than preserving paper based materials. Some people may not understand the difference. Also, we need to make sure the terminology that we use is clear and explained in a way that people can understand. Not everyone knows what fixity is or the importance of using standard name filing conventions. In creating a digital preservation plan, we need to talk with our IT department in order for them to understand what we need from them as well as what they need from us. We may need something that they did not know we needed. We should use stories to explain the importance of digital preservation.

Another topic that was touch on was backing up files. One presenter mentioned that the computers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library were synced with the backup servers. This put the Library’s collection at risk. For example, if a file on the computer was deleted it would be automatically deleted from the backup server.

A third topic that was discussed was showing stakeholders the value of projects. We need to explain how our projects provide value to the community as well as help our repository reach its goals.

A fourth topic that was discussed was making sure policies and procedures are up to date and are based on things the repository currently does.

Brown Bag Lunch

After this session, I went to the Brown Bag Lunch: The American Archivist Article Discussion. We discussed the article “Filling the Gaps’: Oral histories and Under documented Populations in The American Archivist, 1938-2011.” It was written by Jessica Wagner Webster. Look for it in the Fall/Winter edition of the American Archivist Journal.

 2nd Session

Conference ID Badge with the name of Blake on itAfter lunch, it was the moment I had been waiting for. It was time for my presentation. I presented during Session 208: Providing Access to Collections with People with Disabilities. I was the third presenter of the group. I had trouble working the MAC computer and reading my presentation at the same time. Thankfully my fellow presenter Lydia Tang realized this and took over the operation of the computer. I will have a separate blog post in regards to this session as well as a link to the PowerPoint Slides.

Government Records Roundtable

The next item on the agenda was the Government Records Roundtable. I had found out the day before that I was elected to the steering committee. I joined this roundtable because I thought it would help me at my current position at the Louisiana State Archives.

Let’s Play Ball

Picture of Ted Turner Field After this meeting, it was off to Ted Turner Field in order to watch the Atlanta Braves play the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game was supposed to start at 7:10, but right before the first pitch a southern thunderstorm hit. So, the game was delayed for roughly 60 minutes. But don’t worry I took out my umbrella and danced just like I said I would.  It was a great game, and I had a great time with my fellow archival professionals. We did not get back until late, which made Friday morning lots of fun. Also, they sung Take Me Out to the Ballgame wrong.

Written By: Blake E. Relle

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