Transformative! That was the theme of this year’s Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting, SAA 2019, and many sessions focused on how archivists, records managers, and information professionals can address transformations happening today in technology, society, and the archives profession.
My colleagues Laura Starr and Marielle Gage and I joined nearly two thousand archivists, records managers, and information professionals in Austin, Texas, to catch up, make new connections, and share ideas. Some of our quick observations include:
Transforming to Digital Archiving
A big theme at the conference was web archiving. It’s a major challenge to archivists today as well as a growing need for all repositories. There was much discussion about how repositories can incorporate web archiving into their processes. There were also case studies presented about the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grants to public libraries, enabling them to capture local history presented online. You can read more about the challenges of web archiving in our recent blog post.
We Need to Transform Perceptions
Another major theme was general education. The public, key stakeholders, donors, and other non-archival staff need to understand exactly what archivists do. When people know the value of archives collections and what is involved in preserving them, it is more likely that they will provide support for the effort. It rests on the archivists to help facilitate this understanding.
We Need to Transform Ourselves
A third theme was the need for neutrality. Inherent political and cultural beliefs have an impact on history and what is archived, so it is important for archivists to remain neutral. We have to treat each collection with the same respect in how we process the material and tell the story that the records tell. We cannot be influenced by political atmospheres. To go along with this theme it is also our job to make sure that all voices are heard and respected. We must strive to be inclusive of all cultures and backgrounds – in the archives and the archival profession – so that all voices are represented in the historical record.
If you attended SAA this year, let us know your takeaways in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!