Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Society of American Archivist Conference 2014

The 2014 joint meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the Council of State Archivists (COSA), and the National Association of Government ARchives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) focused on the theme of "Ensuring Access" to records and archives.  Over 2000 records managers and archivists gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss different aspects of providing access to our collections.

Over the three day conference, I participated in numerous sessions.  Here are some highlights:

The State of Access: A Conversation with Miriam Nisbet and David Cuillier
This plenary session provided a look at the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the perspective of a journalist (David Cuillier) and a governmental records administrator (Miriam Nisbet).  Both agreed that the access to information, especially records created by the government, is vital for the public.  However, they disagreed on the extent to which FOIA needed to change.  Mr. Cuillier would like to see a new policy based on some European models which allow greater access to information, while Ms. Nisbet believes FOIA has been meeting the public's need for information.  An interesting debate.

Teaching With Primary Sources:
Featured five presenters who use primary sources to engage students of all ages in and outside of the archival setting.  Kim Fortney, from National History Day, Inc., discussed teaching the teachers who will be working with middle and high-school students to create History Day projects.  Even the idea of what a primary source really is can be intimidating in to instructors.  One activity she employs involves having a workshop where participants bring three items with them from home; a document, a photo, and an artifact.  All items are collected and placed on a central table.  Participants are asked to choose three items that are not their own and discussion begins, participants must observe and reflect on the item as a primary source.  A great way to tangibly demonstrate the idea of primary sources!

Related But Separated:
This session was of particular interest to me because I also have collections which are related to other materials and collections within SCUA and have been separated for various reasons.  Hearing others experiences with similar situations gave me some new ideas as well as affirmed decisions I have already made in arranging and describing my collections.  Important take-aways: understanding what you are trying to reunite (objects, surrogates, metadata) and understanding (as much as is possible) how and why materials where dispersed will help guide our decisions for bringing materials together again.

On Friday evening, the conference sponsored a reception in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.  A beautiful space to gather with other archivists!
Library of Congress reading room

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