Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Society of American Archivists annual meeting in DC

For most of the week of August 11th, I attended the Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Washington, DC. We had a record-high attendance at SAA of over 2500 archivists from academic, government, corporate, museum, and other types of archives. I was able to attend some great sessions and fun events, including a Wednesday evening trip to Ben's Chili Bowl for a lecture on African American history in Washington, DC.

On Thursday, I hosted a discussion session with incoming SAA president Kathleen Roe and SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont. Titled "SAA Now and in the Future: A Town Hall Conversation with SAA Leadership," this session allowed members to ask questions about SAA's newly-adopted strategic priorities, recent (and upcoming) changes to the annual meeting, and development of new committees and task forces.

One of the new committees discussed was the Committee on Public Awareness, which I was appointed to earlier this summer. COPA also established an informational table at the annual meeting to begin building member awareness of our activities and ask for feedback on answering the question "what does an archivist do?" We were also mentioned at the Saturday afternoon business section, where President Kathleen Roe challenged all present to experience "a year of living dangerously" and advocate vocally about the power of archives and the importance of archival work.

The meeting of the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section was another conference highlight. This was my first meeting after being elected to the RAO steering committee for FY15. Instead of a traditional meeting, we held an "Idea Swap," where people participated in three 15-minute, moderated small-group discussions on a number of pre-selected topics. I was able to join discussions on outreach to faculty, providing access to born-digital records, and using social media for marketing and outreach.

Other sessions I attended included one focused on developing online tutorials for records management training (featuring a couple of speakers from our State Library and the State Archives), one focused on the use of primary sources in the sciences, one on the value of collecting and using science fiction archival collections, and one on partnering with allied professions/organizations to advocate and build awareness for archives. I was also able to meet up with friends and former professors at the annual Texas Roundup (the UT alumni event held during each annual meeting).

On a related note, I encourage all tenure-track or tenured faculty to check out the Scholars' Travel Fund, available through the Office of Research and Economic Development. The fund supports faculty who are presenting, serving as chairpersons, or participating as panelists at scholarly meetings in the US.

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