I have recently returned from a week-long trip to Austin for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Conference. There were so many sessions, un-conferences, dinners, and meetings that I won’t bore you with a full recap, but here are a few highlights.
I look forward to this un-conference every year. As a lot of my work involves teaching with primary sources, I always come away from this with great new ideas and connections. This year, TPS was held at the Harry Ransom Center, which was exciting all on its own! The Keynote was Robin Soto of Flower Hill Urban Homestead. She spoke about the SMOOT (Student Minds Organizing Opportunities for Teens) program and how local students are becoming citizen archivists and really breathing new life and involvement into the historic home as well as the papers of the family.
Another session I attended was the “K-12 Professional Development as Outreach” which is also a growing area of my job responsibilities. I was engaged in a fantastic discussion on how to get teachers invested in using archival and primary source collections in their K-12 teaching. Developing relationships with teachers and curriculum coordinators, offering professional development credits to teachers for engaging with our collections, and working with established programs like National History Day are all great tips I will consider in my expanding outreach to K-12 teachers and administrators.
As the Chair of the Reference Access and Outreach Section (RAO), I spent a lot of time this past year planning this meeting and marketplace and I consider it a success! RAO is a large section with many sub-committees including: Teaching With Primary Sources, Events & Exhibits, and Public Services Assessment Committee. Each of these committees reported on their work during our section meeting in addition to other business. We spent the last three quarters of the meeting hosting the RAO 7th Annual Marketplace of Ideas. Each of the five “vendors” had 2- twenty minute sessions to talk about their projects. The “shoppers” chose which presentation they wanted to go to and engaged in some great conversations. It was a very successful session and people spent a lot of time after the marketplace discussing ideas for reference, outreach, and access.
I am now the immediate past chair of the RAO Section, but will spend the year working on nominations and the election for the section while also helping to support the continuing good work of the section. I have also been a Steering Committee member for the past two years on the Manuscripts Section of SAA, so I had some business to do with that group as well. Next year’s SAA meeting won’t be quite so Section meeting focused, as much of my responsibilities for the two sections were handled this year.
A highlight of my time in Austin this year was spending time mentoring and reviewing resumes at the SAA Career Center that is set up in the Bookstore during the conference. I worked with a couple of new-to-the-profession archivists who were asking for advice on how to get into public services, or simply how to write and email to a potential employer. I have such fond memories of my time in their shoes at the SAA Career Center, I was glad I could spend some time being useful. As a side note, the woman who was coordinating the SAA Career Center is former SCA student employee Brittany Newberry (author of many ABCs of Special Collections & Archives blogs posts and all around wonderful student assistant now archivist).
Sessions, ALI Dinner, Austin City Limits, and much more
There was a lot more I went to and am happy to discuss these with you more offline. Sessions included:
- “Beyond Neutrality: Righting Wrongs and Striving Toward Representation”
- “Empathy in the Time of Polemics: Using Archives to Teach Historical Empathy”
- Invited Speaker:Ashley Farmer, PhD who wrote “Archiving While Black,” published in the July 22, 2018 issue of Chronicle of Higher Education
- “Student Workers Transforming the Archives”
I was also able to join up with my 2018 Archives Leadership Institute cohort, and many other past cohorts from the the Institute. It was great to see everyone at that event, and I got to spend a lot of time with those colleagues over other meals and our trip to the Moody Theater where the Austin City Limits Live is filmed. It was an incredible place to visit and see live music while hanging out with archivists from all over the states!
My trip to Austin for SAA was informative, productive, hot, long, fun, and thought provoking. I am still processing a lot of what I heard at sessions and in conversations, and hope to be able to implement or consider a lot of the great ideas I heard, while also considering my role and myself in the larger picture of archives, history, and being a professional colleague at this time. As always, I am appreciative of the Dean’s office for providing me with the funding for this opportunity.