Meet your SNAP Leaders: Steering Committee Member

Name: Carrie P. Mastley
SNAP Position: Steering Committee Member
Institution: Mississippi State University Libraries, Assistant Professor/Manuscripts Librarian
Years at position: 2 ½ years at institution, 1 year in position
Education: MLIS with Graduate Certificate in Archives and Special Collections, University of Southern Mississippi, 2018; MA in English Literature, Mississippi State University, 2014; BA in English, Mississippi University for Women, 2008.

Greetings, all! Before becoming a librarian/archivist, I served as an educator and have taught English courses at secondary and post-secondary schools in California and Mississippi. However, I developed an interest in librarianship while teaching a research-intensive class at Mississippi State University and decided to return to school to pursue a MLIS with a concentration in archival science. While in my last semester of school in 2018, I landed my first archival job serving as a project archivist processing the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana at Mississippi State University Libraries. I served in this position for eighteen months before joining the faculty at the same institution as its Manuscripts Librarian for Special Collections. I have been in this position for just over a year, and I absolutely love my job.

Studio portrait of Carrie Mastley (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

In addition to SNAP, I am a member of several other professional committees and groups. I’m currently serving on the Spotlight Awards Sub-committee of SAA’s Awards Committee. I’m also serving a term on the Board of Directors for my state-wide association, the Society of Mississippi Archivists. In addition, I have the pleasure of representing the archival profession as one of the co-chairs of the ALA’s New Members Round Table Endnotes Committee, which is responsible for facilitating the publishing of the organization’s journal, Endnotes, a national, peer-reviewed journal specifically for students and new library professionals. (If you are interested in publishing an article with us, please reach out to me! Archival works are welcomed and encouraged!)

When I am not working, I enjoy spending my time with my family, which is made up of my husband, Casey; two-year-old daughter, Cora; dogs, Penny and Scout; and cat, Atticus. We are also expecting a new addition to the family in March 2021. Her name is to be determined! 

I am proud to be serving as one of your SNAP Steering Committee Members and hope to be an advocate for aspiring and new archivists, especially during this strange time in which we find ourselves. If you have ideas or concerns that you would like to bring to SNAP leadership, I promise to serve as a safe/brave space to share those thoughts. I can be reached at cmastley@library.msstate.edu.   

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Meet your SNAP Leaders: Steering Committee Member

Renae Rapp
SNAP Position: Steering Committee Member
Institution: SUNY Maritime College, Scholarly Communications Librarian and Archivist
Years at Position: Less than a year! I started in April 2020
Education: MSIS focus on Archives and Records Management (2017), MA in Public History (2019) both from University at Albany, SUNY

My journey to the archives profession started in my final year as an undergrad. I was an intern under the librarian/archivist of my university in a small town in Texas. It was the first collection I ever processed and I will never forget it. The collection was a large series of letters to and from (carbon copies) an English professor of the university from the 1940s until the 1960s, Loula Grace Erdman. She was more than a professor; she was also an author who wrote novels about the settlement of the Texas Panhandle.


One letter in particular that stayed with me was a carbon copy of letter Erdman wrote to a student taking her English class. This student expressed concern about her grade in the class and considered that she just was not a good writer. Erdman took the time to not only write a letter back, but also encourage the student that grades did not make you a bad or good writer. She also confessed that she struggled to believe that her own writing was good (even though at the time she was famous in the Panhandle of Texas).

At the time, I was struggling in my history class. Not only was it difficult, I also lost the passion to be a historian. I did not want to be a professor and did not know what else I could do with a Bachelor’s in History. It was that project and that letter that lead me to archives. It was my “ah ha” moment, “I want to be an archivist and I want to read more letters like this”. I realized I struggled in history classes because I wanted to read and experience the primary sources.


Eventually, I made it to graduate school in New York and joined SAA and SNAP almost immediately. My campus combined the three student chapters of ALA, SAA, and NYLA (New York Library Association) into the Information Science Student Association (ISSA). After a year of being ISSA’s web master, I lead the SAA student chapter.

I have a terrible habit of inserting myself into professional development opportunities, apparently being in SNAP was not enough. I joined SAA’s Awards Committee around 2018, became a steering committee member of SNAP, and somehow got involved in the SAA Mentorship Program planning committee. Since I am a lone arranger at SUNY Maritime College, I try to network and build networks as much as possible. One network I joined is a group of archivists/curators of maritime history.

Meet your SNAP Leaders: Secretary

Carady DeSimone
SNAP Position: Secretary
Institution: National Parks at the Southeast Archaeology Center
Years: 1 year
Education: MLIS with archival and information management graduate certificates at Wayne State University ; BA in English from University of Puget Sound

As Douglas Adams said, “I may not have ended up where I intended to go, but I think I’m right where I need to be.” I’m a bit of a “late bloomer” or “career change” archivist. However, looking back, I can see elements of archival theory in many of my previous positions, hobbies, and studies, going all the way back to 8th grade. [Don’t worry, I won’t start there!]

After college I wasn’t quite sure what to do – I had majored in English, and had exactly the wrong amount of experience for the highly competitive radio scene in Seattle [too much for street team and not enough for audio engineering]. Tired of the “when are you going to teach?” joke, for a few years I worked retail and played in a band. Since I already had stage experience, it was natural for me to support bands by staffing the PA in a pinch. After a couple years, I enlisted in the Navy. Coincidentally, the position I held on board the carrier involved maintenance of a wide variety of audio/visual components throughout the ship – including PA systems, closed-circuit TV, and telephones. This involved a crash course in low-voltage electrical engineering, which I thoroughly enjoyed – it wasn’t a huge leap from my previous experiences with stage lights, analog cameras, 35 mm film, and music. My affinity for spreadsheets and documentation proved essential to my division, and I served as the Divisional Librarian for a brief time.

As it would turn out, paperwork suited me much better than the extreme physical stressors involved with stripping the ship down – in some places, to the sheetmetal! – to repair and refurbish anything and everything. As I began to transfer out of the military, my administrative skills continued to serve me well. Post-military, I began taking engineering prerequisites at the local community college – I decided I would back my English degree with a BSEE, to work as a technical writer or editor. But I was destined to make one last course correction on my career path. Through some serendipitous studies, I was encouraged to abandon engineering for something that came much more naturally to me: Research.

As a partially disabled veteran nearing 30, adrift in a sea of uncertainty, I finally had a mission. I began charting my course to professional success, which sadly meant departing my adopted home of Tacoma, WA. I made a virtual port call at Wayne State University, where I completed not only an MLIS, but also their archival and information management graduate certificates.  I performed my practicum and capstone internship at Florida Tech, where my engineering background was invaluable to working with the Radiation, Inc. Archives, which documents scientific discoveries throughout the U.S. Space Race. I even worked on some of the same equipment on my ship!

Earlier this year I was inspired further when my ranty, rambling response to a survey resulted in an invitation to join the ranks of AWEF/AWEFund. Having previously been a ‘starving undergrad,’ student labor practices and policies have been on my radar prior to the pandemic. Working together with this team gave me the confidence to run for SNAP Secretary… and apparently y’all believe in me too!

Meet your SNAP Leaders: Chair

Brenna Edwards
SNAP Position: Chair
Institution: Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, Manager for Digital Archives
Years at Position: Less than a year
Education: MLS with a focus in Archives and Records Management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ; BS in Web Design, minor in theatre from Tennessee Tech University

Hello! My name is Brenna Edwards, and I am the Students and New Professionals (SNAP) Section Chair for 2020-2021. If you feel like you’ve seen my name for a few years in SNAP now, that’s because you have! I started volunteering with SNAP in late 2016 as the ex-officio student blog editor, then stayed on to be blog coordinator, then elected secretary, then vice-chair/chair-elect, and now chair! I’ve seen SNAP grow and change over the past four years, and I’m very excited to help it to keep growing and being a resource for students and new professionals. I currently work at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where I am the Manager for Digital Archives, where I started (remotely) at the beginning of July. My previous position was at the Rose Library at Emory University, where I was Project Digital Archivist for two years. I have a Bachelor of Science in Web Design, with a minor in theatre, from Tennessee Tech University, and my Master of Library Science with a focus in Archives and Records Management is from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I got into archives in a very roundabout way – I originally wanted to work in public libraries, then academic libraries, and then found archives. I did an archives internship my last semester at Tech and that cemented my interest in archives as a career path. In graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with digital archives through my graduate research assistant position with the Southern Historical Collection, which is how I got into the digital archives field, which was further expanded up on during my two years at Emory. Aside from SNAP, within the confines of SAA, I am the immediate past chair for the Manuscripts Section, a co-chair for the Performing Arts Section, and the Communications Liaison for the bloggERS Editorial Team, a part of the Electronic Records Section (yes, my email signature is absurdly long). If you have any questions about getting involved in SAA, please feel free to reach out to me!

Outside of SAA, I am part of regional organizations, such as the Society of Georgia Archivists, Society of North Carolina Archivists, and the Society of Southwest Archivists. I am also active in the American Theatre Archive Project and am one of the team leaders for the Atlanta Team, working with local theatres and dance studios to help them archive their legacies. When not working, I like to read, watch Netflix, listen to music, and do some light web design and maintenance! Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @ForeverBren_x!

Taking the Leap: Participation in the Regional Archival Associations Consortium

This post was written by Cathy Miller, Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC) Liaison for the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) and chair of the RAAC Advocacy Committee.

When I was a new professional in the field, one of the best things to ever happen to me was an email I received from one of my professors encouraging me to get involved with my state archival association’s board. Without those encouraging words written to me back in 2013, I would not be writing this blog post to you today as the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC) Liaison for the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) and as chair of the RAAC Advocacy Committee. I’m so glad I took the leap into a new unknown. I wouldn’t be the archivist I am today without my participation in SGA and RAAC. It is with this preface that I write to you about the rewards to be reaped through becoming involved with the Regional Archival Associations Consortium.

What is the Regional Archival Associations Consortium, you may ask? The Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC) was founded in 2013 to provide an official venue for information exchange among the leadership of regional archival associations, and among the regionals and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). (As a point of clarification, whenever the term “regional” is used in this blog post, it is meant to encompass multi-state, state, and local archival associations.) RAAC offers formal channels to coordinate efforts intra-state, interstate, and with SAA which facilitate streamlining actions, reducing costs, and increasing services to archivists around the nation.

Originally, membership in RAAC was only open to the RAAC representatives selected by their respective regional archival associations. In 2020, the RAAC Steering Committee made the decision to continue having designated representatives from the multi-state, state, and local associations, but we also wanted to encourage anyone else involved with their regional association to join! RAAC’s membership is now open to anyone with a SAA account. Information on how to join RAAC can be found at the end of this blog post.

RAAC also includes committees devoted to advocacy, disaster planning and recovery, education, grant development, and public awareness. Through the Membership Committee, RAAC holds the responsibility of updating and maintaining the Directory of Archival Organizations in the United States and Canada page of the SAA website.  As a member, we encourage you to join one of RAAC’s committees and help contribute to RAAC’s growing list of goals and accomplishments:

  • Establishing formal communication lines for regionals to report local advocacy issues to SAA and to ask for advocacy assistance.
  • Collaborations with SAA committees and sections, such as the Advocacy & Public Awareness Committees’ work with SAA’s Committee on Public Policy, Committee on Public Awareness, and the Issues & Advocacy Section.
  • Creating a document repository for regional archival associations that includes sample bylaws & constitutions, advocacy & outreach documents, Archives Month resources, brochures/forms, and education workshops. 
  • The Grant Development Subcommittee’s creation of an easy go-to list of Federal and State grant opportunities.
  • A list of disaster planning and response resources, including international, national, and regional level information.
  • Holding a symposium in 2016 that focused on the interests of our nation’s regional archival associations.

In our eight years of existence, RAAC has sought to build bridges across regional archival associations and to assist regionals on matters of advocacy, disaster preparedness, education, and more. We are excited to have opened our membership to any interested regional archival association members and look forward to engaging in conversations that will help to advance projects and initiatives of local, state, and multi-state archival associations. If you would like to get involved with RAAC, please become a member and serve on one of RAAC’s committees. To learn more about our committees, please visit our microsite and/or feel free to send any questions you have to raaconsortium@gmail.com.

How To Join RAAC

To join: RAAC appears in the same place where you can join/leave SAA Sections. From a user’s My Profile page (mysaa.archivists.org/saaprofile), you should navigate to “My Groups,” where you will find RAAC among the “Sections Available” area. RAAC appears on page 4 of that list.

Don’t have an SAA login? Anyone can create an SAA login for free – membership is not required! Anyone who wishes to join the RAAC listserv will need to create a login to access and sign up. Login or create a new account here: mysaa.archivists.org/NC__Login

Find Your Community with the TPS Collective: Lessons from the 2020 Unconference

The Teaching with Primary Sources Unconference was held virtually via Zoom on July 22 and August 13, 2020. For this blog post four of the main organizers of this year’s Unconference, Matt Herbison, Carrie Schwier, Cinda Nofziger, and Rachel Makarowski, sat down to tell us all more about the TPS group and how SNAP members can get involved.

What Is An Unconference?

An ‘unconference’ is a meeting format in which participants come together and facilitate group selected conversations and activities. In many ways this format is perfect for the TPS Collective. This group of professionals works together to create a welcoming, educational, and creative environment for everyone.

Teaching with primary sources as a job duty has been a growing part in the archives profession for the past 10-15 years. In many archives, archivists and special collections librarians need to be able to teach classes, small instruction sessions, or one-on-one. The TPS Collective had its beginning with the SAA Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section and the first TPS Unconference was in 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, there has been an unconference in conjunction with the SAA annual meeting.

This year the group aimed to have two unconferences: one at SAA Annual Meeting in Chicago and one at the ACRL Rare Book and Manuscript Section conference in Bloomington, Indiana. But, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed everything online and offered an opportunity to merge the two events.

In the typical TPS Unconference, the event essentials are: space, people, and room for conversations and activities. Online, things are a bit more complicated. But there were some unexpected benefits of an online unconference. This past year was the largest unconference ever with approximately 400-500 attendees. The need for additional online community has also created a number of opportunities for professionals and students of all levels to get involved, learn from each other, and grow their communities.

A Community (Not a Hierarchy)

Unlike most professional association positions, for which you need to run for a position or volunteer and be selected, the TPS Collective is completely volunteer-run. If you’re interested, you’re in.

There are certainly members who have been involved longer and may appear to be ‘senior,’ but the group is intentionally flat and avoids hierarchical power structures or thinking. This is one unique aspect of the group that makes it so exciting and welcoming. They are also happy for ‘lurkers’ to sit in on meetings, ask questions, participate if or when interested, etc. And the group is excited to learn from and with new members.

I began my own experience with the TPS Community as a lurker sitting on the planning calls for the TPS Unconference before the pandemic began. I was slow to speak at first, and ‘lurking’ offered a way to learn about the group. I had been interested in building more teaching with primary resources skills and the group made it easy to feel welcomed.

The community essentially has a built-in mentoring structure in which people are helping each other grow, but without the ‘matching’ of a formal mentor program. For anyone feeling hesitant or intimidated by jumping into a brand-new group, the flat structure and lack of bureaucracy in the TPS Community is one aspect that can help you feel welcomed and valued from the start.

“My Presence is My Qualification” – Quote from the TPS Unconference 2020

Many in this field have felt some impostor syndrome related to teaching at some point. Instruction is not always part of a graduate school curriculum and as a result, we learn as we go. The TPS Collective is an amazing way to build TPS skills, learn new tools and methods, and build connections while you learn from others and they learn from you. Because the structure is less hierarchical than other professional groups, there is space and support for everyone who participates (no matter their level of confidence or skill). The goal of the group is to learn together and gain confidence.

There have been some unexpected opportunities for the TPS Community that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and push for telework and online teaching. In addition to the yearly TPS Unconference, the group has begun TPS Community Calls in which participants learn about, discuss, and try out new teaching methods and tools in a sandbox environment. These have been valuable opportunities for individuals to share projects, learn about and practice new skills and tools, improve their presentation skills, and collaborate regarding teaching methods and ideas.

While we have to wait for the next TPS Unconference, there are always openings for ways to get involved in the Community Calls and there are different roles for people in each call. This may be a chance for newer members to get involved slowly and grow in their confidence in a safe supportive and welcoming space. When you decide to try something, there are people supporting you ready to back you up.

Students and New Professionals

One of the many benefits of this community is that it is a welcoming environment for new members of any skill or confidence level. SNAP members might be interested in this community because:

  • The Community Calls are a great way to get involved and build your skills
  • You can find mentors and colleagues ready to help with questions and ideas
  • Individuals in the community are often excited to help you prepare for job interviews or practice teaching
  • The Community Calls and Unconference can help you learn transferable skills from everything related to online teaching tools to efficient meeting facilitation skills
  • If you have an idea, this is a place to share it and try it out

Ready to Get Involved?

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This blog post was written by Laura Bell, Processing Archivist at University of Baltimore Special Collections & Archives and Senior Blog Editor for SNAP.

SAA 2020 Conference Recap: Anthony Rodgers

Anthony Rodgers (he/him; they/them) is finishing a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Missouri with an emphasis in archives and records management this fall. He currently works in instructional design and reference at two academic libraries and will talk to anyone about opera, cats, and Dungeons & Dragons.

We can all agree that this year is not going according to any of our plans. I have rewritten so many sticky notes regarding almost every aspect of my life and stressed about rescheduled or cancelled events perhaps more than ever before 2020. Yet the decision by SAA and CoSA to virtually provide the Joint Annual Meeting was very exciting to me, especially since I could make my attendance and participation fit the schedule of my occasionally chaotic, temporary work-from-home setting. The offerings of this event ultimately humanized the field for me as a student and hopeful professional, even through the computer screen, and the following highlights just a few of my experiences and thoughts from my first national archives conference.

Approaching the numerous SAA sections for the first time feels extremely daunting, and perhaps this intimidation is common for newcomers such as myself. Still, all encouragement to “jump right in” and “get your feet wet now while you can” seems to swirl in and around my eager yet overwhelmed ears without fully landing. I’m not certain as to whether they are generally open to all conference attendees, but being able to virtually attend the business meetings for many of the sections was a way for me to better understand how the organization at large operates and how individual members are able to contribute. I appreciated the meetings being spread out over the conference, especially taking place before and after the scheduled days, so I didn’t have to choose between a meeting and an education session. I also welcomed the attempts to alter typical meeting formalities to generate some additional excitement, such as through breakout groups or the Performing Arts Section presentation of Chicago Symphony Orchestra archival materials—those conductor nesting dolls had me so tickled! 

Having on-demand sessions and being able to watch recorded sessions was/is fantastic, and I’m curious whether this would be a sustainable element for future conferences and events. (This might be the only time I’ve actually watched the recordings of missed meetings.) Compared to other conferences I’ve attended, the panel discussions for this conference were engaging and a little more honest than I expected. I particularly enjoyed “Looking Back to Move Forward: Evaluating the Hidden Collections Era in Archives and Special Collections,” in which topics of sustainability and the limitations of grant access were brought up. As someone starting an archives-focused job hunt, I was pleased to hear mention of concern over the consistent reliance of hiring temporary staff to complete grant-funded projects. One point was made that applying for grants takes a lot of time and so does hiring someone to fulfill the grant-funded project, time and effort which could be put elsewhere in the project. I certainly don’t have the answers to this issue, and I know that this has been examined in other research and analysis projects, but it was nice to hear from those involved on the hiring end.

Before I forget to mention this anywhere else: “Hop into History: Archives and Alcohol in America” was beyond enjoyable and a great reminder that archives exist in some of the most unique places. I would certainly attend this sort of event on a monthly basis, especially considering the virtual setting.

I entered this conference looking forward to hearing stories about community outreach and engagement, and was excited to learn about events designed to collect stories directly from community members, such as discussed during “Showing Up: Community Engagement Events Toward a Better Cultural Record.” All of the instances presented in this session held an end goal of creating or expanding a digital archives for the communities being represented, which is increasingly valuable to many users when considering the closed state of physical spaces today. The examples given of “scanning days” stood out to me as concrete and accessible means of generating community partnerships and getting basic information for descriptive metadata on the spot. During this same session, Heather Miller and Kelly Wisecup noted a series of questions from their work that I had to go back and write down from the recording to keep for future digestion and use. These questions address the idea of collaboration to create a “better cultural record” by seeking to define this phrase, to distinguish where the archives are located in a cultural center, to identify the role of sovereignty in a digital space, and to consider elements of access.

Along the theme of outreach, I have now listened to Tempestt Hazel’s keynote speech from the first plenary session multiple times. Her work and that being done through Sixty Inches From Center resonates with me as an example of how to boost what is already existing rather than create something new, to help create today the records of artistic output by those who are marginalized and might otherwise be forgotten in time. The importance of organizations such as this one lies partially in their bridging of archives and cultural communities, and Hazel’s words emphasize to me that there is no singular, universal method of documenting and curating all communities, even among those of similar identity. Since I first heard it, I have returned to her phrasing of “crowdsourced, inclusive knowledge creation that gives autonomy to everyone” as a concept that I haven’t heard much about in my formal studies and as a dream that seems radical yet realistic.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from my archival coursework is that the profession is young and ever changing, and during the Joint Annual Meeting, I discovered a renewed excitement to become a part of this growing field. Now, little more than a month after the final session, I find myself thinking back to sitting at home while listening to archivists and memory keepers describe their work and speak of next steps. I and others under the SNAP umbrella are the next steps. And that reminder is a reason I’m glad I attended this conference.

SAA 2020 Conference Recap: Anna Lucas (part 2)

Anna Lucas holds a Master of Library Science from Indiana University and, as of June 2019, is the Archivist for the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. The Applied Research Laboratory is a University Affiliated Research Center for the US Navy.

This post is the second part of Anna Lucas’ recap of the SAA 2020 Conference. Read part 1 on the SNAP blog.

I also attended the pre-recorded session “Setting a New Standard: Practical Applications and Use of Standardized Measures and Metrics” which provided an introduction to the statistical standard used in archives and special collections and featured five case studies on the implementation of the standard and statistics at their institutions. The “Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics For Public Services In Archival Repositories And Special Collections Libraries” is the statistical standard discussed in the session. The standard separates the archival public services into 8 domains, provides measures within those domains, and recommends metrics for then examining the measures for archives to conduct meaningful assessments of their services. Of particular importance is that this standard allows institutions to compare their data with other institutions using the standard. The session’s case studies covered the three tier of implementation for the standard: Tier 1) implementation of the standards, Tier 2) data driven decision making for internal use, and Tier 3) advocacy for an external audience. 

The session made the “Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics For Public Services In Archival Repositories And Special Collections Libraries” approachable and applicable to any institution interested in implementing the standard regardless of size or current data gathering practices. I appreciated that each institution discussed the reference tools used to record their service metrics and the issues that can arise when having to use reference tools not designed for archival services. It is useful to be reminded that a reference tool cannot always capture all of the data fields one intends to measure and that multiple measuring tools are often necessary. As a lone arranger, I am familiar with the challenges that come with trying to gather meaningful data for future use, particularly when I intend to present the data to administrators. A good takeaway message from the session was the importance of implementing these standards so that they highlight your institution’s mission and strategic goals, and to use this statistical information to focus on our institutional goals. Prior to this session, I was unfamiliar with SAA/RBMS Standardized Statistical Measures and Metric, but have since read it and am working to implement the standard at my institution.

My overall experience attending the SAA’s conference for the first time was positive, and I thought the conference organizers did a great job hosting the event virtually. Reflecting on the sessions, I am impressed with how much I learned during the conference and the impact it has had on my daily operations and professional goals. I do hope to be able to attend next year in-person, but in the meantime I will continue to take advantage of the expansive collection of recorded sessions available to me through this year’s conference.

SAA 2020 Conference Recap: Anna Lucas (part 1)

Anna Lucas holds a Master of Library Science from Indiana University and, as of June 2019, is the Archivist for the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State University. The Applied Research Laboratory is a University Affiliated Research Center for the US Navy.

This year’s “Archives*Records 2020: Creating Our Future” was my first time attending SAA’s annual conference. With a year of professional experience now under my belt, I was able to come to this year’s conference with topics of interest applicable to my ongoing projects. Like many others, I’ve switched to working from home for the past few months, so I was eager to attend the conference and learn about the research of fellow professionals and hear about others’ strategies in adapting to the pandemic.

SAA/CoSA adapted to provide an online conference experience, and, all things considered, the schedule was well structured and organized for unseasoned attendees navigating the virtual format. The schedule consisted of a robust lineup of presentations spanning a number of current topics, such as diversity, access, outreach, digitization, description, and much more. The one drawback of the virtual conference was maintaining engagement while balancing my work schedule. For example, briefly slipping away from a presentation to address an important email sometimes led to me coming back to the presentation a bit lost. Fortunately, the bulk of the presentations were recorded and remain accessible to attendees. The cost of attendance for the virtual conference is set at an affordable price and I encourage students and early professionals who were unable to attend for the live sessions, to register for access to 50+ pre-recorded sessions. The pre-recorded sessions have been an excellent resource, and I find myself frequently referring back to them weeks after the conference.  I was particularly interested in attending two presentations leading up to the conference: the ‘“Write Away’ Forum on SAA Publishing Opportunities” and “Setting a New Standard: Practical Applications and Use of Standardized Measures and Metrics”.

I attended the ““Write Away” Forum on SAA Publishing Opportunities” which provided information on each of SAA’s publications and how interested authors can begin publishing.  SAA has a range of opportunities for those interested in contributing to professional literature, spanning from case studies, resource reviews, and blogs to books. Each publication was introduced by one of its editors, who then pitched the publication for prospective authors whose topics align with the scope of the publication.

The session began discussing Archival Outlook, SAA’s open access magazine. Archival Outlook publishes bi-monthly, covering a wide range of topics and offers opportunities for both students and new professionals. Since the magazine is released bi-monthly, it’s a great option for those new to publishing.  A representative then introduced the American Archivist, SAA’s peer reviewed journal and described the 3 primary categories of submissions for its articles: case studies, perspectives, and research. Guidelines are available on American Archivist’s webpage which detail the submission process for publishing with the journal, available here. The Reviews Editor for American Archivist, advised the session’s attendees that article and book reviews are a good place to start for those interested in publishing, and writing an article review can be good practice for doing a literature review down the road. A member of SAA’s Book Publications Board introduced attendees to SAA’s book publication opportunities. It was made clear that authors from all stages of their career are invited to pursue book publications and for anyone interested to contact the publication with their ideas. The Archival Future series is part of the book publishing program, and is a joint publication between SAA and ALA which curates articles that address why archives are important to the general public and the general good. Lastly, a representative for the “Dictionary of Archives Terminology” spoke on how the dictionary depends on outside suggestions for submitting or revising terms. The representative emphasized how having this online dictionary helps archivist understand how terms develop over time and how to effectively communicate archival terminology and concepts to the general public.

As an early professional, my interest in contributing to archival literature has encouraged me to explore publishing opportunities; however, I have been unsure about where to start. This presentation helped boost my writing confidence and guided me through all of the various avenues to publishing available through SAA. During the Q&A section at the end of the presentations, representative for each publication did a great job responding to audience questions regarding each publications requirements and procedures for interested authors. Collectively, the representatives did a great job of breaking down the intimidation barrier for interested authors and strongly encouraged all, regardless of professional experience, to reach out with their ideas. 

SAA 2020 Conference Recap: Amelia Foster

Amelia Foster is a current MLIS student and the Fine Art Collection MLIS Graduate Student Assistant at Saint Catherine University. She works as a freelance writer, artist, and library programmer.

SAA Conference Recap: Reframing History: Opening Up Archives to Artists

Introduction to the Chicago Archives + Artists Project

This panel showcased two projects resulting from the Chicago Archives + Artists Project organized Sixty Inches From Center. Sixty Inches From Center (called “Sixty” for short) is a Chicago-based nonprofit online arts publication and archiving initiative that “supports and promotes art and writing that thrives primarily outside of mainstream historical narratives.”

Sixty’s Chicago Archives + Artists Project launched in 2018 with the goal of increasing representation of marginalized communities in Chicago archives and special collections. This panel included Sixty’s founder Tempestt Hazel, as well as Sixty’s Director of Archives and Operations Jennifer Patiño Cervantes. Presenting artists included Ivan LOZANO, who worked with the Media Burn video archives, and H. Melt who worked with librarian Catherine Grandgeorge in the Chicago Protest Collection at the Newberry Library. Additionally, librarian Analú María López joined the panel to speak about how her experience as an independent artist informs her work as the Indigenous Studies Librarian at the Newberry Library.

To begin, Jennifer Patiño Cervantes introduced Sixty’s focus on challenging the “symbolic annihilation” that marginalized communities experience when archives overlook them. Sixty’s Archives + Artists Project asks artists to think about how their legacies fit into Chicago art history. The program includes artist commissions, creating connections between artists with archives, “Get Archived” events, and more. Sixty spotlights archives that are open to community contributions and thus increase representation.

H. Melt and the Chicago Protest Collection

At the Newberry library, poet, artist, and educator H. Melt’s residency took place within the Chicago Protest Collection. This unprocessed collection includes crowdsourced material from the 2017 Women’s March in Chicago and Washington D.C. Since 2017, it has grown to include materials from the Muslim and immigration ban protests as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Granting an artist access to an unprocessed, crowdsourced collection, marked a departure from the norm at the Newberry. “Sometimes you just need to show the messy parts,” said Catherine. By granting H. Melt access to the collection, they became a part of the archives appraisal process. While Catherine was focused on the logistics of housing, preserving, and creating access to the collection, H. Melt brought attention to the particular viewpoints and messaging represented by the collection. While the Newberry has a history of collecting protest materials, soliciting materials through crowdsourcing rather than formal curation was a first for the archives. Crowdsourcing materials has resulted in an unrepresentative collection that skews toward reflecting the archives’ existing primary user base.

H. Melt brought their experience as an artist celebrating trans history and culture to their residency at the Newberry. Their work focuses on envisioning trans liberation and trans futures. Even though the Newberry is publicly accessible, H. Melt admitted to finding the institution intimidating. They didn’t know how to begin accessing the archives, and what’s more, they didn’t imagine the Newberry would hold materials that are relevant to them.

Indeed, throughout their research, H. Melt ran into the difficulty of locating materials related to trans identity. Much of their artwork results in banners and signs that are used at protests or marches. H. Melt decided to create new banners and signs that “filled in the gaps” in the collection at the Newberry as well as at the Leather Archives & Museum, which has historically been unwelcoming to trans people.

H. Melt’s residency resulted in an exhibit that included selected materials from the Chicago Protest Collection exhibited alongside their own work. H. Melt spoke about the power of taking down signs and flags on the walls of these institutions and replacing them with their own, trans-affirming work and messages. They were particularly thrilled to hang a sign that reads THERE ARE TRANS PEOPLE HERE outside the front door of the Leather Archives & Museum, making the message visible to queer and trans people living in the neighborhood of the museum. Ultimately the Leather Archives & Museum ended up purchasing the flag as part of their permanent collection. 

As a result of this residency, H. Melt’s work continues to inform the ongoing growth of the protest collection. Catherine noted that the librarians are now more mindful of protester privacy and representation within the collection.

Ivan LOZANO and the Media Burn Archive

Ivan LOZANO’s residency was located within the Media Burn archives. Media Burn is an archive of mostly user-generated content including video and television created by artists, activists, and community groups. Ivan did most of his research through Media Burn’s digitized collections. Similar to H. Melt, he began his residency by searching for representative material in the collections. He said, “I’m queer, I’m a Mexican immigrant, and I’m an artist. I tried to locate myself in the archive and see what it had to say about me.”

What he discovered in the archive was reductive, microaggresive, or discomforting at best. His project ultimately came to focus on a video called Mexican Art Gallery – Green Card lottery winner from the Judith Binder collection.

In this video, Mexican artists are working in a gallery in Pasadena. They have been invited to this gallery to recreate production stills from Charlie Chaplin films using traditional Mexican art forms such as alebrijes. Ivan recounted the video’s several painful microaggressions as two white women discussed the work of the Mexican artists in dismissive and dehumanizing ways. Ivan noted that he found this video particularly distressing to watch in the contemporary context of family separations at the Mexican/U.S. border.

In response, he decided to focus on the work of the Mexican artists in the video, rather than the racist comments from the white women. He researched the Mexican folk artists, including Pedro Linares, to create a new installation. Ivan printed thousands of stills from the video, creating strips with images that focused on the Mexican artist’s calaveras as well as the mother of the family of artisans in the video, who was largely overlooked and uncredited in the film. The resulting installation was created from both collage and hanging strips of film that represent a change of perspective and focus that contrasts with the original film.

Recommendations for Archives working with Artists

Finally, Newberry librarian Analú María López spoke about her work assisting artists through reference services. She noted that the whiteness and white supremacy that permeates the field of LIS results in systems that inherently exclude indigenous people and people of color. Problematic subject headings and racist or inaccurate terms create frustration when individuals are conducting research and seeking representation in archives and collections.

Analú called for opening up archives with a decolonial lens and a praxis of enhancing representation, which she defines bringing marginalized communities to the front. She noted that this is easier said than done, especially in the colonial construct of the archive. The importance of community outreach and authentic relationship building was key in her approach to her work.

Following these presentations, all panelists weighed in with tips on how to open up archives to artists. The challenge of navigating archival language and outdated terms came up repeatedly. Furthermore, both artists emphasized the importance of an open, flexible process because artists often begin a project without an exact outcome in mind. Knowing that exploration is part of the process can help archivists be patient with artists.

Jennifer acknowledged that artists often work with archives, but the lack of best practices result in challenges for these unique collaboration opportunities. All panelists acknowledged that artists are likely using archives in ways that archivists do not know about. There was a call for more communication, especially to give artists increased exposure through archival channels. The panel closed with a call for crowdsourced tips and suggestions for artist and archive collaboration, resulting in this google doc.