Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) – Fall 2015 Meeting Recap

Guest author: Christy Fic
Archivist & Special Collections Librarian, Shippensburg University and SNAP Roundtable Steering Committee Member

The Fall 2015 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) was held at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center in beautiful Roanoke, VA from Thursday October 8th – Saturday October 10th. We might have been an hour away from Blacksburg, but we were definitely in Virginia Tech country. Exhibit A (the only photo I took during the conference): this sparkly Hokie bird statue outside of the Hotel Roanoke.Hokie bird

The theme of this fall’s conference was “Moving Mountains: Ingenuity and Innovation in Archives.” The plenary speech by Ed Summers of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) was an inspiring start to the conference. Summers’ presentation on web archiving described the power of archives to preserve evidence of social justice movements that spread via social media. He focused on archivists’ efforts to collect tweets and websites in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Summers’ presentation slides can be found here. The slides provide an overview of how the content was collected, what type of metadata was gathered, and links to access the collections at MITH. Summers shared a powerful tweet from Bergis Jules, University and Political Papers Archivist at University of California Riverside, which I felt perfectly captured the magnitude and importance of these projects:

Every time I hear we shouldn’t build social media archives like #Ferguson, I think abt events in black history for which we have no records.

The work of Summers and his colleagues left the crowd inspired and energized to learn about more innovative archival practices and projects over the next two days. If you are interested in getting involved in web archiving, Summers recommended three resources: SAA’s web archiving discussion list, the Web Archives Google group, and On Archivy.

The concurrent sessions over the next two days featured discussions on digital archives, donor relations and community outreach, collaboration, mentoring, interactive exhibits, processing strategies, alternative career paths, teaching with archival sources, and crowdsourcing. As is the norm for MARAC meetings, most sessions featured several panelists who each presented on projects they had worked on, and left time for questions and answers at the end. For this meeting, the Program Committee wanted to do something different for MARAC—unconference sessions. On Saturday morning, two mini “unsessions” took place alongside other concurrent panel sessions, offering the membership a chance to stick with tried-and-true session formats or to try something new. Prior to the conference, the Program Committee sought unconference session proposals from the membership that would allow members to direct conversations on multiple aspects of archival theory and practice in a less formal session format.

Aside from attending various concurrent sessions to further their professional development, MARAC attendees always have lots of opportunities for fun and socializing! On the first day of the conference, the Thursday before the sessions start, attendees can tour local points of interest. Many archivists enjoyed the Local Breweries Tour on Thursday evening, visiting several breweries for a beer tasting and behind-the-scenes look at their facilities. The Friday evening reception, a MARAC tradition, was a hit as well. The reception, which provides conference attendees with a chance to network and catch up with colleagues, is normally held in one location close to the conference hotel. Keeping with this conference’s theme of “innovation,” this meeting’s reception was split among two locations in downtown Roanoke—appetizers and drinks were served at the Patrick Henry Ballroom, while coffee and desserts were offered across the street at the Roanoke Main Library.

For MARAC members who missed the meeting, read on for important MARAC business. Check your e-mail for the 2015 MARAC Bylaws Revision Survey. To learn more about the revision process, visit the MARAC Ad-Hoc Committees page. The final text of the proposed revision can be found here. In addition to the proposed new bylaws, the Nominations & Elections Committee is looking for volunteers and nominations of MARAC members for the 2016 election. Read this blog post to learn more.

The Spring 2016 MARAC meeting will be held April 14-16 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA. The Pittsburgh Local Arrangements Committee literally did a song and dance at the Roanoke business meeting to drum up excitement. If you missed that, unfortunately there is nothing I can do with words in this blog post to recreate the magic of the Pittsburgh LAC’s presentation, but it’s sure to be a great conference!


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