Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) 2015 Conference Recap

Guest author: Cathy Miller
MAS Student at Clayton State University

The 2015 Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA) annual meeting was held October 22-23 in beautiful downtown Columbus, Georgia at the Columbus Marriott, which was constructed around a restored cotton mill first built in the mid-nineteenth century. The photo you see, courtesy of SGA member Angelique Richardson, is of the hotel lobby, where the brickwork can be seen to be part of the original mill. Related fun note: the Library of Congress has some photos of the mill from a Historic American Engineering Record survey done around 1968.

Columbus Marriott Old Mill, Photo by Angelique Richardson

Columbus Marriott Old Mill, Photo by Angelique Richardson

The theme for this year’s meeting was “Archives as Community: Building Bridges and Sustaining Relationships.” The program for the meeting can be found here. Jeanette Bastian, known for her study of community archives, kicked off the meeting with an engaging keynote in which she spoke about the connections between community, archives, and the making and keeping of memory. In her keynote, Bastian raised many thoughtful questions for archivists to consider:

  • How might communities connect to archives? And what about bringing archivists into communities?
  • What constitutes a community archive in an American context?
  • Why should archivists care about communities?
  • How can archivists make the necessary connections to communities so as to ensure their memories are preserved?

In closing, Bastian noted: ““All voices belong in the archives, but we must know where they are and how to seek them.” The theme of community and building bridges, as discussed by Bastian, carried into the concurrent sessions held over the next two days. The sessions featured discussions on

  • collaborating with IT professionals in your institution
  • educational outreach to the Belizean archival community
  • the impact of oral history programs
  • identifying and keeping volunteers in archival institutions
  • balancing rights and access to online collections
  • the role of archival institutions in recruiting and training new archivists through practicums, internships, etc.
  • the collaboration of archival institutions with colleges
  • increasing connections to collections through digitization efforts
  • public/private partnership between the South Carolina Historical Society and College of Charleston
  • collaboration between museums, archives, and university history departments

Each session featured several panelists who spoke on the topic at hand as it was relevant to their institution and projects they had worked on, leaving time at the end for a brief question and answer session. So much great information was shared in each of the sessions that it is hard to condense it into a summarized version. What follows are some highlights from a few of the sessions.

In Session 1, “Thinking Cyber: Straddling the Cyber-Heritage Gap”, Jim Havron of the Albert Gore Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University reminded us of the importance of effective communication between IT and archives professionals – learning IT’s language, and conversely, IT learning some archives jargon can result in productive, collaborative relationships. The session on identifying and keeping volunteers underlined the very important note of matching projects to a volunteer’s interests, while keeping in mind the goals of your institution. Chris Paton of the Columbia Theological Seminary stressed the importance of investing time in interns and students so that they learn about the profession. As part of the panel discussing “Attracing the Next Generation of Archivists,” Paton noted: “An investment in our interns is an investment in the archival profession.” In the session on archival institutions collaborating with colleges, we heard about innovative projects that the Savannah Research Library and Municipal Archives and Georgia State University Archives embarked on to bring students into the archives and archives into the classroom.

Along with the super informative sessions, SGA attendees had many an opportunity to socialize and have fun in Columbus! The evening before the meeting began, SGA sponsored a meet-and-greet for attendees as they arrived in Columbus. At the business meeting during lunch on the first day of the meeting, attendees were able to mix and mingle while waiting in line for food. During the business meeting, attendees learned about SGA’s progress in developing a strategic plan. The reception on Thursday evening was held at the Columbus History Museum, at which we held our annual silent auction that helps to fund SGA’s many scholarship opportunities. After the meeting wrapped up mid-day Friday, attendees were invited to tour the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

Next year’s meeting will be a joint meeting with the Society of Florida Archivists to be held in Savannah, GA. Stay tuned to SGA’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, SGA blog) and our website for forthcoming information about the 2016 meeting.

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