Attending MARAC as a Student & First-Time Conference Attendee

Guest author: Lauren Bell
Archives and Preservation MI student at Rutgers University. 

Figure 4

Lauren with her poster during MARAC poster presentation, 4/21/17.

On April 20-22 I attended the bi-annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Newark, New Jersey. I had initially planned on being at the conference to attend workshops and get a better understanding of conference structure, but gradually assumed other roles throughout the conference.

This was the first conference I’ve attended as a graduate student in the archives field and I was blown away by the amount of opportunity presented at this gathering. On the first day, I attended a workshop titled “Dating 19th Century Portrait Photographs,” given by Gary Saretzky (Monmouth County Archives). During this workshop, Saretzky discussed various 19th century photographic media including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, carte de viste, and cabinet cards. Saretzky went through each of these photographic types at length, providing many visual examples of how one could determine the date that the photo was taken. Some consistent elements to look for amongst all of these types include dress and accessories worn by subject in the photo, color of photo, the casing of the photo, material of photo, photographer’s marks, and captions. The presentation was supplemented with reading material and a hands-on look at some photographs in Saretzky’s own personal collection.

As a student volunteer at the Rutgers’ iSchool booth, together with other graduate students and faculty, I participated in presenting our newly launched Archives and Preservation concentration in the Master of Information program (offered by the Department of Library and Information Science in the School of Communication and

Figure 1

Open Access Origami Cranes before taking flight at MARAC Newark.

Information). This was an engaging experience as I was able to meet many prospective students, speak with alumni of the graduate library science program, and converse with professionals in the archival field. As the president of Rutgers’ iSchool student SAA chapter, Student Organization for Unique Collections Everywhere (SOURCE), I provided a “take-away” for the visitors at the Rutgers iSchool table. I created hundreds of origami cranes using Open Access images from digital collections of the institutions like the New York Public Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These Open Access Origami Cranes were

Figure 2

Detail of Newark-themed #OAOrigami crane.

developed as conceptual archive art, a way to teach students and the community at large about archival resources available to them via Open Access polices and Creative Commons licensing. We had special “Newark” themed cranes for attendees, as well as other archival-related and visually-pleasing designs.

Friday evening I attended a poster session. Under the guidance of our advisor of the Archives and Preservation concentration, Dr. Marija Dalbello, a group of students from our Foundations of Preservation and Archives class were selected to present our Archival Lab Remix posters and demos at this session. The assignment entailed “narrativization of primary source materials using new media platforms and technologies of production.” Myself together with five other students (Jessica Bielen, Sherri Hinrichs-Farber, Lynette Ford, Melissa McGeary, and Julianna Pakstis) presented a diverse group of ideas in what was, for many of us, our first poster session and publication. The idea I proposed is “The East Asian Calligraphy Challenge,” in which institutions could add an interactive element to their existing digital collections user interface allowing users to learn more about and practice their calligraphy digitally. It was inspiring to speak with such enthusiastic attendees and highly motivated to hear their feedback, including the proposal to use this tool with other handwriting collections.

FIgure 5

Photographs from Gary Saretzky’s personal collection provided for hands-on learning during workshop, “Dating 19th Century Portrait Photographs.”

Saturday, the last day of MARAC, I attended a session titled “But Is It Archives?: Archivists’ Challenges and Successes in Managing Art and Design Collections,” which included a panel discussion among Carolyn Dorsey (Morristown & Morris Township Public Library), Yuki Hibben (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Wendy Scheir (The New School). This panel discussion was very enlightening as my career goal is to become an archivist working specifically with artworks. Hearing archivists discuss the challenges they faced when they became de facto collections managers for art provided great insight. I was pleased to learn that the panelists were able to collaborate with conservators, curators, and art handlers within the community to learn about managing these art collections inside their traditional archives.

By the end of the weekend I was overwhelmed with the amount of support that was shown for attending a graduate program in archives and preservation, as well as the networking and growth potential found at conferences. Though my first, this certainly will not be my last. I already have a room booked for the Spring 2018 MARAC meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania!

Lauren Bell is a current Archives and Preservation student at Rutgers University, where she will be earning her Master of Information degree in May 2018. Keep up with the cranes on social media with #OAOrigami. To learn more about Lauren, you can visit her on the web: To learn more about the Archival Lab Remix poster presentation, please visit this release: spring-marac-conference.

Figure 3

Open Access Origami Cranes at Rutgers iSchool vendor table.


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