Anne W. Ackerson rang in 2013 with a new job and a new set of challenges. In January, she became the second executive director of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), replacing Victoria Irons Walch, who retired after more than twenty years of work with the organization. Ackerson’s to-do list includes everything from settling into the organization’s new New York office to helping to develop CoSA’s new strategic plan and tackling the next steps in the State Electronic Records Initiative, which includes providing information, tools, and training for the management and preservation of electronic records. Read what Ackerson has to say about her new position and the archives profession. SAA: Tell us about your background. AWA: I come from the museum field, specifically the history museum field, where I worked as director of several museums and historical societies in New York.Most recently I served as the director of the Museum Association of New York, a statewide, member-based professional development organization. I was very active in doing the kinds of things that SAA and CoSA do for their members in terms of education, advocacy, and professional development. SAA: What interested you about the executive director position with CoSA? AWA: The primary interest was that [the position is in] a different but related field. It’s a field I know about, in part because I had been serving on the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board for ten-plus years. But it also presented a challenge for me to learn more about state archives and the kind of work they do. I’m excited about the fact that there’s an opportunity to help and strengthen the government, state, and territory archives, and I was particularly excited by CoSA’s tagline, “Documenting government. Promoting history. Securing rights.” Those things are very important to me; it’s what I’m passionate about. It seemed as though it was a great match for me. SAA: What, in your opinion, is one action archivists can take to help the public better understand the importance of archives? AWA: We’re in the business of creating opportunity for the public to access and engage with the collections and knowledge. Archivists have to get out there and interact, particularly with the public, and send regular messages about their importance. I think it behooves us to come up with a common message for all archives that’s a broad enough umbrella, so that all kinds of archival institutions can [use that message]. We’re working toward what I’m hoping is going to be a common statement of value that we can all use. When a field is fragmented, messages are fragmented, and it makes it hard for the public to lock on to any one thing. I think we owe it to ourselves to be very clear about our value and our importance and to get that message across at every opportunity. SAA: Like the Georgia State Archives, many archives are struggling to find sufficient funding.How can archivists take creative or innovative steps to put archives on more solid financial ground? AWA: I think we’ve got to become more entrepreneurial. We have to think of ourselves not as single programs trying to carry our own weight, but we have to look out to the landscape to see who we can partner with and share expertise, resources, and work. [We need to use] what I and others call an abundant theory of thinking.We need to think abundantly, and not from a position of scarcity. We need to be really inventive as we look for partners.Sometimes they’ll be the traditional partners we’ve always had, but in other cases they’ll be radically different. SAA: What’s a time that you’ve been amazed by a document or artifact that you’ve found in a museum or archives? AWA: We’re in the process of putting together an education and awareness piece, so we’ve been looking at a lot of photographs, and looking at those pictures has taken me back to last year when New York State’s copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was touring. It’s awe-inspiring to read those words. And then to see the photographs with young kids just poring over that document—they’re leaning on the case, trying to get as close as they can—it’s just so gratifying.Any of those touchstone documents of our history are really wonderful. SAA: What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA and SAA? AWA: I’m most looking forward to meeting people and putting faces to all these names that I’m seeing. I want to have a chance to hear what’s on their minds. And, hopefully, they can get to know a little more about me.
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