Megan Dirickson and Kendra Malinowski 2014-05-27 13:07:46
After paving the way as one of the first student chapters of the Society of American Archivists, the University of Texas at Austin Student Chapter (SAA-UT) recently celebrated twenty years since its founding at the SAA Annual Meeting in 1993. Throughout the past two decades, SAA-UT has provided a forum for students to actively participate in the archival profession. The traditions developed over the years have provided a framework for student involvement in archival advocacy and in their own professional development. Through SAA-UT, students are introduced to SAA and are encouraged to attend professional conferences. The student chapter regularly holds potlucks, career panels, happy hours, and tours of local and regional archives. These events foster relationships among peers and expose students to a variety of archival positions and repositories. Archives Week Most notably, SAA-UT maintains a strong tradition of participating in American Archives Month every October. In looking through the chapter’s records, we were impressed by the scope and constancy of the chapter’s annual Archives Week celebrations. For much of the chapter’s history, SAA-UT has envisioned a theme and crafted an Archives Week featuring speakers from around the country. Traditionally, the week’s events also have included a citywide mayoral proclamation of Archives Week and an Archives Clinic for Austinites to learn how to care for their personal records. The formation of Archives Week was not immediate, but many of the components of the annual event were there from the start. A lecture series was held in fall 1993 and the tradition of hosting speakers on archival topics has continued ever since. By 1999, what was “originally conceived as a scheme to put banners on archival repositories in Austin, Archives Week soon mushroomed into an entire week of activities that spread the word about archives . . . ,” according to the chapter’s annual report. And so a tradition was born. Since then, Archives Week themes have run the gamut. In 2000, Archives Week celebrated international archives, featuring speakers from the National Archives System of Mexico. War and politics were the focus from 2002 to 2004, including a lecture on the destruction of Iraq’s National Library and Archives. Cohosted by five departments at the University of Texas, Andras Riedlmayer’s (Harvard University) lecture titled “Archives and Cultural Memory under Fire in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s” drew a lot of positive attention. Other past Archives Week themes include Gender in Archives, Archives and Technology, and Archives and Recovery, which focused on disaster preparedness. Recent years have been marked by more lighthearted themes. Archives City Limits in 2008 focused on music and featured a concert and lecture from the archivist for the band Phish. In 2011, speakers from the Andy Warhol Museum and the Grateful Dead Collection rounded out the theme to “Keep Archives Weird.” For Archives Week 2012, the theme of History and Fashion brought in guest speakers Lynn Downey, the historian at Levi Strauss & Co., and Karen Trivette Cannell, the head of the FIT Archives at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In addition, students were able to see a presentation of textile and costume items from the Harry Ransom Center. Much of the success and enthusiasm for these events is no doubt thanks to Dr. David B. Gracy II, who was SAAUT’s faculty advisor from its founding until his retirement in 2011. Networking and Tours Even before hosting Archives Week, SAA-UT has enabled networking with local archivists and sponsored tours of regional repositories. The tours have been regarded as an invaluable experience, providing budding archivists with exposure to the variety of archival positions and their unique challenges. Numerous archives in the Austin area have graciously given students tours over the years, but the chapter also has traveled throughout the state of Texas. We toured the archives of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Houston Grand Opera; and the Holocaust Museum Houston. In San Antonio, students have seen the AT&T Archives, Hertzberg Circus Collection and Museum, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library. In 2004, the chapter ventured even farther on a trip to tour several repositories in the Rio Grande Valley. Most recently, in 2013, SAA-UT visited the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University. The chapter’s social and networking opportunities are undoubtedly as valuable as the educational opportunities. Happy hours in conjunction with the Archivists of Central Texas and chapter potlucks have been staples in recent years, giving students an opportunity to relax and get to know their peers. Looking Forward Our Archives Week outreach events are an important legacy for the chapter and have been a source of pride for our students. They serve a dual purpose: to promote an interest in archives to the broader community and to expose students to the breadth of work being accomplished by archivists. Nevertheless, during our time as officers, we recognized the need for the chapter to evolve and to further evaluate its activities. Amid the successes of our Archives Week events we have found that this tradition comes with its sacrifices: energies and resources spent on outreach events inherently take energies and resources away from other objectives. This raises questions about how we might better achieve our goals and serve our student members. Last October, SAA-UT continued the tradition of Archives Week but scaled back efforts by focusing locally, coordinating events and lectures by local speakers and repositories. Under the theme of Archives and Technology, students and local archives enthusiasts learned about the current digital archives research of iSchool professor Dr. Patricia Galloway and PhD students Jessica Meyerson and Jane Gruning. Micah Erwin presented on the Harry Ransom Center’s experience using Flickr as a crowdsourcing tool to identify manuscript fragments (see “Fragments of History,” Archival Outlook, March/April 2014, pp. 8–9). The chapter is both continuing the traditions of past student officers and looking forward to implementing new ways to serve its members. President Susan Floyd and Vice President Lauren Gaylord defined the chapter’s trajectory: “The main focus of the group going forward will be professional development rather than community outreach. We agreed as a board that there are plenty of organizations in Austin and Central Texas that are better prepared for community outreach, so we want to focus on the needs of our members.” Their goals for this year include coordinating career panels, networking events, and repository tours. They will be helping members find rideshares and roommates for the SAA and Society of Southwest Archivists annual meetings this summer, as well as providing partial conference scholarships to the entire membership. The goals of SAA-UT, as defined in its constitution, have remained constant from those established at the first meeting in 1993: -To provide activities for members to discuss archival issues, interact with professional archivists, and engage in professional activities. -To promote communication with other student groups within the university, such as the American Library Association, as well as student chapters at other universities, to develop mutual interest of the library, information, and archival professions. -To promote archival interest at the university and within academic departments through seminars, convocations, and curriculum planning. -To acquaint members with the objectives, ethics, and publications of the Society of American Archivists. The goals have not changed, but perhaps the needs of our students and the profession at-large have. SAA-UT discovered that students are looking for new ways to collaborate, learn from one another, and establish new connections. In response to the need for increased avenues of communication with other student chapters, we organized a meeting of student chapter leaders at the SAA Annual Meeting last August in New Orleans. The meeting was well attended, included support from the SAA leadership, and brought about an enthusiastic exchange of ideas among leaders from at least eleven student chapters. Another student chapter leaders meeting is being planned for the Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA this August in Washington, DC. We hope that students and established archivists alike will consider joining us.
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