Meghan Hiegler 2014-07-22 11:23:50
It started with wishful thinking. Last fall at my first meeting as president of the Western Washington University (WWU) SAA Student Chapter, Vice President Suzie Fusaro suggested organizing a conference. Being deeply involved with WWU’s Canadian-American Studies Program, she was particularly interested in hosting an event that would incorporate Canadian archives and archivists. We had discussed a seminar or similar events the year before to no avail. But this year turned out to be different. Our vague ideas became more and more concrete, and eventually we found ourselves preparing for the first annual Canadian-American Archival Conference based on the theme “Crossing Borders,” held on April 17 at WWU. Fusaro, along with Mason Lee Thaut (our budget authority) and I, worked with our advisors—Randall Jimerson from the Archives and Records Management Program and Chuck Hart from the Canadian-American House—to plan the conference, which included four speakers, roundtable sessions, and a lunch. A Common Theme The conference featured presentations by four individuals: * “The Doorway from Heart to Heart: Diversity’s Stubbornly Persistent Illusion,” Terry Baxter (archivist at the Multnomah County Archives in Portland, Oregon) * “If You Follow the Straight and Narrow, You’ll Never See What’s Around the Corner: Re-Imagining Archival Science for the 21st Century,” Dr. Laura Millar (2011 SAA Waldo Gifford Leland Award winner, author, and archival consultant) * “Preservation in the Cloud. Towards an International Framework for a Balance of Trust and Trustworthiness,” Dr. Luciana Duranti (professor and chair of the Master of Archival Science Program and director of the InterPARES Project at the University of British Columbia) * “Guarding the Guild: The Meaning and Value of Archives,” Joshua Zimmerman (archivist and records manager of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle) Each of these talks covered vastly different topics, including the role of diversity, how archivists must adapt to serve patrons in the twenty-first century, a historical overview of the archival profession, and new programs to authenticate and protect digital documents. Despite the range of topics, the speeches all reflected a common theme: the changing role of archivists and how to face and cope with new realities. Considering the broad theme of the conference in its trial run, the connections that these presentations made were astounding and indicated that these challenges are not unique to a small group or a single country. Sparking Discussion After the presentations, we held roundtable sessions to encourage participants to discuss the presentations and to delve more deeply into the issues raised by interacting with the speakers. WWU Student Chapter member Megan Epperson and I also hosted a roundtable session about our final research articles. Epperson had been researching LGBT archives and I was researching Latin American archives. Our group carried on a profound conversation about archives in our world today, digital security, and human rights activism. Cooperation Across Boundaries In the ever-growing body of archival literature, archivists discuss the increasing importance of cooperation and collaboration. This conference, with its theme of cross-border sharing and collaboration, was an attempt to promote more cooperation across boundaries. The presentations provided indications of how Canadian and American archives are different and that they came from a different history. But they also exposed where concerns are aligned and how we can work together to achieve greater success. After all, both countries are dealing with increasing digitization and budget cuts, and the presentations demonstrated how much we could learn from one another. The theme of “Crossing Borders” also takes into account globalization. Although many countries have a unique archival tradition and theory, sharing those traditions can allow us as activists to look more closely at how we practice our profession. This year, the conference remained focused on the Pacific Northwest, a relatively small geographical area. Hopefully, over time it will continue to grow and expand to incorporate more regions and promote greater crossborder cooperation and discussion. Outreach for Academic Programs Beyond promoting the theme of cooperation, I’m proud of my fellow students who helped make this conference a reality. On a small budget and with a lot of determination, we pulled together and created an event centered on themes pertinent to us and our profession. This conference also provided an opportunity for outreach for our academic programs, as it attracted undergraduate students in the Canadian-American Studies Program who knew little about archives, as well as students studying archives who perhaps hadn’t considered cross-border issues. The First Annual Canadian-American Archives Conference did what we hoped for and more. It gave our programs outreach opportunities and started discussions about cooperation and cross-border thinking. Our speakers covered a range of issues and topics that fit together in remarkable and interesting ways. I can only hope that in future years the program will continue to expand and improve beyond our wishful thinking.
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