Jennifer O’Neal, SAA Cultural Heritage Working Group Chair 2014-12-02 11:16:06
Archivists across the United States are actively involved in the stewardship of cultural heritage collections that reflect the large breadth and scope of the nation’s unique communities, ethnicities, and traditional knowledge. Due to their inherent importance, especially to the source communities represented, some repositories have proactively selected these collections for a variety of projects, many grant-funded, to focus on solutions to preservation, access, and outreach. In addition, recent publications highlight and reflect on these projects and the often alternative methodological approaches. Often existing on the periphery, this combined increase in projects and literature highlights a steady move toward the effective management of cultural heritage collections. However, while the projects and literature provide effective examples of the possible options and approaches, there is a significant gap in official SAA-suggested policies, guidelines, and literature regarding cultural heritage collections. Thus, this brief message serves to provide an update on how the Cultural Heritage Working Group (CHWG) intends to meet that challenge. Building a Foundation In 2010 SAA Council tasked the CHWG to lead discussion; clarify issues; investigate a range of alternative approaches; and establish balance in managing, preserving, and providing access to cultural heritage archives. Over the past three years the group developed baseline information and resources for the SAA membership, including a bibliography and definitions of cultural heritage (this and other resources can be found on the CHWG page at http://www2.archivists.org/groups/cultural- heritage-working-group). In addition, the Group investigated and detailed a cultural framework to assist in the pluralization of archival education and developed various communication platforms to inform and discuss cultural heritage issues with the membership through social media, a blog, and conference sessions. Group members also attended and presented at numerous cultural heritage conferences, including the Cultural Heritage Archives Symposium “Networks, Innovations, and Collaborations” at the Library of Congress, as well as partnered with allied groups, such as the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage at Simon Fraser University. These activities provided a good foundation for the group to determine next steps and projects that would be the most beneficial for SAA membership. Moving Forward After a strategic planning session at the 2014 Joint Annual Meeting, the working group identified three key areas to infuse change into the larger membership, including improvements to the educational curriculum through collaboration with the Archival Educators Roundtable; development of case studies for archival practitioners; and continued communication, dissemination, and awareness of the complexities of cultural Heritage archives. However, the group realizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to these collections, thus these projects are just the first step in what will be a long-term initiative to possibly develop best practices and guidelines regarding the effective stewardship of cultural heritage archives. These are complex collections representing numerous cultures, communities, and ethnicities that require significant time and focus to ensure that this is properly addressed for current and future practices. Thus, the CHWG seeks to receive feedback from SAA members on this topic with the eventual goal of providing more specific resources, including case studies, conference sessions, workshops, and best practices for appropriate stewardship of cultural heritage collections. We encourage all members to take a brief survey on this topic to provide us with baseline data about your largest concerns and needs surrounding these collections. We will then use this information to determine next possible initiatives and projects for the group. The survey can be found on the group’s website (http://www2.archivists.org /groups/cultural-heritage-working-group) and will remain open until February 28, 2015. We look forward to hearing from you!
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.