I keep running into problems with presidential addresses that were not printed in the American Archivist.  In October 1951 the Society of American Archivists (SAA) met in Annapolis, Maryland, but the meeting summary contained no mention of a presidential address.  The October 1952 meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, mentioned no presidential address in the annual report, and the September 1953 in Detroit, Michigan, has no summary at all in the American Archivist.  William D. McCain of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was the 8th SAA president, serving from 1951-1953.

SAA met in September 1954 in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Wayne C. Grover delivered the presidential address.  It was published in the American Archivist in January 1955.  At the time of this address, Grover was early in his tenure as the third Archivist of the United States (AOTUS), a position that he held from 1948-1965, making him the longest serving AOTUS.  Both of his predecessors as AOTUS had also served as president of SAA: Robert D. W. Connor and Solon J. Buck.  After his resignation in 1965, Grover consulted on the creation of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

Numerous monumental events happened while Grover was at the helm of the National Archives:

  • It ceased being an independent agency in 1949 and was placed under the General Services Administration (where it remained until 1985).
  • The system of presidential libraries was begun.
  • The Charters of Freedom were transferred to the National Archives from the Library of Congress.

In this presidential address, Grover made reference to the transfer of the charters, along with a quip about the frequent use of the 5th amendment, which I can only assume was a commentary on the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations after World War Two and the Army-McCarthy hearings earlier in 1954.

Grover acknowledged the “disturbing issue of recent times” for the SAA was the “proper relationship of archivists and archival agencies to what is variously called ‘records management,’ ‘records administration,’ or, if you like, ‘record administration'” (3-4).  Grover cited the presidential address of Albert Newsome for establishing “the importance of serving scholarship” and for emphasizing the vital role of archivists in preserving public records (4).  Grover asserted that records administrators and records managers rose to fill the needs of public officials in the federal government and defined their commonality with archivists as “their interest in improving the quality and decreasing the quantity of an organization’s records” (5).  There had clearly been discussions going on as to whether archivists and records managers should part ways, and Grover landed decidedly on the side of the big tent approach.  He contended that without large numbers of people in the archival profession and without legal sanctions undergirding the work, creating a closed professional group would not help advance the causes of the American archival community.  Grover summarized the history of how the SAA grew out of the Conference of Archivists, which had been sponsored by the Public Archives Commission of the American Historical Association.  He argued that the Public Archives Commission had demonstrated more of a “missionary fervor” that was lacking in the SAA, as demonstrated by the relative paucity of archival growth after the ending of the Public Archives Commission in 1934 and the birth of the SAA in 1936.  Grover ultimately advocated for an open membership policy for the SAA:

“I believe we can be most effective if we arrange our affairs so that we can recruit into our ranks and put to work on our committees all the influential and interested citizens we can persuade to join — leading historians, business leaders, public officials, religious leaders, labor leaders, and anyone else who will assist us” (9).

Grover argued for the interdependence of archivists and records managers as the most efficient way both to handle technical problems (i.e., exchanging professional information) as well as to provide opportunities to be evangelists of the archival word “in places and organizations that have not as yet, unfortunately, seen the light” (10).  A number of upcoming presidential addresses will return to this same issue, so stay tuned for more information.

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