Edie Hedlin delivered her presidential address at the 1994 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, held in Indianapolis.  Hedlin worked at the National Archives and Records Administration, as a corporate archivist for Wells Fargo Bank, and on the staff of the Ohio Historical Society.  She served as director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives from 1994-2005.  Her address was published in the Winter 1995 issue of the American Archivist.

Hedlin focused her address on the need in the archival world for friends and staying power.  By friends, she meant allied organizations who provide unwavering support to the archival community, and by staying power, she meant “the resources over time to analyze, resolve, and ultimately articulate to the larger society the answers to our most vexing problems” (11).  Of course, the source of said problems in 1994 was largely the explosion of electronic records, and while some were suggesting this shift should re-focus the priorities of archivists, Hedlin contended that archivists must continue our traditional activities, such as appraisal, arrangement and description, and reference service — while adding the new role “of comprehending and conquering the electronic record” (11).  She enumerated the questions raised regarding the handling of electronic records (11):

  • How do we define the term records in relation to electronic technologies?
  • How do we manage complex compound documents as a logical entity?
  • How do we incorporate archival concerns into the process for setting technical
  • How do we influence systems design to assure the integrity of records over time and across technologies?
  • How do we make our voices heard on privacy, copyright, and freedom of information?
  • How do we bring archival issues into the debate on government information
  • How do we implement the virtual archives?

Ultimately, Hedlin explained archives’ lack of staying power as one of lacking infrastructure, which she defined as “funding sources, institutional bases, research teams, and public interest groups” (12).  She acknowledged the vital roles filled by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Bentley Library Fellows Program, and Archives and Museums Informatics.  But she asserted complex problems such as handling electronic records could best be solved through competition:

“Numerous groups undertaking analysis of a common problem, each from their own perspective, will be more likely to consider the range of associated issues, identify a variety of approaches, produce a more rapid resolution, and have a stronger societal impact than will any single organization taking a single approach” (12).

Along similar lines, Hedlin explained that while SAA has an important role to play, specialized groups carry greater weight.  She listed numerous suggestions for such organizations, including a National Conference for the Corporate Record, a Documentary Heritage Foundation, a Center for the Records of Belief, and a National Council on Archival Resources.  Hedlin believed such allied organizations could provide staying power by offering “advocacy, analysis, visibility, and resources” (14-15).