Brenda S. Banks delivered her presidential address at the 1996 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) held in San Diego, California.  Banks began working at the Georgia Department of Archives and History in 1973, serving in numerous positions including assistant director (1989-2006).  She oversaw a nationwide archives education and training program for historically black colleges and universities (1999-2005).  She founded Banks Archives Consultants in 2006.  The address was published in the Fall 1996 issue of the American Archivist.

Banks used the 60th anniversary of SAA’s founding as the theme for her address.  She pointed out that A.R. Newsome and Solon J. Buck has originally intended to create an “‘institute for the leading practitioners of archival administration'” but that this concept was broadened to one that promoted “the ideals of the archival profession” (393).  She proceeded to identify what concerns and issues persist as well as where notable changes have occurred.

First of all, let me list the areas in which Banks suggested little change had occurred — as she said, “only time passes, challenges remain constant” (399):

  • getting people to write for the American Archivist
  • the areas reviewed by the Committee for the 1970s were still relevant in 1996:
    • “organizational structure and operations;
    • relations with other groups;
    • the committee system;
    • research and publication;
    • membership relations and development;
    • education and training;
    • annual meetings, conferences, and symposia; and
    • finances” (396).

Banks also identified numerous changes within SAA over its 60 years:

  • membership became much more diverse
  • SAA emerged “as an organization with a social conscience” in the 1970s (396)
  • Basic Manuals began being published in the 1970s
  • professional affinity groups developed in the late 1970s
  • certification for archivists and guidelines for graduate education became important in the 1980s and 1990s

Finally, here are some important milestones in the history of SAA to which Banks called attention:

  • 1955: membership policy was changed so that Council no longer had to approve applications and members could join based on interest, not just vocation
  • 1973: a resolution was adopted that eliminated discrimination within SAA “on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, lifestyle, or political affiliation” (397)
  • 1973: the SAA Newsletter began publication
  • 1974: the first paid SAA Executive Director was hired

I’m interested that Banks identified the “civil war” that occurred within SAA from the mid-1940s – mid-1950s between state archivists and national archivists, and she acknowledged the angst caused by the rise of regional and state organizations in the last few decades of the 20th century.  But she ignored the conflicts between archivists and records managers that resulted in many of the latter exiting SAA to join the Association of Records Managers and Administrators and/or the National Association of State Archives and Records Administrators.

One final point that piqued my curiosity — Banks explained that SAA adopted a resolution in the 1970s that annual meetings would only be held in states that had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  I wonder when this resolution was rescinded because of the 15 states that never ratified the ERA (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia), many have hosted SAA annual meetings — including Atlanta, Georgia, on tap for the 2016 meeting.  Perhaps it was considered a moot point after the Congressionally-imposed deadline in 1982 passed without ratification by ¾ths of the states, but from a technical standpoint, it seems like parliamentary procedures would dictate that the resolution be rescinded (though I can find no such evidence on the SAA website).