The annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists concluded yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia.  This year’s meeting was a joint meeting with the Council of State Archivists.

David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, spoke during the opening plenary session and as usual provided some interesting food for thought.  In assessing the impact of presidential directives and executive orders on the work of NARA, he suggested that rather than being burdensome, these requirements are “insinuation opportunities” that open the door for NARA to begin conversations regarding records management.  What a beautiful way of looking at the glass as half full!  (See his blog for a full version of his comments.)

Chris Taylor, Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement at the Minnesota Historical Society, delivered the keynote address.  He suggested that instead of talking about best practices, we need to start embracing the idea of next practices.  I like this idea of constantly evaluating and iterating professional practices.

The business meeting of the Government Records Section included a panel discussion led by David Brown, archivist of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Geof Huth, Chief Records Officer of the New York State Unified Court System.  They encouraged archivists to examine our orthodoxies and become disruptors.  I was especially interested in two comments made by Booth:

  • Archivists have better things to worry about than some post-apocalyptic need to access records, so analog copies of digital records are unnecessary.
  • Old paper documents can have both artistic and artifactual values.  He dubbed the digitization of paper records as an “electrified” system.

Brown also contributed some nuggets of wisdom:

  • Competence comes from giving people answers, not options.
  • If the wall shakes when you’re beating your head against it, you’re accomplishing something.

The advice I most want to implement came from Kathleen Roe, former president of the SAA and retired state archivist for New York.  She asserted, “Archivists need to be proactive, not reactive.”  In my opinion, this mindset has the greatest possibility of changing the archival profession.

For information about other sessions specifically related to records management topics, check out The Schedule, the blog for SAA’s Records Management Roundtable.

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