SAA / COsA 2023
Conference Highlights from Melissa Kemp and Junia Papas


Published: August 10, 2023 by Melissa Prunty Kemp

The SAA / COsA 2023 Conference has come and gone!  San Jose State University assumed a prominent and respected position throughout the event and exhibitions. As a recent MARA graduate, I was a proud product of our department and thrilled for SJSU to be so well-respected and recognized at my first in-person conference.  I have attended the annual conference since 2020, but all attendance has been virtual through 2022. In-person attendance was well worth the time and investment.

Held in Washington, DC on July 26 – 29, the conference offered archivists of all types and from all locations the annual chance to meet each other, converse about archives and contemporary challenges, and to absorb timely and immediately useful perspectives on all things archives.  This sprawling event took place in the famed Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue in the nation’s capital, built in 1965 and featuring the uncommon double-arched design and large pillar-less hotel ballroom. Acclaimed events regularly held there are White House Correspondents Dinner and the National Prayer Breakfast.

Three full days of onsite and online events, as well as the opportunity to advocate for archives support and legislation on Capitol Hill, made this conference spectacular.  Every session was filled to capacity, with some event attendees standing or taking up floor positions. Sessions dealing with special collections, accessibility, indigenous populations’ collections archiving, software tools to aid our daily tasks, increasing the power and voice of diversity within the archives profession, digital archiving and transformation, and archives and advocacy were just some of the outstanding presentations offered.

A strength and a challenge for the conference format was its hybrid delivery.  Many sessions were online, so conference-goers found themselves carrying computers and devices and seeking out their rooms or other locations to tune into virtual sessions.  This gave me an opportunity to enjoy watching one session in a spot outside in the sun that had reasonable wifi reception. An advantage of this delivery system is that onsite attendees now have access to all recorded sessions, many of which overlapped, so a review of these is readily available.

Another strength of Archives | Records 2023 was the opportunity to engage with vendors.  I would typically skip this portion of a conference, but not this time!  An enormous room was filled with the vendors we MARA students study and whose products we regularly use.  I was thrilled to meet in person a number of Preservica representatives with whom I have and am working.  I  loved Preservica from the first class I took at SJSU, so the opportunity to engage with representatives I had only met via Zoom was marvelous.

Rounding the corner, who did I meet but the wonderful representatives of ITHAKA, the parent organization that hosts JSTOR, the superior database for liberal arts. I learned by engaging in one of the many “Lunch and Learn” sessions that ITHAKA has extraordinary preservation and collections capabilities that can be utilized by local and community archives.  Their PORTICO feature really helps promote access and sustainable preservation services for all types of organizations. This service in particular was useful for independent archivists. The ITHAKA Lunch and Learn session was very well attended.

Here is a perspective of her experience from our newest professor, Junia Papas, PhD, CA:  “The SAA Annual Conference was a positive educational experience for me.  I always enjoy learning new innovations in the archival industry, and this conference always provides this in abundance!  The most insightful session I attended was the session on Intellectual Property Legislation and Litigation presented by Heather Briston, Eric Harbeson, Peter Hirtle, and William Maher.  I found their perspective on copyright in regard to legislative measures to be timely in our current political situation.  It is integral that archival materials are protected from any illegal use of publication, so it is important to keep up-to-date on these policies.”


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