A report on my recent attendance at the Society of American Archivist 2021 Virtual Conference
Published: August 15, 2021 by Melissa Prunty Kemp
An extraordinary virtual meeting just wrapped up on August 6. This was my first opportunity to attend, and as an active conference participant, I cannot be more pleased with the enriching educational content and relevant vendor presentations. The week was actually exhausting and packed full of don’t-miss events. A tight schedule was complemented by on-demand education seminars, mini-theatres, professor and graduate student posters, and social activities.
Thematically and excitingly, the conference had three focus areas – (1) digital preservation, exhibitions from archives and engagement. It seems everyone is digitizing collections right now out of expediency and necessity. A second theme – (2) collecting during COVID-19, community archives and small archives ingenuity – demonstrated that everyone can digitize and preserve with a minimum of equipment. Many small institutions have found the means to do so, even during COVID. One excellent seminar – S13 – Outreach and Online Access Innovations from Smaller Institutions – provided outstanding information on inexpensive digitizing and virtual exhibit building.
A third major theme was (3) cultural representation and preservation. Several sessions addressed questions of how archivists can repair offensive or dated language in their metadata and other publicly accessible areas. How institutions handle a history of offensive or discriminatory language presented suggestions on how and when to globally replace problematic identifiers. The daunting task this presents for small institutions is problematic in some cases. Using volunteers for this purpose can alleviate some labor issues. Creating collaborations, especially community ones, can be highly effective in addressing this repair.