SAA Roundup from Sunny SoCal

Author: Jordon Steele, Member-at-Large

I recently returned from the Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting in sunny San Diego. I was surprised and pleased to see so many of my colleagues from the MARAC region in attendance—when in an unfamiliar place, it’s always good to see some familiar faces. Nevertheless, allowing that it is often difficult to attend the annual meeting of one of our peer organizations when it is held on the West Coast, I thought I would summarize some of the great sessions I went to for those of you interested in the latest in archival theory and practice.

I began the conference at the meeting of the Metadata and Digital Object Roundtable. Among its excellent programming, Professor Katherine Wisser’s demonstration of a social network analysis of literary networks pointed to both the future of archival description and the ways in which our researchers will be using our collections as we embark on a new area of scholarship generally referred to as Digital Humanities. More information is located here.

One of the brainer sessions I attended concerned the application of Human-Computer Interaction and Archives. Researchers from the University of Texas have developed a tabletop computer using surface computing technology (for example) in hopes of better educating archives students about two essential activities of our profession, arrangement and description. A video demonstrating the project can be found here.

One final session of note centered on the topic of how changes in academia are affecting archives. The increasing centrality of preserving research data has compelled many archives departments to respond to this evolution. One notable contribution to this session came from archivists of MIT and Harvard, who are developing something known as “Rescue Repository,” a “middleware” repository designed to allow faculty to deposit valuable data and records for safe keeping. This software is currently in production; updates can be found on the project website.

In other conference news, I paid $1.50 for the best fish taco in my life and I got sunburned talking about archives with people by the water. San Diego was fun, but I look forward to a great conference in Richmond!

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