During the past several years, affinity groups at SAA (such as roundtables and sections) have been looking for ways to facilitate communication between their members, and especially to encourage communication and activities among membership during those 11 months (and three weeks) between annual conferences. Until recently, newsletters were one of the chief means for keeping members informed of new developments, and then e-mail listserves. With so much communication taking place on social media these days, the opportunities have increased exponentially, but so have the challenges—does adding a Facebook page or Twitter account to your group’s web presence increase the likelihood of communication among members, or does it simply contribute to information overload and lead folks to “tune out?”
As the members of the IAART steering committee discussed this issue, one step we thought that we could take at this time was to establish a blog for our roundtable’s web page, and see how IAART members respond. Initially, members of the steering committee will be posting entries as a means to “prime the pump” and get the discussion rolling. However, as with any such endeavor in an organization like SAA, its success depends on you, the members, and with your level of participation.
What will the blog consist of? That remains to be seen. Rather than replacing the listserve that already exists, this blog is meant supplement it, and to give IAART members a chance to expound on topics, events, or issues that are on their minds, writing about them at greater length than one normally would in a listserve e-mail. Are you working with particularly interesting collection (at least to you, and potentially to others) of an international nature at your repository? Is your repository involved in a partnership with another repository abroad? Do you wrestle with issues like cultural patrimony, displaced records, or other similar topics in the midst of your daily work? Have you learned about issues, collections, or repositories abroad that you would like to bring to the attention of your colleagues within SAA? Right now, the sky is pretty much the limit as far as topics for this blog, granted that the common denominator be that blog entries deal in some way, shape or form with international archival issues. And, for the time being, this blog will be moderated, and we will ask you to submit your entries to the junior co-chair of the IAART (currently, at least for the next few weeks, Christian Kelleher).
It is just a few weeks until the IAART comes together to meet in Washington at the annual conference, and the steering committee has been busy collecting ideas for the content of our meeting, as well as concluding the election for two new steering committee members (election results to be announced at our meeting, so stay tuned!). At the moment, however, I am writing this entry from a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico, where I am visiting my wife’s family for a week. As is often the case with archivists, our profession finds a way of finding us wherever and whenever we travel. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit an archive and library where my sister-in-law used to work, the Biblioteca Publica
del Estado de Jalisco “Juan Jose Arreola,” which is a joint venture between the library of the state of Jalisco and the University of Guadalajara.
Recently constructed (in 2012), this facility was designed to be the anchor of a projected cultural district on the north end of the city, with a world-class concert hall already built, and a theatrical arts facility in the works. With collections and facilities designed for both the general public and scholars, the library contains extensive circulating collections of popular and children’s literature, as well as state-of-the-art facilities that house and provide access to archival records dating from the 16th century Spanish colonial province of “Nueva Galicia,” libraries of rare books and incunabula from Europe that belonged to Jesuit and other religious orders the region during the 17th and 18th centuries, rare collections of newspapers from the Mexican Revolution, and more contemporary archival collections about the region’s history and cultural life. For a long time I have expressed the hope that there could be a way for SAA to network with our colleagues in Mexico—especially at our annual meetings that are held in cities in the southwestern part of our country—but logistical difficulties have been daunting. Nevertheless it was encouraging to see and visit a repository yesterday, that while faced with some of the challenges we are all familiar with, nevertheless has forged ahead to build a state of the art facility and commit substantial resources to the preservation of the archival heritage and cultural patrimony of this region of Mexico.
In any event, I look forward to our own meeting of the IAART in Washington in a few weeks, as well as to the future blog posts that IAART members will post to this site. In the meantime, I need to get outside and enjoy the wonderful weather on this vacation, so for now, I’m signing off from Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, Jalisco, México, and will switch, for the next few days at least, from being an international archivist to being an American tourist.
Senior co-chair, IAART