International Archival Affairs at SAA2014: Report from Session 208, Making Change Happen in the Global Archival Community

IAART Member-at-Large Katharina Hering reports on the presentations and discussion at SAA annual meeting session 208 focused on the International Council on Archives, with additional information from the ICA website….

ICAlogoThe presence of the International Council on Archives at the 2014 SAA meeting was no coincidence: In the last years, the ICA has been making an effort to change its face, increase its outreach, and become more transparent and approachable, also to individual members. At the session, David Leitch, Secretary General of ICA, which is headquartered in Paris, gave an overview of the development and work of the organization; and Margaret Crockett, Deputy Secretary General Conferences, highlighted the work of the Program Commission, and with Emilie Gagnet Leumas discussed the ICA Sections.

Leitch outlined the fascinating history of the ICA, which was founded in 1948 under the auspices of UNESCO, reflecting the wave of idealism toward international cooperation following World War II. June 9, the day when ICA was created in 1948, is now celebrated as International Archives Day. ICA has grown gradually over the past decades, and now has 1500 institutional and individual members from over 200 countries. Leitch outlined the role of the ICA as an international, non-governmental organization, which advocates for the protection of archival heritage, encourages and supports international archival solidarity, promotes and develops standards and best practices for archival management (for example ISAD (G)), while facilitating professional dialogue and exchange across national borders. ICA is driven by its diverse membership, and works closely with UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the International Committee of the Blue Shield.

The ICA secretariat has a small staff, and the leadership consists of volunteers who are elected by the members. The ICA strives for a democratic and transparent governance, and the highest decision making body of the organization is the general annual assembly of the members, which decides the strategic direction of the organization. The organization of ICA’s international conference in 2013 was a reflection of the move toward greater outreach and openness to all members. The initial 2013 conference was held in Brussels, and the 2014 conference will be held in Girona.

Among the strategic objectives of the ICA is to focus more on information management, and on supporting information professionals – archivists, records managers, and knowledge managers, in their work to meet the challenges of managing the enormous quantities of electronic records. Leitch emphasized that individual members are very welcome, and announced a special introductory membership rate of 15 Euros for SAA members. (The rate for an individual associate membership is 30 euros, and 20 euros for students, retirees, and unemployed professionals.)

The ICA issues several publications – the newsletter Flash, which is available to members, and the journal Comma, published by Liverpool Press. Recently, ICA also launched a new publication series.

The Program Commission, which oversees the development of ICA’s technical and professional programs, also serves as an umbrella for Branches, Sections and expert groups. Margaret Crockett, Deputy Secretary General Conferences, ICA, highlighted that international archival cooperation and solidarity, and providing support for archives and archivists with the greatest development needs, is at the heart of the mission of the ICA. The International Fund for Archival Development (FIDA), initially established in 1970 and reactivated in 2010, serves as a critical instrument toward that goal, and is designed to meet the needs of archives and professional archivists in low-resourced countries. FIDA funds have supported projects in numerous countries, for example in Cameroon, Mozambique, Lebanon, and Fiji, among others. An overview of the FIDA supported projects can be found here:

The Program Commission also supports and funds the development of toolkits and guides focusing on specific aspects of archival management. Recently, the short guides for photographic and audiovisual archives management have been developed, which are currently only available for ICA members. Most other guides, manuals, and toolkits that are made available through the ICA Online Resources Centre, can be downloaded for free from the Online Resources Centre, which contains a wealth of materials and is worth exploring in some depth. These resources include the recently published Guide on Appraisal and Disposition of Student Records, recently developed by the Section on University and Research Institution Archives, or the Recordkeeper’s Bookshelf, an introduction to six main areas of professional records management practices, or the Technical Guidance on Managing Archives with Restrictions, developed by the Committee on Best Practices and Standards, Working Group on Access, among many other guides, manuals, and toolkits. The website also includes links to standards developed by the ICA, including ISAD (G), the first standard developed by ICA, and ISAAR (CPF).

Emilie Gagnet Leumas, the chair of the Section for Archives of Faith Traditions (originally founded as the Section of Archives of Churches and Religious Denominations), and Archivist at the Archdiocese of New Orleans, discussed the work of the ICA Professional Sections. There are currently twelve sections focusing on different areas of professional practice, for example the Section for Business and Labour Archives, the Section for Architectural Records, and the Section for Archival Education and Training. Membership in sections is free for ICA members, who may join as many sections as they wish. Sections encourage research and the preparation of resources, and facilitate professional exchange focused on specific areas.

In addition to the sections, the ICA regional branches offer ICA members in the same (large) regions an umbrella to collaborate on initiatives and develop programs. The branch for North America (including Canada) is NAANICA, the North American Archival Network.

All presenters emphasized that supporting recent archival professionals under ICA’s international umbrella is an essential important part of ICA’s mission, and that there are many ways for both recent and seasoned archival professionals to get involved: Archivists can be active in sections and branches, write articles for Flash or Comma, and those with linguistic skills can volunteer as a translator, which one can do from home without having to travel overseas for ICA meetings or conferences.

Emilie Gagnet Leumas highlighted the importance for archivists to expand one’s archival horizons beyond national borders, and learn about the work of colleagues in archives and libraries in other countries. While many of us do not have the opportunity and the resources to do much travelling abroad, the ICA offers many possibilities to learn about the work and challenges of archives around the globe, while opening up possibilities for collaboration. For IAART members, in particular, there are many opportunities to take advantage of the roundtable as a forum to develop ideas and initiate projects that can be further developed in collaboration with both the SAA and the ICA.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s