The International Archival Affairs Roundtable held its annual meeting in Atlanta, GA. The following is a report from the meeting.
International Archival Affairs Roundtable Archives Roundtable Meeting Report
Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting
August 5, 2015
7:30am Welcome Address
IAART Senior co-chair Danielle Scott Taylor opened the meeting with an introduction to the group, and an overview of the meeting agenda.
7:35am Election Results
IAART Junior co-chair Ryder Kouba announced the election results for the 2016 election. The results are:
Daniel Necas – Junior co-chair (2016-2018)
Margarita Vargas-Betancourt – Member-at-large (2016-2019)
7:40am Report from SAA Council Liaison
Helen Wong Smith (IAART’s outgoing Council Liaison) introduced Courtney Chartier, the new Council Liaison for IAART. Wong Smith announced the decision to change affinity groups to eliminate the distinction between sections and roundtables, and that the SAA is open to ideas for renaming sections. All roundtables/sections will receive standardized amended bylaws. Non-members may join up to three (3) discussion lists. She also noted that report deadlines must be completed by September 1, and rosters by June 1. The SAA is also investigating software to support online communities.
7:50am IAART Report
Danielle Scott Taylor reviewed the activities of IAART over the past year, including the weekly news roundup published each week on the IAART blog, Global Notes (iaartsaa.wordpress.com). Scott Taylor encouraged members to use the forum to update others on international projects, opportunities, and events. Celine Fernandez provided an overview of the 2016 Association of French Archivists annual meeting in March, and Scott Taylor encouraged members to publish similar reports on the Global Notes blog. IAART also co-sponsored a webinar in March on opportunities for archivists and librarians in the Fulbright program, which was organized by Natalie Baur.
Scott Taylor recommended sessions that may be of interest to IAART members. Specifically:
- Session 410: The New Approach to Government Records in the Canadian Federal Government (Friday at 11am, Rooms 208/209)
- Session 507: A Year in the Clouds: Itinerant Archivists’ Pilot Trip to Ecuador (Friday at 3pm, Room 204/205)
- Session 604: Put That Thing Back Where it Came From or So Help Me: Displaced Records Go Home (Saturday at 9am, Salon E)
8:00am American Archivists Working Abroad panel discussion
Participants: Stacy Belcher Lee, University of Hong Kong, Ryder Kouba, American University in Cairo; Christian Kelleher, University of Houston, Texas
Moderator: Danielle Scott Taylor
What inspired you to work abroad?
SBL: Responded to ad for the archivist position at the University of Hong Kong over ten years ago, was looking for new adventures and a change, was a professional archivist with a background in anthropology.
CK: Was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, interested in human rights documentation and in making a difference in places with fewer resources. As the Project Manager for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, he coordinated the establishment of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda and the Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive, based on a post-custodial model.
RK: Has been working as the Digital Collections Archivist at the AU in Cairo. AU has special status, work is based on US standards and practices, but nonetheless tied to network of libraries and archives in Egypt.
Can you share your observations about how approaches to the archival practice in your respective countries compare? For example, access or collection development policies?
SBL: Different cultures of access, one cannot apply US standards of Freedom of Information laws, commitment to access to Hong Kong, Egypt, or other countries. Political situation must always be considered, potential dangers for colleagues.
SBL was appointed as Director of the University Archives at HKU, was tasked with developing institution-wide archives policy, and built archives from the bottom up – there was no university archives when she started, no professional staff. The initiative to develop an archival program was sparked by the 100th anniversary celebration of the University of Hong Kong. Now, she has a staff of 7, a museum, is transitioning to Archives Space. Now, there are several other universities in Hong Kong that have also established archives programs.
It took a long time to get the institution to adopt the university archives policy and SBL needed to develop trust inside the institution. She had to be patient, adapt to a different culture and communication style, and learn Cantonese. Now she is helping with developing archives law for HKSAR – Archives Action group – the political culture is very different, and one has to be patient. However, the recent student protests indicate that major changes may be happening.
CK discusses ethical and political considerations when they were making the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive available – millions of documents, which contain personal, sensitive information. Main concern was preventing loss of materials. Experiences working with Guatemalan partners, who wanted access to information for prosecutions, and to ensure that genocide and human rights violations are remembered. There are concerns from US partners that information could harm people.
In Rwanda – developing a digital archive based on the physical archive in Kigali Genocide Memorial. Strong focus was on developing an archive reflecting the oral culture – making oral testimonies available online. There is a strong movement to support archives, but few opportunities for professional training (closest training in South Africa).
General challenges of building sustainable collaborations.
Challenge also for archival education in Hong Kong – opportunities to do distance education at the University of Dundee, otherwise few opportunities.
RK: In Egypt, very proud history of libraries, manuscript tradition, but very different access culture.
Technical challenges: Standards are different, different name traditions, can‘t just apply EAC to all contexts, needs to reflect different name traditions in Africa.
What advice would you give to other archivists interested in working outside their home countries?
SBL encouraged archivists to seize opportunities at all stages in life, you don‘t have to be in your twenties to go abroad. You can develop your professional skills, and then go abroad. Learn the languages. Don‘t knock out the corporate archives idea. General challenge of building sustainable relationships. The itinerant archivists have been established to foster international archival exchange – went to Ecuador, see notes from 2015 joint IAART and LACCHA meeting and report on trip:https://iaartsaa.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/saa-2015-joint-iaartlaccha-meeting/
and on the Memoria blog: https://laccha.wordpress.com/?s=memoria+blog&submit=Search.
See also: Baur/Kelleher/Snyder, “Expanding Archival Horizons,“ Archival Outlook July /August 2015
Future trip planned to Rwanda, CK will discuss more at the Year in the Clouds session at this SAA meeting.
8:50am Open Floor
Emilie Gagnet Leumas, ICA: Upcoming Congress in Seoul, 2016. New Professionals bursary supports international archival exchange.
The next ICA meeting will be in Mexico City in 2017.
The leadership of the Latin Association of Archivists (ALA) will be meeting with the SAA Council in the fall of 2016 to discuss how Latin American archives and archivists can collaborate more closely. IAART plans to help with facilitating exchange, and organizing a joint meeting.
9:00am IAART Meeting Adjourned
Minutes drafted by Katharina Hering, with revisions from Danielle Scott Taylor and steering committee members.