ARCHIVES * RECORDS 2023: Call for Program Proposals


Work in Common/Work Toward Commons

 Joint Annual Meeting of the
Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and the
Society of American Archivists (SAA)
July 22-29, 2023 | Washington, DC | Hybrid

Our worlds, and our profession, have been reshaped not just by ongoing public health crises, but by racial and gender violence, climate disasters, political stratification, and economic upheavals. In many ways we cannot return to what was before, and perhaps—in some ways—we should not desire this return. As we reflect on the reshaping of our lives and work, we are called to ask: what are we building together? In refusing to accept the “new norm,” how can we envision our profession differently? How can the shifts in archives—not just over the last two years, but over the last decade—make space for us to examine and radically redefine our approaches to infrastructure, labor, and sustainability (both in terms of archival work, but also in terms of sustaining our own well-being)? We need one another now more than ever.

Commons are understood to be natural, cultural, or informational resources accessible by all members of a society. In many cases, these commons are also governed or managed by their users. While the practice originates historically as the holding of communal land, we want to explore the ways in which archives, and archival work, can be viewed as a form of commons. In a profession that has become increasingly specialized, the theme of this year’s conference asks us to consider the ways in which our work as archivists may be distinct, yet intertwined—with one another, with the communities with whom we collaborate, and with allied and adjacent professional fields. Where are these places of overlap, intersection, mutuality, and relation? How do we, or can we, define our work as relational? This year’s conference seeks to amplify work that is cooperative, collective, and interdependent. What is common in our work, and how do we shift our work toward cooperation and the commons?

The Program Committee encourages proposals that speak to the following conference themes. Please note that proposals do not have to fit into these themes to be considered:

  • Archives and records as commons, e.g., approaches to access, governance, and maintenance; questions of ownership and property; open records legislation and policy
  • Commonalities across archival work and partnerships that build on those commonalities, such as partnerships between governmental and private or community entities
  • The role of archival work in maintaining the commons, including water, land, and other natural resources
  • Development and management of shared systems and infrastructure
  • Care, care work, and mutual aid; nurturing relationships of reciprocity
  • Labor equity and collective labor
  • The commons as a practice; unsettling the commons and decolonial approaches toward liberatory archival work

Proposal Evaluation

The Program Committee invites submissions for 60–75 minute sessions (live and/or hybrid) and poster presentations. We are also introducing a new 180-minute track, Unconference, which is described in detail below. Proposals are welcome on any aspect of archives, records, and information management—local, state or territorial, national, and international—especially their intersections with other professions and domains. Each proposal will be evaluated on its completeness and the strength of the 150-word abstract. Proposals should incorporate one or more of the following:

  • Statement of potential impact on archives, records, and information management; 
  • Connections to the annual meeting’s themes as described above; 
  • Diversity of presenters, including but not limited to, racial diversity, gender diversity, experiential or professional diversity, institutional diversity, diversity of ability, and/or geographic diversity; 
  • Relevance of the topic for CoSA and/or SAA members and other interested attendees; and/or 
  • A plan for, or description of, how the session will incorporate interaction and engagement with session attendees.

We expect program sessions to reflect CoSA's and SAA’s commitments to a diverse and inclusive program and profession. Each session should be composed of individuals and/or organizations with varied personal and professional experiences, perspectives, and identities. Please indicate—in a summative way—how your proposal reflects individual, organizational, or geographic diversity and/or supports the development, inclusion, and stewardship of a diverse profession or cultural record. This could include positionality statements that reflect on the unique identities of the panelists in relation to the work they will discuss, a recognition of dominant positionality inherent in your identity or organization, or the ways in which privilege and power manifests in the session and how you will use or respond to it.

Session Formats

The Program Committee encourages submission of proposals that may include, but are not limited to, the following formats:

Incubator Session. Session consisting of two or three short presentations that describe a project, research, or collaboration initiatives in their developing or formative stages, and including at least 40 minutes of interactive discussion with feedback from the audience.

Special Focus Session. Session led by an individual or group, designed to highlight innovative archives or records management programs, new techniques, and research projects. Audience participation is encouraged.

Lightning Talks. Session consisting of eight to ten lively and informative 5-minute talks. The session chair secures commitments from speakers and compiles all presentation slides into one single presentation to ensure timely speaker transitions. 

Panel Discussion. Session consisting of a panel of three to five individuals discussing theories or perspectives on a given topic. The goal of a panel discussion is to have a more informal session with time for audience feedback. Presentation titles should be provided and will be printed in the program, but prepared papers are not required. A moderator is required (this role may be performed by the chair); a commentator is optional.

Poster Presentation. Report in which information is summarized using brief written statements and graphic materials, such as photographs, charts, graphs, and/or diagrams mounted on poster board (if in person) or in a PDF document (if virtual). Presenters will be assigned a specific time at which they must be with their poster to discuss it with attendees, if presenting in-person.

NEW in 2023! Unconference (180 minutes): Consists of a three-hour, participatory session where attendees will co-create the agenda around a theme. Session proposals should include two to four facilitators and a description of the proposed topics to be covered. Proposals should also describe the experience the facilitators have with providing facilitation, and how facilitators will ensure inclusive participation, including in a potentially hybrid setting. Facilitators of selected sessions will also be encouraged to solicit ideas from prospective participants around areas for discussion in advance of the Annual Meeting.

Alternative Format. Don’t feel confined by the prescribed formats—suggest an alternative or create your own! Alternative format sessions may take a variety of forms. Examples include world café and fishbowl discussions. Propose a moderated debate offering opposing points of view, or an “experiential” format involving simulation, role play, or games to convey key principles and learning objectives. We welcome your creative ideas about how your topic might best be addressed! Proposals in this category must: 1) specify the format and session facilitator and 2) describe briefly how the format will enhance the presentation of the material. You may suggest up to four presenters for the session.

 Your format choice will not affect the Program Committee’s decision. The Committee may, however, recommend that the proposed format be changed if it believes that a different format may better serve the session’s learning objectives or desired audience.

Submit Proposal

Proposals for the 2023 Annual Meeting are due on Friday, December 9, 2022, at 11:59 pm CT.  The Program Committee will not consider proposals received after the deadline.

The 2023 Joint Annual Meeting abstract and speaker management system is synced to the SAA association management system (AMS).  If you are subscribed to a discussion list via SAA Connect or have made a purchase with SAA (membership, book order, donation, and/or registration for a SAA course or annual meeting) you already have an account in SAA’s AMS. The individual submitting the proposal on behalf of the group and all speakers (presenters, facilitators, moderators, etc.) should update their profiles or create a profile in SAA’s AMS.  You need not be a member of SAA to submit a proposal or gain access to the SAA AMS. See FAQs for more information. 

  • You may create or edit your profile via the SAA homepage.
    We strongly recommend instructing your co-presenters to create or update their profiles prior to starting the proposal submission. This will expedite the process when adding them to the proposal. 
  • Review the submission form questions (PDF) before submitting your proposal. Note: Submissions will only be received through the online submission form not the PDF.


For additional guidance on submitting your proposal, read 2021 Program Committee member Sharmila Bhatia’s five tips for writing successful session proposals.

The 2023 Program Committee has created a Google spreadsheet to be used as an informal tool to connect individuals who are seeking ideas and/or collaboration on session proposals for the 2023 Joint Annual Meeting. It is not monitored by CoSA, SAA, or the Program Committee and is not part of the official submission process.


Questions? Contact the Conference Office at

Annual Meeting referenced: 
Session Submission Form Questions from 2023 Annual Meeting.pdf203.38 KB

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