Highlights of SAA's 2003 Annual Meeting

“Spotlight on Archives: Showcasing the Diversity of the Archival Enterprise,” SAA's 67th annual meeting in Los Angeles, Aug. 18–24, drew a record attendance of more than 1,200 archivists, allied professionals, and students.

The exhilarating week began with ten pre-conference workshops, which included “Copyright: The Archivist and the Law,” “Archival Perspectives in Digital Preservation,” and “Style Sheets for EAD—Delivering Your Finding Aids on the Web” and new offerings, such as “Real World Reference: Moving Beyond Theory” and “Ethical Problem Solving.”

“All workshops were filled to capacity,” noted SAA Education Co-Director Solveig DeSutter. “It was very satisfying to offer a variety of choices that addressed members’ needs and convinced them to come early and take advantage of in-depth continuing education in a great setting.” The conference was held at the Century Plaza Hotel and Spa in the Westside neighborhood of Los Angeles.

A tantalizing slate of 70 sessions reflected this year’s two-fold theme. Many sessions took advantage of the conference venue and highlighted the film, sound recording, and entertainment industries that are synonymous with California. Several sessions explored minority involvement in film and television, preservation and use of regional black theater collections, women’s home front activities during WWII, black musicians and the heyday of Los Angeles’s Central Avenue club scene, Southern California’s surf and car culture, women architects in Hollywood and Santa Barbara, and the Online Archives of California.

Anniversary commemorations figured prominently in sessions that examined the 35th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, the 50th anniversary of the Brown versus Board of Education case, the 100th anniversary of the publication of W.E.B. DuBois’s landmark essay, “The Souls of Black Folk,” and the 125th anniversary of recorded sound. Workplace issues also abounded in sessions devoted to diversity, job hunting, mentoring, career development, recertification, volunteer workers, and employer ethics.

Back by popular demand were “unplugged” sessions on topics fundamental to archival work. This year’s topics, taught by recognized experts in the field, investigated the basics of moving image archives, security, oral history, records management, outreach, privacy and confidentiality, and fundraising and grant writing. Traditional topics, such as acquisitions, appraisal, description, and reference, were also addressed.

“As I become more focused on archival descriptive practices and standards in my work, I rely increasingly on SAA meetings as a marketplace for very timely information,” said Dennis Meissner of the Minnesota Historical Society. “In that regard, the 2003 conference rewarded me as well as any ever has, bringing together in a number of different program sessions rich thought and information from American, Canadian, and European archivists on current practice and emerging trends.”

Two outstanding plenary speakers captivated capacity crowds in the hotel’s main ballroom. In a highly entertaining opening general session, Paul Duguid, co-author of The Social Life of Information, discussed the continuing value of artifactual evidence in an increasingly digital age. During the closing general session, private map collector David Rumsey provided a fascinating example of how to make archival records come alive by demonstrating his use of historical maps in modern geographic information systems.

Cassette tapes of nearly 70 sessions and both plenary speakers are available from Convention Recordings.

One hundred twenty-five students—twice as many as attended last year’s meeting— participated in the L.A. conference. The third annual poster forum garnered 15 entries and highlighted the research activities of graduate students from archives and records management programs throughout the United States as well as projects and activities of several SAA student chapters.

Carina MacLeod, a student at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, was a first-time attendee at the conference and found the experience informative and fun. “I thought sessions were varied and interesting and it was wonderful to talk to professionals and fellow students at the social events,” Carina said. “I also found that the exhibit hall gave me a chance to find out more about the various organizations and companies associated with archival practice, as potential vendors and even possible employers.”

The International Archives and Technology Exposition drew more than 50 suppliers of archival products and services and allied professional associations. “The exhibit hall at the annual meeting is the best place to meet these suppliers,” said Sue Hodson of the Huntington Institute. “It is the face-to-face interaction that makes the difference.”

Another unique feature of the conference was the “Archivists Career Center,” which offered an opportunity to connect individuals seeking employment with those seeking candidates. Nearly 200 attendees visited the center.

A wide array of tours provided a glimpse of historic Hollywood, downtown L.A., street art, architecture, and local archival repositories. Special events included an awards ceremony (see 2003 awards recipients and fellows) followed by “Spotlight on Archives,” a look at how archivists are portrayed in motion pictures. The world-famous Getty Center, with its stunning hilltop location, hosted an evening reception and open house. Attendees were treated to bountiful hors d’oeuvres amid a unique setting featuring dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and breathtaking views. Various exhibits, including Flemish manuscript painting in Europe and photographs from the 1960s by Winogrand, Eggleston and Arbus, were available for viewing. A Saturday evening reception at the Santa Monica Pier Carousel capped off a busy week. “There was no better way to end this conference than sunset at Santa Monica beach!” enthused annual meeting assistant Shari Christy of Anteon Corporation.