Terry Baxter, Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect

Terry Baxter

What I treasure most about my archives life is the sense that we work in community and lead each other to a more just, meaningful, and connected profession and life.



Living in eight different decades provides opportunity for biography, friends! I was raised in Penang, Malaysia, and moved to Coos Bay, Oregon, in 1977 to attend college and live with my grandparents (an experience I’ve always treasured). Between 1977 and 1985, I attended Southwestern Oregon Community College, Oregon State University, and Western Oregon University. I got my first archives job in 1985 as a student worker at the Oregon State Archives. I obtained my BS in history in 1986 and started working there as an archvist. I owe a debt to an early mentor, Roy Turnbaugh, State Archivist of Oregon until 2008. He spent a year putting me through a structured reading and writing program on archives theory and practice—a gift of time and energy that provided a solid base to the rest of my career. After ten years at the state archives, I was an archivist for two years at Pacificorp, but realized that public service aligned best with my values and took a job with Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon. I’ve worked there as a proud union archivist for 22 years. I’ve also been the archivist for the Oregon Country Fair for the last ten years. I joined SAA in 2000 and Northwest Archivists in 2002. I have served in a variety of leadership roles, both appointed and elected. What I value about my mix of occupational and professional work is the opportunity to interact in mentorship, collaboration, and activism with so many talented and fun individuals. From the Mosaic Program to the Protocols education sessions to the Oregon Archives Crawl to the Archives Leadership Institute—what I treasure most about my archives life is the sense that we work in community and lead each other to a more just, meaningful, and connected profession and life.



Diversity, equity, and inclusion aim to create meaningful connections between and among human beings, including our ancestors and descendants. Diversity represents all of the possible connections that could exist. Equity states that these connections and the ways that they’re made are available to any person. Inclusion means that we actively work to facilitate these connections and not just passively hope they happen.

I am not your average archivist—I’m a man, I’m uneducated, I’m old. What is average about me is that I’m also a white person living in a white supremacist world. Of all the things that damage our ability to build an inclusive archives community, white supremacy is the most destructive. The US archives world doesn’t wear its white supremacy with the stars and bars or 88 tattoos. But its persistent embrace of neutrality and its ambivalence toward direct action is just as corrosive and dangerous.

None of us are fully inclusive. Which means that regardless of where we are on that path, there’s always something more to learn. I think one of the most enlightening lessons I learned was in 2008, when SAA leaders emphatically rejected endorsing the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. There were several rationales for this decision, but as I argued then with an admired archival leader, what it really came down to was an exercise of power that said these Protocols conflict with established archival principles and because we can ignore them, we will. I remember talking with an ATALM leader about the possibility of some sort of joint meeting with SAA. She noted that until SAA took the simple but important step of endoring the Protocols, that sort of collaboration wouldn’t happen. It took ten years of sustained activism, primarily by members of the Native American Archives Section, for endorsement to come. This shows us the face of white supremacy in this organization. It also shows how it can be broken and eventually discarded.

White supremacy has built walls that obstruct the full participation of members, especially BIPOC members, in SAA. It has also broken and prevented connections that would allow us all to exist in community as comrades. Inclusion is about removing barriers to create access to power, to participation, and most importantly to each other. White supremacy cannot be reformed. SAA will never be fully inclusive until we burn down every piece of it.



Among SAA’s strategic goals is to meet members' needs by delivering outstanding service, fostering a culture of inclusiveness and participation, and being proactive and responsive. Identify one factor that undermines diversity, equity, and inclusion in SAA and describe what programs and/or projects you would implement to overcome this barrier.


Luther Snow, the facilitator for the Archives Leadership Institute in Decorah, Iowa, said something that has tickled my brain for the last seven years: “Every community looks like a club from the outside. Every club looks like a community from the inside.”

An archivist friend of mine is a former member of SAA. They left it because “it’s just a big country club for a small clique of insiders.” Another member and I were talking about how different SAA and ATALM are. “SAA is so remote and unfriendly. You learn things from both organizations, but ATALM makes you feel connected and at ease.” This has not been my experience with SAA and that fact alone makes me uneasy about my place in relation to its unfriendly and cliquey aspects. It also makes me think about how that could be changed.

While we’ve only had one year (and now will have a second) with a virtual Annual Meeting, conversations I’ve had lead me to believe that it has been successful in engaging some members who have been unable or unwilling to attend the physical Annual Meeting. We should continue to offer remote access to the Annual Meeting, plan for more and different kinds of remote meetings, and study member and attendee satisfaction with both the remote and in-person meetings to identify the best mix.

I think part of the issue is the reliance of SAA on the in-person Annual Meeting as the primary method for members to connect as human beings. This means that those of us lucky enough to have travel funding or have enough disposable income to choose to self-fund are able to benefit from that connection. While scholarships exist, they don’t come close to covering costs. And the effects of the pandemic on jobs and incomes and travel budgets will only increase this disparity. SAA should commit itself to providing equitable connection through both organizational change and through member support.

From the organizational end, SAA should look at changing the frequency, location, and length of annual meetings—maybe looking at replacing some years’ annual meetings with super-regionals like the Western Archives Meeting. While an all-Zoom life may not be desirable, many of us have come to use it to connect with each other along a varied work-life spectrum. There are opportunities for SAA to use this technology to break down barriers among members, other archivists, and archival organizations.

From the member end, SAA should partner with other professional organizations and advocate for the cancellation of all student debt. This unfair drag on many professionals limits opportunity. We should also support a dues restructuring that reduces or eliminates dues for some of the lower tiers and increases dues for upper tiers. We should continue the Archival Workers Emergency Fund indefinitely and try to expand it. And we should work with the Academy of Certified Archivists to develop a path to being seen as a fully informed and competent archivist that does not rely on having a graduate degree.



Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2021 election:

Vice President/President-Elect



Nominating Committee