SAA ARCS Annual General Meeting Minutes, July 13, 2023

SAA ARCS Annual General Meeting


July 13, 2023


3:00-4:30PM CST


Steering Committee present: Elaine Nadeau, Mary Grace Kosta, Tom McCullough, Jill Botticelli, Beaudry Allen, McGarvey Ice, Erin Louthen


Attendees overall: 55


The meeting experienced a delay in starting as Jill was experiencing some technical difficulties with Webex and allowing people entry to the meeting. After that was resolved, she continued to experience technical difficulties, so Mary Grace Kosta led the meeting instead.


Lydia, our SAA Council liaison was unable to attend. Mary Grace stated that she will post Lydia's message to the section on the section forum. She also reminded everyone to vote for Steering Committee members in the upcoming election. Lydia's message can be read here


Mary Grace announced the winner of the Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P., award: Russell Gasero. Her introduction can be read here:


At this point she thanked Erin for serving on the selection committee for the Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P., award.


Elaine read the minutes from the 2022 Annual Meeting. Minutes were approved.


Mary Grace thanked everyone who served on the Steering Committee this past year: Tim Binkley, Jill Botticelli, Erin Louthen, Beaudry Allen, McGarvey Ice, Elaine Nadeau, and Mary Grace Kosta.  Mary Grace also offered an update on the Models and Resources Committee as of May 2022. This past year there were 17 Lunch and Learns, 16 of which were recorded and made available on the Models and Resources YouTube channel. Each webinar is one hour long, and the webinars cover a wide variety of topics. There are 18 upcoming Lunch and Learns for the remainder of the year and early next year. Lunch and Learns average 95 attendees- double that number for webinars, with attendees from the US and overseas. There were six Archival Chats which were not recorded. “Archival Spirit,” the section newsletter, publishes summaries. On the ARCS microsite, there are also policies and manuals for use and adaptation. Thanks to the Models and Resources Committee!


Final item was a panel discussion on problems unique to religious archives. Taffey Hall was not present, so Russell Gasero and Mary Grace moderated. The panel wanted to identify problems- not promising answers or solutions, but instead to get problems out there. The Models and Resources Committee can plan sessions on the issues addressed. The panel included Russell Gasero, Jeff Anderson, Joel Thoreson, Nan Caro, and Erin Louthen.


Q.  Several recent research studies have indicated declining attendance at places of worship, membership, and religious affiliation in the United States.  How has this changing landscape impacted the funding, archival acquisitions, and staffing structures of your institutions?



Lack of funding, increased amount of work, more volunteers (funding), varying success due to high turnover.


Q. Acquiring and preserving congregational records is a continual assignment for archivists working in religious collections.  How can local places of worship be persuaded that keeping their records is of value?  What strategies can archivists working in religious collections use in assisting these local congregations in preserving their records and stories?


A.  Workshops, online outreach, denominational staff, as well as policies to help them follow. Contact is important. New people require constant training, ability to do new things. Erin invites staff for in-person visits to help them understand records retention and other new-ish methods being implemented.



Q.  Some religious faith communities may send missionaries around the world and some of those individuals serve in areas in which identification of their name and location could compromise their security.  How do collections balance digital/online information in matters of personal security for missionaries in these situations?


A. Privacy needed to protect identity and safety. How long restricted asked by an attendee- depends on how long they feel it is relevant- no limit on the restriction.


Q.  How do archivists working in religious collections manage varying theological and political factions within their community (that may not always be apparent to individuals outside the faith group) in relation to preserving historical records?  What measures should archivists working in religious collections take to ensure objectivity in acquiring, preserving, and making these records accessible?


Q. Reports of sexual abuse and misconduct have impacted several major religious communities over the past decades.  What concerns have these instances and investigations had on religious archives?  What considerations should archivists working in religious collections contemplate in balancing documenting abuse including records preservation and privacy/confidentiality issues?


A. Community saved every single letter that was written between chancery and leadership- archdiocese as sealed all records related to the IHM. Cannot be published/digitized due to the copyright on letters from the Cardinal. There will be an exhibit and a finding aid is complete for all materials. People can see- even if copyright remains.


Q. Having broadly discussed some topics on the current context of religious archives, let's shift to questions related to user expectations of archivists working in religious collections.  What are your experiences about how much archivists working in religious collections are presumed to know about the history and regional differences of their faith community?  Do you find that your community expects you, as an archivist, to know all the answers, find all the materials, and collect and preserve a broad scope of historical resources related to your religious group?  Do you feel your community puts unreasonable expectations on your archive to know everything about the faith community that you represent?


Q. Archivists working in religious collections may often feel a calling to service and to helping others.  How do archivists working in religious collections navigate researcher and staff expectations to "go the extra mile"?


Q. Many archivists working in religious collections are lone arrangers.  In these situations, how do archivists deal with a list of "to-do's" that often stretches a mile long?  How do lone arranger archivists working in religious collections prioritize?  How do they communicate to leadership, managers, and other staff that many archival tasks are multi-layered and require much time and effort?  How do lone arranger archivists working in religious collections set boundaries and create policies that allow the archivist to be of service, but also acknowledge the limited resources, lack of staff, and/or general lack of understanding about what it is an archivist does?


Floor turned over to attendees for them to address their own archival issues. It was recommended by several attendees that it would benefit members to be a part of the SAA Business Section, due to the hierarchy of many institutions.


Meeting was adjourned.


Elaine Nadeau


Mount St. Scholastica

Atchison, KS