Welcome to the world, baby archivist.

5 May

It’s been a big few weeks in the patriarchive – my cohort graduated from our program and I volunteered at a conference this weekend that reminded me why I want to be an archivist.

This is my favorite photo from graduation. Many thanks to Mick McQuaid for the image.

Faculty and staff personalities shine through.

Later this week, nthlibrarian and I (and possibly a new contributor, Bill, who jokingly refers to his contribution as “views from the patriarchy”) will be writing a series of “want ads” about what we want from an institution. Job searching is a lot of things – hard and scary and often demoralizing, and I think that it’s important for us as young archivists to have just as high expectations of the institutions we want to join as they do of us. So stay tuned for that

About the conference – I have plenty to say about the themes and questions with which I was presented, but I’d like to give some of my initial thoughts on the program. Each presentation was exceptional in its own way — my three favorites were Fatma Müge Göçek, a sociologist who gave us an “archive story” of state-sponsored forgetting in Turkey; Verne Harris, a South African archivist who provided a framework for archivists who may feel normalized, bureaucratized and rudderless in issues of ethics and purpose; and Jack Tchen and Dylan Yeats, historians who explained the ethics of categorization and the importance of working locally in the context of “yellow peril.

What was most exciting (and, alternately, frustrating) was the discussion that came afterwards. It ran the gamut from “but, wait, aren’t archivists supposed to be objective, descriptive rather than prescriptive and activist?” [the answer, of course, is who are you trying to kid here?) to “um, what does this have to do with my backlog?” to archivists relationship to nostalgia and what exactly are the ethics of nostalgia.

Although there were the requisite pot-shots about SAA and the SAA code of ethics, it was interesting to me that discussions of “ethics from below” overshadowed a discussion of “ethics from above,” that is, how we might imagine SAA becoming an organization that represents our interests, protects archivists facing unfair consequences because of tough ethical decisions that they had to make, and provides a space for a continued conversation about these problems.

More on all of this later.

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