fellowship update: SAA 2015


Sunrise run in Cleveland to start the conference day off right.

Last week was the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Cleveland. This was my first SAA experience. It was overall good, but I really do not love conferences that consist of only concurrent sessions. So much FOMO, it’s not even right. But I managed to see several good sessions over the three days I was in Cleveland. The following highlight a few of the sessions I attended and some tweets.

One of the plenary speakers was Daniel Horowitz Garcia from StoryCorps. He gave a wonderful and moving talk about the power of the stories and diverse voices that archives can preserve and share. The theme of the talk reminded me of something the plenary speaker at NEA 2015 said — “focus on what is made possible by the work.” Rather than talking endlessly about tasks, rules and tools, archivists need to talk most about what is made possible by the work we do.


On Wednesday, I toured the Cleveland Public Library! A beauty.

The web archiving roundtable provided updates on the group and two presentations. Rosalie Lack talked about the partnership between CDL WAS and Archive-It. Karl Blumenthal talked about developing quality assurance practices for the NYARC web archives. This meeting and the Seeding Engagement session (see below) both talked about data mining access for web archives. And that got me thinking about how great it would be to have a “working with WARCs” boot camp that could introduced archivists and librarians to analysis methods used to explore web archives at the aggregate level. Can someone whip that together, please?! A question was also raised as to why there is so little contribution to open source web archiving community. A good question and I’m not sure why. It could be that many libraries/archives don’t have any full time web archiving staff.

The crew at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library demoed some of the work they’ve done with Artefactual Systems to add an new and improved appraisal and arrangement module to Archivematica. The work is part of a larger Mellon grant project. Can’t wait until we can try this out in our workflow.

I also attended a really interesting session  – Mind Your Own F#@cking Business – about documenting communities that don’t want to be documented. I wish I took more notes – I actually didn’t write a word down! Too busy listening to the speakers. The big question for me from this session was .. how does an archivist balance wanting to document (feeling it’s critical to document) and still respect a community’s right to be forgotten or their cultural protocols for sharing traditional knowledge.

On Friday, I attended a great session on “Seeding Engagement” with web archives. The speakers discussed outreach efforts, researcher services for analyzing web archives, and collaborative web archive development. Abbie Grotke talked about the Library of Congress program and connecting with curators to build collections. Anna Perricci discussed a project at Columbia to coordinate various grant funded projects aimed to develop web archiving tools. Nicholas Taylor talked about connecting with web masters about archiviability. Stanford provides a guide on archiviability that I’ve found very useful. Jefferson Bailey talked a lot about different kinds of researcher services and uses of web archives. It was really interesting to hear a bit about how researchers want to use Internet Archive/Archive-It data for data mining and analysis.  His advice? Be generous with data, be flexible in services offered, and don’t worry too much about web archives having gaps and being messy. Analog collections can be incomplete and messy too, after all.

The last session I attended was on advertising collections and the depiction of women in advertising. It was both fun and sad to see the sexist images and learn about the often sexist context of the ads. I didn’t have a chance to ask the panelists, but I wonder if anyone is web archiving with advertisement collections in mind. Can we somehow document personalized advertisements on social media or other websites? What would that even take? In existing web archives, are we capturing ads? Is anyone doing QA to make sure ads make it into the collection?

 Honestly, yeah. Dixie Cup adverts were really interesting. Diane Shaw from Lafayette College presented on Dixie Cup.

Until, Archives 2016 – I’ll leave with you a few fun things…

  • Most tweeted sessions complied by Ed Summer
  • #FakeSAA happened:

  • Other tweets that made us giggle:

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