DIY Archives: NEA Spring 2012 Meeting

As Danielle kindly mentioned in her last post, she and I recently shared a blog-worthy experience; this past Saturday, we attended the New England Archivists (NEA) Spring 2012 Meeting. Running the risk of blog redundancy, I’m going to spend a bit of time writing about my experience at NEA. Luckily, Danielle and I attended some different sessions and got different take-aways from the meeting, so I’m thinking this post will be unique after all!

The NEA Spring 2012 Meeting was held at Wesleyan University, which makes its home in the quaint city of Middletown, Connecticut. It was really nice to have the opportunity to get out of Boston for a day; I love the city, but getting out to smaller-scale America is something I really appreciate doing from time to time. As a bonus, Wesleyan University is a beautiful campus, and since the weather was somewhere in the realm of “This can’t be March!” we were able to get some time outdoors between sessions.

This was my first ever professional conference. It was very exciting to spend a day with so many archivists!

There’s something incredibly comforting about being in a place where you know you could crack a library/archives joke and actually be understood by nearly 100% of the people around you (my non-library friends just can’t keep up!). Admittedly, I was somewhat nervous about the whole idea of “networking,” but I generally found that archivists just like talking to other archivists (and archives students), and striking up and maintaining conversations was not difficult at all.

The theme of the meeting was “DIY Archives,” and speakers discussed various ways they have completed bold projects with limited resources, addressing a major reality of the archival field, which is that funding is low and aspirations are high. The keynote speaker, Snowden Becker of the Center for Home Movies, lived up to her task and truly promoted the DIY ideal in a kick-off presentation first thing in the morning. The Center for Home Movies is a grassroots organization that works to promote the idea that home movies and amateur film footage are important documents of and contributors to cultural memory. I highly suggest checking out their website to learn more.

Two of the panels I attended were focused on outreach and the third was on archival ethics. In general, I found that the concepts the panelists spoke to were very much in line with what I have been learning about in my GSLIS classes. At first, I found myself being snobby about this: “Why are these professionals talking about all this stuff I’ve already learned about? Shouldn’t I be exposed to something new?” Upon further consideration, I realized something. I’m in a graduate program in which my instructors are tasked with preparing me to enter a profession with and up-to-date understanding of relevant issues. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that I’m learning about the “fresh and new” concepts in my classes, and that these would be the same foci of speakers at a professional conference? What started as curmudgeonliness quickly turned into appreciation for Simmons GSLIS for teaching me the right things, and for the speakers themselves for demonstrating ways and providing tips for actually implementing the concepts I was learning about in classes. I was exposed to new facets of familiar ideas, and they are already informing the way I imagine my future role in the profession. I’d say that’s a successful outcome of a professional conference, wouldn’t you?

 

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