Professional conferences offer excellent opportunities for archivists and others to learn about what colleagues are doing at other cultural heritage organizations, archives, libraries, and museums. Many who follow the archival profession are familiar with the Society of American Archivists, which hosts an annual conference attended by thousands. Librarians also have an annual gathering sponsored by the American Library Association and were recently in Washington, D.C.
Smaller professional organizations based by region offer great conferences as well in smaller locations. These groups include, but are not limited to, the Midwest Archives Conference, the Society of California Archivists, and the Society of Georgia Archivists. When professionals come together to share new projects and tools, similar challenges, and ideas for collaboration at the various workshops and sessions, the field expands. Archivists are always learning.
MARAC or the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference has two conference events per year. The group has more than 1,000 members from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The spring conference, themed “Working Archives: A Labor of Love,” was in Morgantown, West Virginia. Attendees and presenters included representation from volunteer archivists to small college special collections to the Library of Congress.
Some sessions covered planning a digital preservation program, dealing with digital storage and technology issues, and creating community-based archives. Building on the theme, some presentations focused on stories of overlooked populations and “hidden” collections. Presenters shared the successes and challenges of reprocessing/revisiting collections that were not adequately described in the past, mixed in with other collections, or lacked finding aids. Another session focused on how people outside the archives can help describe collections they are familiar with. In three separate projects, members of a civic organization, journalists, and industrial glassworkers were able to contribute to the knowledge of the records.
The West Virginia University Libraries hosted an evening reception and attendees were able to view an expansive collection of local, state, and regional history at the West Virginia and Regional History Center. The center also has an impressive collection of rare books, including William Shakespeare's Four Folios and the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493. One treasure on view that evening was a medieval gradual from a monastery in Seville, circa 1425.
Knowledge sharing also went beyond the conference, as these regional conferences can sometimes make it easier for archivists to spread the word about the rich resources available to the public. Some colleagues and I had the opportunity to explain to a curious guest at the conference hotel about the purpose of archives and special collections. Her eyes lit up as she talked about how she is working on her family genealogy and has a lot of research to do after learning about some additional resources from the group. I, too, felt the same way returning to the office with some items to follow up on from some new colleagues I met at the conference.
- "Highlights from the 2018 Society of American Archivists Conference," by Kira M. Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Society of American Archivists Conference Recap," by Tammy L. Peters, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Some Archival Career Advice," by Jennifer Wright, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives