The OMA at SAA 2015

This year at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) conference in Cleveland, OH, there were several great sessions and forums pertaining to community archives, post-custodial theory, and best practices for documenting and sharing the stories of multicultural communities.

Below are highlights from a few OMA related presentations:

“Mind Your Own Fucking Business”: Documenting Communities that Don’t Want to Be Documented and the Diversity of the American Record

This session featured various presenters who shared their challenges and successes as they strive to seek new ways to diversify the American record while attempting to document communities that resist documentation efforts. They shared their thoughts regarding finding the balance between the desire for communities to remain unrecorded and the desire for a complete American record.  The presenters covered decolonizing copyright, graffiti art culture, the “right to forget” movement and anonymity, domestic terrorists, LGBT activists and business owners, polygamists, and law enforcement officers.

The Community IS the Archives: Challenging the Role of the Repository in Community Archives

Archivists, librarians, and community historians know that local residents often distrust repositories. This creates hidden collections—and hidden histories—in the community, especially from groups that are more socially remote from institutions with archives.  The presenters stated that as professionals, we have a responsibility to challenge the notion of the “repository as archives” and serve the community better by decentralizing appraisal and custody, coordinating resource deployment, and collaborating in providing description and access.

Post-custodial Theory of Archives: A Debate

The post-custodial theory of archives suggests that “archivists will no longer physically acquire and maintain records,” but that they “will provide management oversight for records that will remain in the custody of the record creators.” This session featured a non-traditional presentation format that featured a debate about the post-custodial approach to managing and providing access to archival collections.

Forum: The Secret Life of Records (Sponsored by the SAA Diversity Committee)

This session posed the question: “What are the unknown or unexplored aspects of an archival record?” and the presenters explored notable applications and implications of collection management in a contemporary, digital context as it relates to underrepresented groups. The panelists discussed the challenges related to acquisition, preservation, and accessibility of non-traditional records, such as born-digital materials and media-based materials that can easily be altered or lost. Using recent examples, such as unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager, panelists explained how they used social media and digital initiatives as a prism through which to view archival records and documented history versus lived experiences. The speakers represented diverse archival backgrounds, including familiarity with media and film records, human rights and government records, community-created records, and social media records.

The OMA will soon be attending ATALM in mid-September in Washington DC and will be presenting, so check back for that recap!

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