Reporting back from the 2022 ARCHIVES*RECORDS Conference

September 15th, 2022

by Julie Rosier, Graduate Student (MSIS, Archives & Records Management), University at Albany, SUNY and Tanya Ulmer, MLIS, Web Archivist for Archive-It

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) held its first hybrid ARCHIVES*RECORDS conference from August 25 to August 27, 2022. The conference was attended by at least 1700 in-person attendees at the Sheraton Boston, indicating with their lanyards their comfort levels for in-person interaction. Many more attended the numerous plenaries, education and incubator sessions, council meetings, mini-theaters, social hours, and so on online. Here are but a few of the innumerable highlights from the three-day event, as witnessed in-person by Julie Rosier (JAR) and online by Tanya Ulmer (TU).


Thursday, August 25

JAR: The first session, Giving back to the Community through Computational Scholarship, presented three in-process projects that implement computational technologies to unlock a more complete story of what happened in the Japanese American Concentration Camps of World War II. A team from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley partnered with Doxie.AI, a machine learning/AI company to extract data from Japanese American Confinement Records with the goals of creating preservation files and building a more complete dataset. A second team examined an Incident Card dataset using Python and Plotly, and incorporating NetworkX functions to create social network models to view different interactions between individuals over time and how they relate to various events (as reported by government officials). Finally, the Deputy Director of Densho presented on implementing an entity resolution process to create an authoritative names registry of the individuals held in the ten WRA camps during the WWII incarceration. All projects reflected on having to consider complex ethical questions while working with this sensitive data.

Slide showing the pipeline for the Names Registry database.

A slide from Densho’s Reclaiming the Soul of the Data presentation, showing a pipeline that uses OpenRefine, Jupyter notebooks and Python Pandas to form the Names Registry database.

TU: Later that day in Reimagining Access, Robert Dirig and his team from the ArtCenter College of Design detailed how they conducted usability testing on their Archives Portal for users with disabilities. Their participants had brought a variety of their own assistive technologies to their testing. The team demonstrated one of the more common text-to-voice technologies they’d brought called Capti during the session. They urged other digital archives to try assistive technologies and better principles of design on their own digital archives to make them more accessible to all end users.

Friday, August 26

JAR: The Keynote Address featured Katrina Spencer and Jamillah Gabriel in conversation about overcommitment and setting professional boundaries from their specific positionality as black women library workers/scholars. Their talk referenced Spencer’s recent article, The Comprehensive Guide to Resisting Overcommitment, released in January 2022 by up//root: a we here publication. With Gabriel asking questions and offering her own commentary along the way, Spencer outlined some strategies to reclaim agency in the workplace. She talked about how defining boundaries does not always mean saying no, but recommended carefully considering whether rewards directly align with core developmental goals, negotiating terms that work for you before saying yes, and when declining opportunities training yourself to withstand uncomfortable silences. Both Spencer and Gabriel spoke to the need for resisting tokenism and encouraged library workers with privileged identities to take initiative in working towards equity in the workplace to shoulder some of the burden that often falls disproportionately on their BIPOC colleagues.

Photograph of the keynote address stage at the Sheraton Boston with three women, two sitting and one standing at the podium.

Katrina Spencer (left) and Jamillah Gabriel (middle) being thanked by current SAA president Courtney Chartier (right) for the keynote address.

TU: The Public Record in Peril shone much needed light on the numerous ways born-digital public records have sometimes been destroyed or improperly handled at every level of government in the United States, either by incompetence or malfeasance. Bryan Whitledge reminded us of the legislation and legal precedents protecting the public record, notably Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 to include electronic records, now including a wide array of messaging platforms. Nick Connizzo spoke directly to the technical threats that damage the records while they’re  in motion, including cyber attacks, exfiltration of confidential information, insertion of misleading information, cryptography, and Artificial Intelligence. Marilyn Creswell highlighted a number of recent headlines showing the impact such mishandling is having on democratic society, starting off with a “cheeky” one from the Times Union. She then reminded us of archivists’ long-standing values and how they were ready with statements on transparency and transitions. They urged archivists to continue acting quickly in preserving these records, educating those responsible for keeping these records, and advocating for more protection of the public record.

TU: Cultivating Community Web Archives celebrated the diverse collections developed by participants in Archive-It’s Community Webs program. Dylan Gaffney highlighted Forbes Library‘s collections and humorously quipped that joining the program was like being “given a free kitten.” Derek Mosley spoke to Auburn Avenues’ efforts and some of the technical challenges to archive Black Owned Businesses in Atlanta, including restaurants and funeral homes. Alexandria Gough told us how web archiving extended the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma‘s already extensive web presences that document their interactions, traditions, and tribal governance. And Sung Kim spotlighted how LAPL’s  Los Angeles Ethnic and Cultural Communities collection was developed by reaching out across its 72 branches to the vibrant communities coexisting in their diverse region. Lori Donovan provided the Community Webs program overview, moderated discussion, and outlined plans for a DPLA integration and expansion of the cohort with the ongoing  Call for Applications.

Screenshot of five people sitting on stage at a table.

Cultivating Community Web Archives panel (from left to right), Alexandria Gough, Derek Mosely, Dylan Gaffney, Sung Kim, and Lori Donovan.

Saturday, August 27

JAR: Finally, on Saturday morning, Using Liberating Structures for Strategic Conversations, struck a very welcome interactive note, introducing attendees to the inclusive facilitation techniques of Liberating Structures (LS). Given the sessions immersive nature, presenters launched directly into demonstrating how different microstructures shape our interactions. Using a quite comical strategy, participants were invited to brainstorm ways to maximize barriers to successful strategic planning, leading to suggestions like, “Wait until the absolute last minute to start the process, so as to create as much urgency and anxiety in the room as possible.” Working backwards from these destructive suggestions, groups were then able to find creative and innovative ways to successfully address time management challenges in the strategic planning process.

The 2022 hybrid ARCHIVES*RECORDS event was filled with inspiration for all attendees to build more self-sustaining practices along with stronger communities of care. Thank you to all of the wonderful presenters and the Society of American Archivists for organizing it!

Julie Rosier (@redthreadtweets) is pursuing a master’s in information sciences (with a concentration in Archives and Records Management) at University at Albany, SUNY. Her passion for history, archives and technology has been nurtured over the years by work as a writer, cultural organizer and community-accountable scholar.