Six Favourite Things about ARA in Newcastle, England

September 9th, 2014


This is a guest post by Maria LaCalle, Partner Specialist for Archive-It.

After many years of attending the SAA annual meeting, gathering with UK archivists in Newcastle for their annual Archives & Records conference was a fascinating experience.

Here are my Six Favourite Things about ARA 2014:

1. Rick Prelinger (of the Prelinger Archives and Internet Archive board member) kicked off the conference with a keynote address titled “The Noisy Archives”. Always an engaging presenter, Prelinger challenged the audience to consider a larger role for the public in the archive, to encourage serendipitous discovery of resources in the archive and to embolden experimentation in order for archives to remain vibrant, inclusive places for research and discovery. Lots of food for thought to a very receptive audience.

2. Martin Berendse, President of ICA and CEO of Amsterdam Public Library gave another excellent address, calling for the facilitation of open and free access to information and quality data as the central role of archives. By embracing this as the number one priority of the profession, Berendse contended that archivists will ensure that their voices are heard and remain relevant while helping to create partnerships with the IT and legal communities.

3. The University of Hull is doing great things with their born digital archives. Simon Wilson presented a very practical, hands-on session regarding digital preservation tools. If you’re not aware of their work on the AIMS project, you can check them out here.

4. Rebecca Bradley (Newcastle University ) discussed “Poetics in the Archive” and the use of creative visualizations of archival material. Many of their visualizations were really quite beautiful and I was impressed with their creative approach to convey information. Anyone interested in data visualization in archives should check them out ( and take a look at my favorite visualization, the Box Log Connection!

5. Prior to the conference, I saw a Twitter post regarding a meeting of the Cardigan Continuum. Intrigued, I looked them up and discovered an archives reading group meeting during ARA to discuss Terry Cook’s ‘We Are What We Keep; We Keep What We Are’: Archival Appraisal Past, Present and Future. What could be better! About 10 of us gathered at a pub and a lively discussion ensued. It was fascinating to hear how archival appraisal is undertaken in the UK while using the challenging ideas presented by Cook to guide the discussion.

6. Finally, the high point of my ARA experience was the Thursday evening reception with Newcastle party band, Storm! Complete with light show and rather good covers of what I was told are classic British party songs (think Abba and Tom Jones); it was a great evening. Note to SAA organizers: take one from the UK archivists and think about incorporating a dance party at the next reception (FYI: it may be a requirement that all reception tables include four bottles of wine. Just reporting the facts here, people).

For those interested in reading the Twitter archive can do so here.

Summaries of selected presentations are available on the ARA site.

Looking forward to catching up with our UK colleagues next year in Dublin!