This year I made my first trip to the Society of American Archivists annual meeting, which was held in Washington DC. It was my first time attending a large conference, so it was a lot to take in, but I think I made the most of my time there without getting too overwhelmed! It was a quick trip, I only was there for one-and-a-half days, so unfortunately I don’t have a comprehensive report to give, but below are some of my impressions and opinions on the happenings at the conference and my experience as a first-timer.
My main reason for attending the conference was to network and augment my job search. I met with someone to look over my resume and discuss strategies for applying, and she was very helpful in giving me suggestions of places to apply to and offering to pass my resume along to colleagues. Other offerings for attendees in the midst of applying to jobs were not as helpful, however. There was a job board with postings, most of which were already on SAA’s website, and a place to post your resume, but I didn’t get the sense that either area was attracting that much attention or that career and job search services were a strong point of the conference as a whole.
As for professional development, the session I found most interesting, beneficial and probably the most useful to ArLiSNAP members, was a roundtable on visual materials cataloguing and access. In it, a panel discussed the new Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics) guidelines, how they differ from and and relate to existing guidelines and how they can be implemented using MARC (DCRM(G) can also be used in EAD as well). First a “live cataloguing demo” was presented and then we split up into smaller groups to try our hand at using the guidelines to catalogue a photo album. When we reconvened as a larger group, each one had thought of different ways of titling and describing the materials (and some heated arguments ensued). It was a good reminder that there can be multiple “right” ways to catalogue, and that cataloguing is an art with guidelines to follow, but no real hard fast rules. In a room full of seasoned cataloguers all using the same set of guidelines to describe the same materials, differences abounded. Knowing that veteran cataloguers faced some of the same cataloguing quandaries I have as a new professional was reassuring, if not a bit unbalancing as well. I also attended sessions on preventative conservation, deaccessioning and teaching with primary resources. If anyone is particularly interested in preventative conservation, I have a handout from the session listing some great resources for disaster planning and risk management which I would be happy to share.
I also attended the Museum Archives Section meeting. Primarily this was a business meeting for officers, but it was interesting to see which museums were represented and what issues were discussed. Funding and administrative support seemed to be the main hot-button issues, which is not surprising coming from the non-profit sector. For those of us working in museums and other non-profit arts institutions, funding issues and defending the importance of library and archives’ place in the arts are probably things we will all have to deal with at some point in our careers.
I went solo, which might seem scary to some, but between my jam-packed schedule and the general bustle of the conference it didn’t leave much time to be intimidated. Plus, it being a fairly small professional circle, it wasn’t hard to spot former classmates and colleagues. So, even though I went alone, for much of the time I was with people I knew or networking and making new acquaintances. The biggest hindrance to attending was the cost. Being a recent graduate, I got student pricing which helped out immensely, but still there was the cost of the plane ticket, hotel room, food and transportation. I would highly recommend that any current students thinking of attending next year try to involve themselves in some way, whether it be submitting a poster or serving as a member of their SAA student chapter, to get some financial help from their program to attend.
Overall, I felt it was a great experience. There was a lot to offer for those interested in art and visual materials, and good representation from museums and other arts and cultural institutions. My goal was to network and I definitely made some great, and I hope lasting, connections. Besides trying to get help with funding, my biggest piece of advice would be to go in with a specific goal. Having networking and job hunting in my mind helped to keep me focused and not feel like I had to do everything.
Did anyone else go this year? What did you think? If anyone has specific questions about the conference itself, the sessions I attended or attending in general, feel free to email me!