SAA 2012 Annual Meeting in San Diego – Beyond Borders

My self-funded trip to San Diego to attend the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting was a fantastic professional experience. I met some great people who are working on inspiring projects.

The view from the San Diego convention center. Photo by Cindy McLellan

Keynote speaker Jon Voss of Historypin set an exciting tone for the conference with his thoughtful and passionate multi-media presentation. Not an archivist himself, Voss does enjoy working with archivists and started working with and thinking about linked open data back in the early 1990s.

Networking began at the preconference event that I attended, CURATECamp, a day of brainstorming with other archivists who are striving to preserve digital materials. One of the concurrent preconference events was a Digital Forensics workshop; having been part of the Digital Records Forensics Project while I was a student at UBC I was torn as to which event to attend. Happily the organizers of both events realized their attendees would have common interests and organized a mixer for the end of the day. I enjoyed talking Digital Forensics and discovering what people and institutions are doing, what problems they are running into, and how they use (or plan to use) forensic software.

The archivist enjoying some art in Balboa Park before the conference began. Nikigator by Niki de Saint Phalle. Photo by Cindy McLellan

My busy week in San Diego included many highlights. I present to you a mix of my favourite conference sessions and cultural attractions:

  • Session 406. 80,000 Volunteers Can’t Be Wrong: The Case for Greater Collaboration with Wikipedia:     Staff from the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) shared their experiences of working with local Wikipedians. NARA’s already impressive social media presence and social media strategy are changing perceptions and making new connections with people and communities of people a natural part of what they do. The GLAM-wiki project (for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) makes it easier for institutions to connect to interested Wikipedia volunteers. NARA and the Smithsonian Institution both had success with the Wikipedian in Residence program. Read about the experience at the Archives of American Art blog.

    A new treat. Tortillas filled, rolled, deep fried and smothered in guacamole, sour cream and salsa. The Rolled tacos at Pokez were the best! Photo by Cindy McLellan

  • Baja Mexican food. Cheap. Tasty. And large portions. Pokez was my favourite.
  • Session 710. Coloring Outside the Lines: Tattoos as Personal ArchivesVerne Harris, Libby Coyner and Terry Baxter collaborated on a look at tattoos that was academic, archival and personal all at once. Baxter set things up with stories of tattoos and tattooing from many cultures and times; his slide show, which featured the tattoos of numerous librarians and archivists, got the room excited.  Coyner argues that for archivists tattoos as ‘records’ can be a “way for us to contend with age-old questions of how we have come to define modern, Western archives – to problematize notions of representation and self-representation within the archival record, and to examine what something like the tattoo can tell us about gender, regional variation, definitions of “class,” and how categories like “race,” “class,” and “gender” interweave.” While Harris took the idea of tattoo as personal record, with a dual nature, seen as both permanent and ephemeral , stirred in a little Foucault, Derrida, and archival theory and took the audience on a personal and academic journey that inspired a great question and answer session.

    I took a break from the museums in Balboa Park to do some shopping at the Spanish Village Art Studios. Photo by Cindy McLellan

  • Balboa Park is a wonderful green space in the city. In addition to various gardens and the zoo, it includes one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs and many galleries and museums.
  • Session 305. Trustworthiness Beyond Borders: Developing and Implementing the ISO TDR Standard.  My happy archives geek moment of the conference was enjoying Bruce Ambacher’s talk which gave a complete history of the development of ISO Standard 16363: Requirements for Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories. The current need for Trusted Digital Repository auditors and the training being developed for the auditing process also made for an engaging presentation by David Giaretta.
  • San Diego Padres vs. Chicago Cubs. It is a tradition that one of the SAA events is a baseball game. This year the home team prevailed, beating the team from the host city of SAA 2011.

One of my favourite things in Balboa Park was the cactus garden, an alien landscape for someone from a rainforest. Photo by Cindy McLellan

  • Session 607. The Challenges and Rewards of Open-Source Digital Video PreservationThis was the session in which I presented along with City of Vancouver Archives’ partners Dave Rice and John Walko. Beyond Borders was the theme of the conference and the collaboration that lead to our presentation happened across borders. Walko works for Scene Savers, the Kentucky company that changed their video digitization workflow to provide us with the open source preservation files we requested. As a consultant for AudioVisual Preservation Solutions in New York City, Rice recommended an open source preservation format for moving image files. Although our presentation was on the afternoon on the last day of a long conference, we were pleased that our room was packed and there were excellent questions from the audience. There are many memory institutions struggling with the long-term preservation of video, so they welcomed a chance to see our approach.

The long term preservation of digital assets is an issue that many of the people at the City of Vancouver Archives are passionate about and doing a rather good job of. It is always exciting to share what we are accomplishing and participate in knowledge sharing with other professionals.  I was pleased to attend SAA and be a part of the program.

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