The NWA Annual Conference and Business Meeting were held in Spokane, WA during the last week in May. I arrived on Thursday, May 29th having received a lift from the Archives staff at the City of Portland which gave me an opportunity to catch up with former colleagues and meet a new professional in the region. I've spent the majority of my graduate career working to highlight issues and opportunities for new professionals in archives and it's critical to maintain solid connections with graduate students in order to grow emerging networks of professionals.
We arrived about 15 minutes early at the Washington State Archives for a tour of their Digital Archives. The WSU Digital Archives sits in a modern building about 15 miles from Spokane proper and hosts a variety of high-tech amenities in support of its mission.
One thing I really got into was an "aerial" (remember from my first blog post; I LOVE AERIALS!!) drawing of Spokane from 1890 illustrated by Augustus Koch. In speaking with one of the archivists I found out that Koch did a number of these through the US including Boise, ID. Furthermore, and this is why I love this stuff, the date of the image made it too early for planes and the height too great for hot air balloons. The archivist indicated that Koch used to go to the top of every structure in town to get an "idea" of the nature of oblique drawing, he then went to the nearest highest point and extrapolated the visual distance of a "bird's eye" view, then drew all of his sketches together and there you go; an early "aerial."
Sessions and Impressions:
Viewing Archives through an Artist's Lens - Diana Banning, Brian Johnson and Mary Hansen, City of Portland Archives and Records Center; Garrick Imatani, Lewis & Clark College; Kaia Sand, Portland State University. - I was lucky to have been able to support this project when I worked for the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. Seeing the culmination and the growth of the project beyond its initial scope was amazing. Based on experimental reference and research modes, the City Archives Staff presented the work of archivists as it relates to unique collaborations with external partners. The most interesting thing for me was the openness and sharing between the entities involved (artists and archivists). The artists were much more interested in archival processes and outcomes than many researchers in archives. In fact, the concept of methodology and theory made its way into the products of the artists and led to several one-of-a-kind installations and works. The artists provided a very detailed poetic and historical context for their work, going so far as to cite Beatnik poets who had theoretically delved into the world of public documentation. One thing that was repeated during the presentation and part of the overall result of the project was the idea: "Where is anonymity within a public document." Working in Records Management and Archives, this line was especially poignant to me.
Lightning Talks - Natalia Fernandez, Oregon State University; Rachel Seale, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Karl McCreary, OSU; Renee Cebula and Erin Pulley, Eastern Washington University; Jennifer O'Neal, University of Oregon.
The Lightning Talks were a lot of fun. Rachel Seale from University of Alaska Fairbanks discussed some of her Archives Month activities, some lessons learned and plans for the future. Part of what she attempted involved 4 events during the month including a reel-to-reel viewing which included food (popcorn) in archives.
Karl McCreary read poems he had constructed for the "archival" recipes he was assembling. This talk highlights one of the big reasons I go to conference, which is to see some of the more creative and innovative work coming out of repositories in the region. Despite some of the photos of these "old" recipes being a little un-appetizing, the net effect was engaging and stirred up some thoughts on how we can use our collections to create works within the community that are valuable and provide links to the past.
Renee Cebula and Erin Pulley - I don't deal with k-12 education much in my work, but this session delved more into how one can use archival resources to bolster common core education. I found many of the suggestions to be directly relevant to including teachers and administrators from the beginning, which in the world of archives and records management is commonly construed as outreach. Many of the sessions (including this one) helped in thinking about the ways outreach can support institutional goals and the different forms outreach can take.
Spokane Historical - Larry Cebula, Anna Harbine, and Frank Oesterheld, Eastern Washington University - I wanted to hear about the development and implementation of this neat website/app that would allow users to guide themselves through Spokane's history using a smartphone. I was lucky because they started the session with a brief introduction on the various technologies involved and how they were linked together to form the product: spokanehistorical.com. Spokane Historical brings together audio, visual and image materials in a robust and rich manner with a simple interface. The site/app provide the user with a quick pathway to seeing and hearing Spokane over the last 100 years. Much of the session revolved around concepts related to volunteer management and crowdsourcing, as well as lessons-learned and opportunities for growth. Opportunities for growth being my primary question to the presenter as it seems like they (Washington State Universities) would be in a prime location (intellectually) to engage all of Eastern Washington, or even Statewide with this type of program. Indeed, the presenter indicated that they were adjusting their targets to potentially capitalize on local community interest for this type of historical web presence. More information about the project can be found here: http://spokanehistorical.org/
Archival Fringes - Josh Zimmerman, Archdiocese of Seattle (Chair); Lindsay Zaborowski, Ballard Historical Society; Caitlin Oiye, Densho; Ross Fuqua, Washington State Library; Tony Kurtz, Western Washington University - An interesting series of presentations highlighting the training and development work of hybrid professionals in traditionally non-archival roles or in facilitation roles. Of particular note was the presentation by Caitlin Oiye of Densho who works to provide access to materials from private families, private collections and other non-traditional repositories and to provide access through a digital portal that also manages the rights and relationships between user and repository. Tony Kurtz touched on the hybrid role of Records Manager and Archivist in his work in highlighting student groups and their records (meeting minutes) at Western Washington University.
Business Meeting - This is the reason to go if you are into professional service. The business meeting brings together the governance apparatus of NWA to discuss the past year and hear committee reports. 2014 has been a good year for the organization and we heard from the new State Representatives from Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The retiring President, Josh Zimmerman, introduced me as the new appointed Chair of the Professional Development and Education Committee and I was able to give a short speech on the goals of the committee and next steps. Zimmerman also passed the torch to the new NWA President, John Bolcer of University of Washington Libraries. Next year we are part of the Western Roundup taking place in Denver, CO and we are hoping to hold the next NWA Annual meeting in 2016 in Alaska!
Re-visioning project - lunchtime work session. We had a "working lunch" on Friday which was hosted by Diana Banning and Mary Hansen of the City of Portland and included a coloring contest, a look at our vision, mission and values as an organization and discussion of our priorities over the next few years. The main take-aways from this process were that members love the meeting and the opportunities it provides, at the same time they are hungry for more professional development and workshops. Lastly, the membership is interested in getting more new professionals at the table. This last point is of particular interest to me and something I have been engaging as long as I've been working in archives.
It's a long post, and I promise to keep it shorter in the future, but I hope I've been able to convey the excitement and growth that these conference can provide. Every year NWA provides a platform from which I learn some of the most interesting news and techniques from colleagues and am able to interact with a wide-variety of folks working in cutting-edge or innovative capacities.