The OMA at SAA 2014

This year at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) conference there were several great sessions pertaining to documenting and sharing the stories of multicultural communities, and the OMA presented twice regarding its own projects.

Below are a few highlights from the conference ~

Archives and Archivists of Color Roundtable

The AACR hosted a special presentation featuring a project by Kent State University to document the university’s Black Campus Movement (BCM), 1965-1972, and the history of African American students at Kent State, especially in relation to the May 4, 1970 Kent State Shootings. For more information about the BCM, check out the book The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972 by Ibram H. Rogers.

Performing Arts Roundtable

At the PAR meeting, the OMA shared its experiences working with the Milagro and Obo Addy Legacy Project collections.

Forum: Diversifying the Archival Record

This forum sponsored by SAA’s Diversity Committee featured the co-editors of the new book Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion edited by Mary Caldera and Kathryn M Neal which includes 10 chapters of amazing projects and ideas to highlight the stories of multicultural communities.

Indigenous Researcher Perspectives on Using Non-Native Archives

In this session two Native American researchers shared their experiences using materials about indigenous communities held by non-native repositories. The first researcher, Zonnie Gorman, recapped her incredible find in the St. Louis National Archives regional office. Her father was a Navajo WWII code talker, one of the original 29, and she is currently working on her master’s thesis on the topic. As she was researching the military files she found the previously unknown “30th” man as part of the original group – George Clinton. Her work then led her to Clinton’s family who were unaware of the story (Navajo Times article). The second researcher, David Lewis, talked about his decades long work to collect information pertaining to Oregon’s tribes; he specifically spoke about the SWORP collection.

Integrating History: A Search and Recovery Effort in Alabama Archives

Four Alabama repositories shared their efforts to uncover hidden collections and solicit new materials pertaining to the black experience in the area. The speakers spoke about their lessons learned with cultural sensitivity, advocacy, and community outreach work which included overcoming community distrust, building relationships and respect with communities, and dealing with still very real community member prejudices.

Native American Archives Roundtable

At the NAAR meeting Dr. Kim Christen spoke about the Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) which is dedicated to assisting Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums – SHN is a collaborative effort to provide shared services and knowledge. During the meeting the OMA also gave an update regarding a research study with Western Washington University regarding building successful relationships between tribal and non-tribal repositories.

When Communities Perform Their Own Documentation: The Dos and Don’ts of Building a Community / Family Documentation Project

This session featured an alternative format “fishbowl” discussion in which four speakers spoke for four minutes each and then audience members were asked to volunteer to speak for four minutes each as well followed by a Q&A discussion – all this was done in a circle with the speakers in a small, center circle. It was a great way to present and share information and very fitting for a session about community archiving. Numerous projects were discussed and archivists shared their challenges and lessons learned. All spoke about the need to build relationships with community members and helpful strategies included: find a community liaison, organize community focus groups, create tools and resources for communities to use, and collaborate with other institutions to work on large scale projects.

Needless to say it was a wonderful conference and it will be great to apply all the ideas learned and knowledge gained!

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