Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post is from immediate past Chair and Steering Committee member Sarah Quigley.
How did you get involved in archives?
Like many of us, I was a history major in college. I never really saw myself as a tenure-track professor, though, and I always imagined I’d work in public history. When I started library school, I wasn’t sure exactly where I would end up. I took classes in Museum Studies, librarianship, and the Archival Enterprise, as we called it at the University of Texas. I was lucky to have David B. Gracy, II as my advisor and mentor, and as anyone who’s met him can attest, resisting his passion for the field is impossible. I caught archives fever from him and took a part time job preparing the papers of Judge Jack Pope for acquisition by Abilene Christian University. That project was the first time I fully understood that being an archivist is being a storyteller. You have all the pieces of a life in front of you, and it’s your job to reassemble them into something that faithfully represents the creator and their work. That felt important.
Why did you get involved with the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable?
It was impressed upon me from the very beginning of my career that being silent in this profession is dangerous. Too few people understand our mission and our value, and our position is often too precarious. A fundamental aspect of our jobs is to advocate for ourselves, our repositories, our collections, and our profession. But more often than not we learn how to do that on the fly, when crises arise, or when fires need to be put out. The Issues and Advocacy Roundtable brings people together so we can learn from and support one another before and during times of crisis.
What is an archives issue that means a lot to you?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social justice and archives and I’m paying close attention to the conversations that are happening around this issue. Not just documenting social justice movements, which is certainly a pressing issue these days, but also how we ensure that our profession is justice-centered and that our collections are representative. If we’re doing our jobs right, we’re casting wide nets for staff and collections but it can be difficult to overcome our own biases. I’m proud of my colleagues who are calling out privilege in the profession and encouraging us to be conscious practitioners of justice in our work.
How would you define advocacy?
Advocacy is political, whether it’s in the literal sphere of public politics or within the confines of an individual institution. Advocacy is the active and organized support of a cause or issue with a specific, concrete outcome in mind. It can take a lot of forms, but generally centers around persuading people in power to support your cause via legislation or funding.