News Highlights, 2017 November-December

The I&A News Monitoring Research Team has compiled this list of recent news stories regarding topics of relevance to archives and archivists. View the full list of news stories online as well. 

Acquisition, Preservation, & Access

  1. “Gabriel García Márquez’s Archive Freely Available Online”
  2. “‘Father of The Internet’ Skewers FCC: ‘You Don’t Understand How the Internet Works’”
  3. “Saving history from ISIS destruction: Benedictine monk preserves historic sacred and secular texts from the destruction of ISIS and the war against it in Iraq”

Archival Finds & Stories

  1. “A Glimpse of American History Through the Process of Becoming a Citizen”
  2. “Controversial sugar industry study on cancer uncovered”
  3. “I read decades of Woody Allen’s private notes. He’s obsessed with teenage girls.”
  4. Thousands of papers lost or missing from British National Archives, including records on Falklands, Northern Ireland’s Troubles, and the infamous Zinoviev letter

Climate & Emergency Preparedness

  1. “Oral history project to chronicle human impact of Harvey” The University of Houston’s Center for Public History plans to interview over 300 participants to discover the human impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Digital Archives, Technology, & the Web

  1. “Data Mining Reveals Historical Events in Government Archive Records”
  2. “Future Historians Probably Won’t Understand Our Internet, and That’s Okay” Archivists are working to document our chaotic, opaque, algorithmically complex world—and in many cases, they simply can’t.
  3. “Saving Japan’s Games”
  4. “The Librarians Saving the Internet”

Exhibits & Museums

  1. “Illinois Holocaust Museum Preserves Survivors’ Stories — As Holograms”
  2. “Little-known face of famed Nazi hunters shown in Paris”

Human & Civil Rights, Equality, & Health

  1. “200,000 Died in Guatemala’s Civil War — This Digital Archive is Finally Bringing Families Closure”
  2. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Security & Privacy

  1. “Libraries and the Fight for Privacy”
  2. “Pentagon exposed some of its data on Amazon server”

The Profession

  1. “A Woman Now Leads the Vatican Museums. And She’s Shaking Things Up.”
  2. “The Extinction of Libraries: Why the Predictions Aren’t Coming True”

Steering Share: An Update on the Fight for Net Neutrality

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post is by I&A Intern, Samantha Brown. Along with serving as I&A’s intern and Social Media manager, Samantha works as an Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.  

Back in mid-December, the FCC overturned net neutrality protections and voted for a rule titled the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” (Cameron 2018). Under previous Net Neutrality rules, the internet was treated as a public utility which required that ISPs, also known as Internet Service Providers, treat all internet traffic the same (Huffman 2018). With the FCC’s new order, ISPs will no longer have to follow those previous rules and will not be prevented from blocking content or creating fast lanes for those customers that pay more (Cameron 2018). Additionally, companies like Time Warner or Comcast can favor access to their own sites over that of their competitors (Reardon 2018).

Despite the new ruling by the FCC, the fight for Net Neutrality has not ended.  Since the FCC’s vote, twenty-one states, along with the District of Columbia and several public interest groups, have filed lawsuits which attempt to block the FCC’s new rules. The suits claim that the FCC failed to provide adequate justification for the reversal of Net Neutrality rules and that evidence showing how changes to the rules would harm individuals and business were ignored. Additionally, those filing the suit are arguing that the FCC is using an unreasonable interpretation of federal communication laws and that they are unlawfully overruling state and local regulations. By bringing this issue to the courts, those filing the suits hope to have the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” reviewed so that it can be determined whether the rule is illegal and unconstitutional (Shaban and Fung 2018).

The courts are not the only place where the fight for Net Neutrality is taking place. The U.S. Senate is also attempting to overturn the FCC’s ruling. Senators are trying to accomplish this by using the Congressional Review Act. This act allows Senators to use a simple majority vote to initiate actions to overturn the ruling of a federal agency but the vote must happen within sixty days of the action being registered with congress (Kang 2018). Currently, all forty-nine Democrats in the Senate along with one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, are ready to use the Congressional Review Act to reinstate previous Net Neutrality rules but they still need one more vote to make sure their decision is not overturned (Reardon 2018). Since the FCC has not filed their decision with the federal registry yet, a process that can take days or weeks to complete, Senate Democrats may have some time to find another person to join them on their vote (Kang 2018, Shaban and Fung 2018).

If Senators do manage to gain enough votes then the resolution would need to be approved in the House of Representatives and signed by the President. Passing the vote in the House could be a problem for two reasons. First, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, would need to approve the vote. This issue can be avoided by filing a petition with 218 signatures which would allow the vote to take place even if Speaker Ryan opposes it (Kang 2018).  This brings us to the second issue. There may not be enough people in the House who support Net Neutrality or overturning the FCC’s ruling. Currently Republicans have a majority in the house with 238 representatives to the Democrats’ 193 (Reardon 218). If, by some chance, the Democrats can muster support in the House, then the President would need to sign the legislation. This may present another problem since the White House has publically stated their support for the FCC’s decision (Kang 2018).

Even though the possibility of saving Net Neutrality seems slim, there is a glimmer of hope. The minds of Senators and Representatives might be changed if they hear from enough of their constituents. The Policy Director of the Free Press Action Fund, Matt Wood, has stated that congressional offices have received millions of calls on the issue of Net Neutrality. With that many voices in support, the issue is likely to get the attention of lawmakers (Huffman 2018). If lawmakers listen to the voices of their constituents then there is a possibility that the resolution could pass the House and Senate or that legislation could be introduced that would uphold Net Neutrality protections. Continuing to call your Senators and Representatives will ensure that they continue to pay attention to this issue and understand the concerns people have. Ensuring that Net Neutrality remains in place is important not only so that we have equal access to the websites of our choosing but also so that free speech on the internet is not limited. While we only have a slim possibility of net neutrality being protected, there is still a possibility which means that we should continue the fight to protect the internet as it currently exists.


Works Cited

Steering Share: Bringing First-Generation College Students into the Archives

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes from I&A Chair Rachel Mandell, Metadata Librarian at the University of Southern California Digital Library.

A few months ago, my colleague Giao Luong-Baker and I responded to an Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) call for proposals to write a chapter for a forthcoming publication, Supporting Today’s Students in the Library: Strategies for Retaining and Graduating International, Transfer, First-Generation, and Re-Entry Students. My colleague and I both work in the University of Southern California’s (USC) Digital Library, where we make archival materials and digital collections discoverable to researchers online. More specifically, as the Digital Initiatives Librarian, Giao creates partnerships both on campus and with local community groups to develop projects that preserve and also promote collections, materials, and untold or underrepresented histories. And as the Metadata Librarian, it is my job to describe and publish these materials in our Digital Library.

We responded to this call for proposals, because although we have recently seen more literature surrounding first-generation college students and the role that academic libraries can play in helping these students meet academic demands and expectations, there seems to be even less written about how archives and archivists can also play an active role in the first-generation college student’s experience. We structured our proposal first around the research practices and learning theories that help to identify gaps where first generation students are left out of current archival collection policies. We then presented two case studies, which demonstrate how the USC Digital Library is currently engaged in the process of expanding digital collections to be more inclusive and diverse by partnering with an array of contributors including professors and community archives.

Our proposed article titled, “Validation in the Archives: Developing Inclusive Digital Collections to Promote First-Generation College Student Engagement,” was accepted! As we started researching learning theories, we realized that the critical and multicultural pedagogies theory, which holds that if students are engaged in the process of knowledge construction, they are more likely to be active participants in their education (1), completely supports our first case study. This case documents the oral history collection created by students of Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, who recorded the detailed accounts of Vietnam War participants. I actually wrote about this collection in a previous Steering Share when I first started working on it. This project can serve as a model for bringing more student work into the archives, therefore validating the students’ efforts.

Our second case study is the Independent and Webster Commission materials, which documents the aftermath of the 1990s Los Angeles civil unrest. The Independent and Webster Commissions were tasked with exploring the perceptions minority communities had of the Los Angeles Police Department surrounding the Rodney King beating and subsequent civil unrest. These materials were only recently disembargoed. We chose this collection as an example of how collection development can serve as a tool for engagement with the local community.

The crux of our article is that collections like these two create a more representative resource that reflects the university’s demographics, including first-generation students, which are now nearly 20% of USC students (2). At the USC Digital Library, it is our ultimate goal to create and promote inclusive and cutting-edge scholarship wherein students of all heritages and levels of privilege can find validation in the archives. Keep an eye out for our upcoming chapter in what promises to be an interesting new book from the ACRL Press!


(1) Rashné Rustom Jehangir, Higher Education and First-Generation Students: Cultivating Community, Voice, and place for the New Majority (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 55

(2) USC Trojan Family Magazine Staff. “First- Generation College Students Transform the Face of USC “ USC Trojan Family. Accessed July 25, 2017.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Archives and Popular Culture

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from a new regular writer for I&A’s blog, Cate Peebles. Cate is the NDSR Art fellow at the Yale Center for British Art, where she works with permanent-collection-related born-digital records. 

Lately there have been rumblings on the internet regarding the deadness and/or dying of the library and archival professions, which is nothing new, but it strikes me as a particularly myopic death knell considering the omnipresence of records-related headlines (emails, JFK, cyber-attacks, etc…) and the ongoing relevance of archival work, both traditional and digital. The professions are changing, as the nature of information creation and sharing changes, but our work and ideals remain crucial to a society that values the open exchange of ideas.

Since beginning my career as an archivist in 2015, I have developed a heightened awareness of the proliferation of archives, “the archive,” and archival documents represented in popular culture. I can’t binge watch my way through the latest Netflix series without at least once hitting an imaginary buzzer on the couch and yelling “Archives!” to anyone (or no one) who happens to be next to me. But at the same time, there is also something—or someone—missing in these moments of recognition: the archivist. Where are we in the popular imagination? The results of our work are everywhere, yet representations of actual archivists are few and far between. Of course, it is traditional in our profession to be behind the scenes and to leave no trace once we have “shuffle[d] the damn papers” (O’Toole, 1993).

This has led me to wonder about the role of the archivist in society, how we are seen or ignored, and how our work is vital to so many creative pursuits beyond the expected use of archival sources by historians. Archival materials are used by poets, visual artists, and filmmakers to deepen their work and as “the narrative marrow and aesthetic backbone” (Paletz, 2013) of their pieces.  In this post, I will explore one popular genre that notably relies on archives: the true crime documentary.

Beginning with Errol Morris’s seminal film, The Thin Blue Line (1987), modern true crime documentaries place records in a starring role alongside interviewees; these records are narratively and aesthetically significant.  In the last couple of years, such films have been everywhere: Making a Murderer, The Jinx, Serial (podcast), OJ; Made in America, and The Keepers, to name a few, and new titles continue to appear (such as Morris’s new film Wormwood).  

This notable trend builds upon a literary genre that has been popular for centuries—the crime serial—and modernizes it with an emphasis on theatrical legal drama (Silbey, 2010), records, and recordkeeping. The visual power of records is matched by their power to effect real change in the lives of the films’ subjects. In the case of Morris’s subject Randall Dale Adams in The Thin Blue Line, his exoneration came about as a result of the film; we see this happening again with The Jinx, the Paradise Lost trilogy, and the podcast Serial, which establishes a strong link between filmmakers’ use of archival resources and criminal justice causes that result in activism.

And with the proliferation of sources available online and in various media, filmmakers have access to materials beyond newsreels and photographs. Taking center screen in many of these true crime films are: home movies, cell phone records, police documents, interview transcripts, handwriting samples, and police interviews with suspects (custodial interviews).

In film, as in other visual media, records carry symbolic weight (O’Toole, 1993). In each of the docu-series discussed here, records constitute much of what is seen on screen. Having “gained independence from its conventional role as historical wallpaper” (Paletz, 2013), archival footage, and footage of archival materials, now drives the action.

Unlike the traditional guts and gore we have come to expect from crime stories, records convey a familiar, quotidian side of human logic that contrasts the inherent sensationalism of the genre. Records, representing truth, drive visual narrative and on-screen action; they also provide the viewer with access to potential answers and a satisfying resolution.


Examples of archives in pop culture includes:

The Jinx (HBO, directed by Andrew Jarecki, 2015)

Estranged real estate heir, Robert Durst, is the central figure in three murder cases: his wife, his neighbor, and his best friend, Susan Berman. His story is bizarre and ongoing. Oddly, it was Durst himself who approached Jarecki and offered access to his personal papers (3). Each episode presents records used to further the story in a variety of ways: 

  • Reenactments based on crime scene photos
  • Handwriting samples
  • Highlighted interview transcripts
  • Newspapers, crime photos, tabloids.

The crux of this series, and the subsequent re-arrest of Robert Durst, lies in the unearthing of a handwritten note from Durst to victim Susan Berman found in the personal papers kept by her stepson, Sareb Kaufman. Kaufman serves as a kind of amateur “citizen archivist” or keeper of records that link Durst to the murder of Susan Berman.

The Jinx, which is full of interviews and oral history interviews, is itself a new record of the crimes it represents, documenting the relationship between filmmaker and subject along with the subject’s continued role as suspect. The film is a well-constructed result of careful research and Jarecki credits many archival sources at the end of each episode.

Making a Murderer (Netflix, directed by Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, 2015)

Created over 10 years, this series explores the life and trials of Steven Avery, a man convicted of murder and exonerated after 18 years in prison in 2003, only to be arrested and convicted of murder again in 2007. Many questions arise regarding the Wisconsin criminal justice system and local police department’s handling of Avery’s case(s) and that of his nephew, Brendan Dassey. The film’s focus on the legal system and court room activity also highlights the importance of evidentiary records over time and the need for adequate stewardship of legal and public records.

Pivotal use of records in the series includes:

  • Possible evidence tampering, case files and police evidence
  • Cell phone metadata
  • Police interviews and custodial interrogations
  • Court and police dept. documents

The filmmakers use of documents and police footage led to the overturned conviction of Brendan Dassey after his pre-arrest police interviews were found to show a coerced confession (Almasy, 2016). Like The Jinx, this series is a compilation of many years’ research and is itself documentation of Wisconsin’s criminal justice system and the Avery family.

The Keepers (Netflix, directed by Ryan White, 2017)

These clues to what [the past] was linger on in a place like this attic. These objects hold energy…Tom Nugent, Journalist, “The Keepers”

This is a series as much about memory as it is about solving a long-cold case. As the title suggests, its protagonists are keepers of memory, truth-seekers and literal stewards, collecting stories related to the murder of their teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik. They also investigate the role of the Diocese of Baltimore in covering up sexual abuse at area schools.

The Keepers taps into what it means to steward ephemeral fragments of a larger story, delving into the psychology of memory, abuse survival, and the emotional work of recordkeeping.

Led by a team of citizen researcher-archivists and advocates, the women at the center of this series “went into this collecting information…every bit of scrap…every story” seeking answers where the absence of records leaves an endless trail of questions.  


Film invigorates archival records, inviting new eyes and reinterpretation. Records participate in the narratives and underpin the criminal justice causes and retrials instigated by these series.

These documentaries highlight records as active participants in ongoing investigations rather than mere static referents—but they do not rise magically from nowhere. Archival records, both analog and digital, require ongoing stewardship and preservation if they are to remain accessible to creators and researchers. We see stacks of papers and boxes pulled from shelves, but actual archives and archivists are often absent. There is no “popular” image of an archivist and yet we are more present than ever, however unseen we may be. Without records and their keepers, there are no stories to tell.

Other Viewing and Listening
  • The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)
  • Serial (Koenig, 2014- )
  • Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003)
  • OJ: Made in America (Edelman, 2016)
  • Paradise Lost Trilogy (Berlinger and Sinofsky, 1996-2011)



Almasy, Steve. ‘Making a Murderer’: Brendan Dassey conviction overturned., August 12, 2016.

Bagli, Charles V.; Yee, Vivian. On HBO’s ‘The Jinx’ Robert Durst Says He ‘Killed them all’. The New York Times, March 15, 2015.

O’Toole, James. The Symbolic Significance of Archives. The American Archivist, 1993. 234-255 

Palatz, Gabriel, “The Archives in Contemporary Documentary,” POV 83 (Fall 2011), available at

Silbey, Jessica M., Evidence Verité and the Law of Film (April 24, 2010). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 1257-1299, 2010; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 10-23

Steering Share: Lisa Calahan

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of Steering Committee member Lisa Calahan, Head of Archival Processing at the University of Minnesota.

Lisa Calahan
Steering Committee member Lisa Calahan

My favorite thing about my job is that every collection is different and I can never get bored. As Head of Archival Processing, I lead a lot of processing projects and there are never two collections that are the same. For example, I am currently managing processing projects for a collection of comic books, a social welfare organization, a civil rights activist’s papers, a theater company, two rare book collections, a collection on youth work, a historic architect’s records, and a partridge in a pear tree. I love assessing each collection, discovering (or attempting to discover) what clues the material and original order convey and piecing the information together in a cohesive way that can be useful to researchers. I also like seeing history “in the raw.” When I’m appraising new archival collections, very few others have peaked into the boxes and the collections have yet to be subjected to interpretations. It’s an incredible opportunity to be reminded how powerful and sneaky bias can be and try to remember to check my own before creating processing plans.


I’m a long-time member and listserv lurker. I&A is one of the most active sections I’ve been involved with; I wanted to be a part of the activity and help keep the section successful!


An issue that means a lot to me is valuing the concept of “shared authority” and how our profession can better collaborate with communities. The professional model that archivists are taught, at least I was taught, involve removing the historical record from the community and keeping the records in a “safe” place. By doing so, we also alter the ability for communities, especially historically disenfranchised communities, to retain ownership and power over their histories. I think a lot about how we as archivists can use our knowledge to support community based archival efforts to build relationships rather than building collections.

Steering Share: Hope Dunbar

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of past I&A Chair Hope Dunbar, Special Collections Archivist at SUNY Buffalo State.

Past Chair Hope Dunbar
Past Chair Hope Dunbar

As the immediate past-chair of the Issues and Advocacy Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to help direct our projects throughout the past year. I will be echoing many of the sentiments shared by my other committee members in their Steering Shares.

I&A is so essential because it provides a concentrated focus on issues related to archival advocacy—a task which can at times be onerous, but has never been more essential to historical preservation and cultural heritage institutions. In our political climate, regardless of political affiliation, it is easy to become exhausted, to be worn down by the immense number of highly adversarial policies, positions, actions, laws, and events. I&A provides a constant and steady voice on topics effecting archivists.

It has been an honor to serve as the I&A Chair, and I look forward to serving on the committee in the 2017-2018 term.

Archivists on the Issues: Net Freedom and the Federal Communication Commission

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s  post comes from Section intern Samantha Brown, an Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.


On December 14, the Federal Communication Commission, also known as the FCC, is expected to hold a vote that will decide the fate of Net Neutrality. This vote will likely change the landscape of the internet (Giles 2017). After hearing about this vote, SAA’s President, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, wrote a letter to the FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. In this letter, she writes that the removal of Net Neutrality rules undermined “…the ability of archives to provide equitable and unfettered access to our shared cultural heritage and will penalize users of archival information from many research communities…” (SAA 2017). To understand the gravity of this vote and how it will directly affect archives, we first must understand what Net Neutrality is.

When someone gets on their computer and wants to visit a website, their browser is connected to their chosen site by their internet provider, also known as the ISP. Currently, the user understands that they will be connected to their chosen site without the ISP interfering with the data they are receiving. This is the main idea behind Net Neutrality (Save the Internet). The rules that the FCC currently have in place guarantee that all websites operate on a level playing field (Feldman 2017). An ISP cannot provide a fast lane to those companies that have the ability to pay more for prioritization (Giles 2017).

Without Net Neutrality rules in place, many fear that ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon could “…block websites or content they don’t like or applications that compete with their own offerings” (Save the Internet). Services from libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage organizations that are increasingly providing access in a digital environment could easily be disrupted (Peterson 2014). Many of these organizations work with and provide voices to groups that express dissenting viewpoints. The fear is internet providers could be pressured to block websites that feature content that opposes the government or major companies (Newton 2017).

Right now it’s hard to know how many of these fears are justified since no one really knows what the internet will be like in the United States without Net Neutrality. The best way we can currently form an idea of what to expect is to look at other countries that operate without the rules we currently have in place. Fears about the suppression of dissenting viewpoints may not be completely unjustified. In 2005, a Canadian telecom company, Telsus, blocked access to a union website that was working to promote a strike against the company. If companies are able to privilege access to specific apps and websites without oversight, then certain brands and ideas may be granted dominance over others (Glaser 2017). This begs the question, what would happen to the voices of marginalized groups in America without the protections of Net Neutrality (Save the Internet)?  Would organizations working to preserve the history of marginalized groups have access to their websites and online resources limited?




Feldman, Brian. “Without Net Neutrality, What Happens to My Netflix?” Select All, New York Magazine, 21 Nov. 2017,

Glaser, April. “What the Internet Is Like in Countries Without Net Neutrality.” Slate Magazine, 8 Dec. 2017,

Giles, Martin. “Killing net neutrality is bad news for startups-and the customers they want to serve.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 7 Dec. 2017,

“Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now.” Save the Internet, Free Press,

Newton, Creede. “Digital advocates decry US plan to end net neutrality.” Al Jazeera News, Al Jazeera, 22 Nov. 2017,

Peterson, Andrea. “Why the death of net neutrality would be a disaster for libraries.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 May 2014,

“SAA Urges FCC to Preserve Existing Net Neutrality Provisions.”, Society of American Archivists, 4 Dec. 2017,


Steering Share: Alison Stankrauff

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of committee member Alison Sankrauff, University Archivist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Hello, everyone, I’m Alison Stankrauff, the University Archivist at Wayne State University. I’ve been on the Issues and Advocacy Section’s Steering Committee since 2009 (a long time!) and I was Chair of I&A from 2010 to 2012.

Steering Committee member Alison Stankrauff
Steering Committee member Alison Stankrauff

Advocating for archival collections, the historical record, and the archival profession drives me as a professional. We are in an age that advocating for primary sources and access to them is all the more pressing. I am drawn to speaking for the collections, their repositories, and their caretakers (us – the archivists!).

What we do as archivists – acting as connectors for people to their historical memory – is such a critical role in the fabric of society at all levels – whether that’s at the community level, the state level, the regional level, national level, and international level.

I’ve been an archivist for fifteen plus years now. I’ve been in my current position as University Archivist at Wayne State University since September; previously, I was Archivist and a Reference Librarian at Indiana University South Bend for thirteen years. And prior to that, I was a Reference Archivist at the American Jewish Archives. At all three of my professional positions as an archivist, I’ve felt that this role as connector is key to what I do each day and as my identity as a professional on a deeply personal level.

As I go through this year serving on the Issues and Advocacy Section’s Steering Committee, I look very much forward to sharing this deep connection to advocating for our materials, our archives, and us as professionals. Thank you for the opportunity to serve!





Steering Share: Steve Duckworth

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Steve Duckworth
Steering Committee member Steve Duckworth
What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

My favorite thing about the archives profession, in general, is that within every collection I’ve seen, even the ones that are 95% bland meeting minutes, I manage to find something that intrigues me or makes me laugh (often just at the absurdity of the past). And I think this really informs how I see and deal with the present. I’m a late-comer to the archives profession so perhaps this will wear off someday, but I rather hope not.

The thing I enjoy most about my current job though, is that I get to work with and mentor a couple of library school students. I work in a health and sciences archives (i.e., medical/nursing/dental/etc. school), so we don’t have a library program. However, we do have a bit of money in the budget to hire student workers and since Portland has an MLIS program (at Emporia State University), there is a good pool of library students to hire for these positions. So, even though I don’t officially teach any archives courses, I do get to train and mentor these students in archival practices; help them shape their resumes and cover letters, and navigate the job application process; and guide them as they find their own voices and places within the profession. I get to answer their questions, learn more about what they are being taught in school, and have my choices and assumptions questioned. So, not only are they learning and gaining professional experience, I’m constantly learning from them and reevaluating the work I do.

Having been a music teacher before embarking upon the archivist lifestyle, getting this experience back – of teaching what I know and learning from those I teach – is something I highly value having in my life again.

What made you want to join the I&A Steering Committee?

I had already been involved with I&A – having been on one of the on-call research teams for 2 years. Being still relatively new to the profession, I was finding my niche and really liked what I saw coming out of the I&A Section. I liked how they tackled both issues within the profession itself and within archives, as well as related concerns in current news and events. And I was also drawn to the different forms of blog writings that they had invited anyone to contribute to. To me, it seemed like they were working hard to make anyone feel like they could be a part of the change they wanted to see.

I especially liked (and even once wrote for) the “Archivists on the Issues” series – where the ever ‘neutral’ archivists were finally allowed to have a public opinion. Anyway, after two years of on-call news searching and blogging, the call for Steering Committee members spoke to me … I could have a say in the future of this group and the initiatives they take on for the next two years. So, now I get to manage one of those news teams, write blog entries (such as this), and help shape the direction of I&A.

What is an archival issue that means a lot to you?

One of the thorns in my side with the archives profession how we value our labor – or do not value our labor. We have a lot of unpaid labor happening, and this is something many people have spoken of. We also have a lot of under-paid labor. And a ton of temporary positions. And contract positions. Many of us are aware of these concerns. I was personally lucky enough to move into permanent employment after one project archivist position, but I know plenty of people who bounce around from project position to project position – and not out of the sheer joy of relocating every year or two.

I have a related issue with passion. I truly hope you love your job and enjoy going to work every day. However, if you’re being paid to work 40 hours per week, but end up working 50, 60, or more hours on a regular basis because of your passion (or the tenure-track-inflicted passion you are required to exude), you are also part of the problem. I’m sure this statement will bother a lot of people, but unpaid work in all forms devalues the work archivists do. When we accept lower pay and higher hours, we signal to people that we can get by, that our work isn’t worth that much, that money isn’t a huge concern – because we love what we do. [Editor’s note: Fobazi Ettarh writes eloquently about this in her post “Vocational Awe?”]

This devaluation also hinders access to the profession. If you can afford to be underpaid or potentially unemployed after a 2-year position ends or move to a new city to take one of these jobs where you’ll likely have to pay for your own healthcare and miss out on employer sponsored retirement savings – you probably have some privilege you may not even be aware of. Your privilege may also allow you to work extra hours because you can afford to only have one job or you are single or don’t have children or are coupled and have easier access to child care (there are a lot of ways this can play out; I’m just trying to make a point). This leaves the not-so-privileged trailing behind in the race to find a job – and then the rest of us sit around and try to figure out how to diversify the profession. I don’t mean to rant here, but perhaps this is where my passion has gone. Perhaps working as a struggling freelance musician for over a decade before entering this profession taught me more about the value of work and the joys of employee-sponsored benefits. Perhaps I’m trying to use my own privilege to affect some change. And obviously I don’t have this all figured out yet. But, this is definitely an issue that needs more attention.

Steering Share: Stephanie Bennett

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post come courtesy of committee member Stephanie Bennett, Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University.

What is your favorite thing about the archives profession?
Steering Committee member Stephanie Bennett
Steering Committee member Stephanie Bennett

There are lots of things that I enjoy about our profession – providing access to unique materials that tell stories and demonstrate history outside of rare books; working with our students, who brighten my days with their good-natured smiles and 90s renaissance denim; researchers full of questions; finding aids with well-structured, clear information. But my favorite thing is archivists! I have so much respect for my coworkers and professional colleagues – interesting people who are invested in our work and who also have developed other aspects of life, deeply. We are archivists and also artists, activists, bakers, gardeners, hikers, many adoring pet owners, movie buffs, sports enthusiasts, woodworkers, and on. I thank y’all for being generous with your skills and passions – archival or otherwise – on the clock, on the internet, and over lunch at SAA annual meetings. I do my best to pay your goodwill forward!

What made you want to join the I&A Steering Committee?

I admired the work of Issues & Advocacy and wanted to help make it happen! It can be a struggle to fit professional work into busy lives (see above), for all of us who have the means to join committees and those who do not. But committees are so useful for helping us all advance goals at work and on a broader societal level. They – we – take on some of the bigger questions or issues that I am too tired to tackle alone after a day on the job, days when I struggle to go for a run or eat some pizza (or both). Individually I’m not going to think deeply about innovative ways to talk to various communities about archives and archivists, advocating for work that confronts our biases instead of concealing them, finding sparks of inspiration from conferences that I haven’t gone to. But that’s what I&A is for! My time on the section’s steering committee has been as rewarding as I had hoped when I put myself up for nomination.

What is an archival issue that means a lot to you?

Most things that are intrinsic to archives are important to me. As a Collections Archivist, my day job centers around providing access to all, eliminating backlogs, and introducing people unfamiliar with archives to our field (not sure how many archivists can get away with not having to explain our work to the uninitiated!). But I am really, really, passionate about archives salaries and other things wrapped up in the “people at work” part of our profession: salary and other benefit negotiations, well-developed leadership in archives and libraries, fair pay for us and our paraprofessional colleagues, and all that jazz. One day, I would love to do proper research and  advocacy in this area, because I think these topics are tied up in how archivists advocate within our institutions and in our communities and countries. But my brain and my planning skills haven’t caught up with my ambitions yet! I’ll let I&A know when they do.