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Reflections on the NEA Spring Meeting

Lucky for me, I get to beat my fellow blogger, Elise, to posting about the NEA (New England Archivists) Spring Meeting! Though it was actually the first time I had ever met Elise, we and two others carpooled down to Connecticut and shared a hotel room this weekend. If you want to see the response on twitter, check out #neasp2012. And according to NEA, session handouts and presentations should be available on the NEA website soon if you weren’t able to attend yourself.
This spring, I served as a session reporter for “Funding Your Archives Project: Money Does Grow on Trees!” which featured presentations by Linda L. Carroll, Gwenn Stearn, and Giordana Mecagni, who unfortunately, was unable to attend, though her presentation was given by her colleague Jessica Sedgwick. I’ll be making a full report in an upcoming NEA newsletter, but there are some initial reflections I would like to make here.
I found Giordana Mecagni’s presentation on outreach and advocacy as the best potential fundraising resources the most interesting and relevant to where I see archives heading. One of the major themes of this meeting (and, really, many of the classes and most of the literature I’ve been reading) is that the archives profession is rapidly evolving into something more than simply holding and preserving old stuff in restricted-access repositories. In order for archives to remain relevant, archivists will need to engage with their constituents and communities and find new ways for people to access the extremely valuable materials in their holdings. If we can demonstrate that value and our need for adequate funding, money shouldn’t be the problem. Access and finding people to share the workload become the problem, which isn’t necessarily easier to address, but is much more exciting!
I also attended the sessions “Strategies for Engaging Your Constituents” and “Start the Presses! Publishing to Promote Your Archives,” both of which stressed the necessity for archivists to become advocates for their collections. Finding ways to promote or even publish your content, whether that’s through Facebook and Twitter or even crowd sourcing through Wikipedia, will be essential to the survival of archives moving forward. The meeting gave me a lot to think about, and I was definitely thrilled to be there.