I am starting this post at the airport as I wait for the flight that will bring me home to Michigan from DC and the 2010 SAA Joint Conference. Part of this is because I want to get my thoughts down while they are fresh, and the other part is the couple next to me seems to be making out a lot for being in a public place. Anyway…
The Sessions: Overall I liked the sessions I attended. I thought they were informative and some were quite applicable. In my mind, sessions break down into three types: more theoretical discussions on archival practice, ongoing or recently concluded research or projects, and people sharing what they are doing at their institutions. All three can be interesting to me, but I again find myself really enjoying the third kind the most. I know there are some big grant funded projects going on right now that are important and a benefit to us all. But then there are the folks who are trying different things, in addition to their regular work, to better their archives. These projects are not grant funded or supported by anything but the institution and the staff’s hard work and willingness to take risk. Not only do they do these things, but then they go to a national conference and share their results, warts and all, with the community so we can implement and build upon their work. As you move though your career I hope that you consider presenting on topics like this, as they never fail to get me fired up.
I Enter The Fray: This is my second SAA conference. This year, like last, I helped organize the Research Forum. It gives me a chance to learn about all of the research going on in the community, as well as meet a lot of the participants. I also presented for the first time this year, giving a talk on disaster planning for digital assets at the Preservation Section, the slides for which are located here (that blatant bit of product placement just made me feel a bit dirty). I was pretty nervous, but I think it went well and received a lot of great feedback. There was actually a small line afterwards to talk to me. Now, I have been surrounded by groups that were pointing and laughing at me before, but never a line to discuss professional matters. Pretty cool.
The Declaration of Independence, Beer, and C-3PO The social events were a very good time this year. Last year, I did not know all that many people and I was way more intimidated. Mingling does not seem to be something that comes naturally to most archivists. This year, I knew more people and had a really good time at the after-hours events. The locations did not hurt. One reception was in the National Archives, and although the line for food was way too long and I was a touch disappointed in our profession to see how much line cutting was going on (I mean, we were like 20 yards away from the charters of freedom and you cut in line, come on people), it was still cool being at that location. The Friday reception was in the Smithsonian Museum of American History and I got to drink a beer while standing next to C-3PO. Meaning that I can cross “Have A Drink With An Actual Star Wars Character” off my bucket list, leaving only “See Michigan Beat Ohio State Again” and “Train A Small Monkey to Do My (Probably Evil) Bidding.”
Despite this, I still really did not meet many new people at the social events, but rather hung out with people I already knew from school. This may have been because I was spending an inordinate amount of time standing next to an empty costume from a science fiction movie, but I am finding that conferences in general are not really so much about meeting new people but reconnecting with the ones you kinda already know. Unless, of course, you are on Twitter (you were just foreshadowed, my friend).
The Archivist Twitterverse For The Win: I am biased here but I think the SAA conference was made so much richer by the folks from the profession who are on Twitter. I am not so good at the live tweeting, but there are several who are and it really helps add a lot to the experience, whether you are in the same room or a different state. Their hard work is located at http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/saa10 for your reading pleasure.
Also, the personal connections made through Twitter cannot be overstated. I met more people (and by met I mean the actual meet-in-person-hi-how-are-you kind of met) through the connections made on Twitter than those I met at sessions, mixers, reunions, receptions, and this blog combined. The Tweetup was a smashing success (I am REALLY biased here), with well over the 30 or so people who initially submitted an RSVP. I can’t wait to meet more fellow archivists as this group of engaged professionals gets larger. I feel as though the community being built on Twitter will, if not already, be a force to reckoned with in the profession, despite some continuing to not get it (I look in your general direction, certain haters on the A&A).
Last year, I found the conference in Austin to be very big, informative, tiring, and friggin’ hot. This year, I found the conference to be bigger, packed with more info, exhausting, and just as friggin’ hot. Can’t wait to see what Chicago 2011 brings.