Society of American Archivists 2012 – San Diego

It’s rare that we get to meet our heroes in the flesh, but even rarer that we get to present with them at conferences. This year, I had the incredible honor of presenting with Nelson Mandela’s Chief Archivist, Verne Harris, who traveled all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa to be on our panel. Verne has been involved with the Nelson Mandela Foundation since 2004, and is known as one of the superstars of the archives community for his work related to archives and social justice. Our topic this year was Tattoos as Personal Archives, and despite being the last presentation of the conference, we had a big turnout and great conversation! It was also an honor to present with dear friends, Terry Baxter of the Multnomah County Archives (Portland, Oregon), and Stephanie Kays of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Prior to our session, Stephanie and I embarrassed Verne by pulling our copies of his book out for signing. He was a good sport, and certainly had a good sense of humor!
Of course, SAA is also a great chance to learn about what is new in the field of archives, how colleagues are getting creative in gathering support for their archives, and considering new ideas for our own repositories.

The keynote speaker this year was Jon Voss, founder of HistoryPin. HistoryPin is a site designed to allow users to “pin” scanned historical photographs and documents to GoogleMaps, allowing users to find historical images by location. I’m rather partial to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s channel on HistoryPin. Click on the image below to learn more!


Another exciting project I learned about at SAA was the L.A. as Subject consortium. This is a group of archivists from all over the Los Angeles area who organize Archives Bazaars, work with the media to get their collections covered, and do a lot to promote L.A. history in general. They have stories ranging from Lost Tunnels in L.A. to the history of the Bunker Hill neighborhood. My personal favorite was probably the article on the work archivists did with video game designers to create the game, L.A. Noire. Click on the image below for more information!

WPA map of central Los Angeles. Image courtesy of the USC Digital Library. Physical document stored at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.