My deepest hope is that this letter finds you all healthy and safe. Our worlds, both personal and professional, have been and continue to be radically altered in ways we could never have imagined; many of us are still adjusting to new realities, losses and difficult transitions. But in the midst of the health crisis of COVID-19, I am inspired to see that we continue, as archivists, to bear witness to and record the inequities and trauma in our communities by soliciting stories from workers, students, and the public at large, thereby amplifying their present experiences. Every week, the number of these projects expands; within the CSU system alone, eight different projects have been launched as of May 31, and many other institutions have launched projects as well. Your fast work and thoughtful approaches will document this moment as few other global events in history have been documented in real time.
A more specific professional loss felt by us all was the cancellation of the Western Archivists Meeting. Sadly, as news of the devastation caused by COVID-19 began to spread and San Francisco took the prescient step of ordering a shelter-in-place before much of the nation, the leadership of the four regional organizations and the Local Arrangements Committee recognized that the meeting would not be able to go forward as planned. I want to acknowledge the incredibly hard work that the Program Committee, the Local Arrangements Committee, and the leadership of the western regional organizations put into both the planning for, and the dissolution of, the Western Archivists Meeting. The thoughtfulness of the Program Committee, the creative and engaging proposals submitted by the members of all of the organizations involved, and the heavy lifting of planning for such an event by our Local Arrangements Committee showed what a fully engaged and committed membership looks like.The great accomplishments we achieved are no less valuable because of the meeting’s cancellation.
We are now, of course, in a new era, struggling to maintain our professional work while wrestling with the inequities in our institutions and in our personal lives that have been further exposed by the pandemic. Having worked for many years in archives, I have seen firsthand the struggles to keep our institutions functioning during times of scarcity, and the devastating impact that downturns can have when that struggle results in layoffs, furloughs and cuts to already-low salaries. Having been in positions of precarity throughout most of my career, including in my present position, I’m acutely aware of the anxiety and fear that comes from holding a job that is tied to funding that could disappear in the coming months. I am grateful that in this moment, we are reaching out to one another, supporting one another, and fighting for our colleagues in the ways that we are able. I’d like to highlight in particular the list shared recently by the Los Angeles Archivists Collective (LAAC) COVID-19 Community Resources for Archivists. Please refer to it, add to it, and share it broadly, as it is a perfect example of how our community harnesses collective energy to share information and show empathy towards one another. I’m proud too of the work my fellow archivists are doing to highlight those inequities that persist within our cultural heritage institutions, government agencies, and universities. We must continue to press on these issues, even as raising our voices may not feel safe.
To that end, it will be timely to hear from our own Task Force on Labor Issues, led in the coming year by Courtney Dean and George Thompson, and to increase advocacy on behalf of our members, in solidarity with our allies in national and regional organizations. To support your continued professional development needs, SCA’s Education Committee—chaired by Adrienne Storey (Northern California), Mallory Furnier (Southern California) and Christine Kim (Online)—is working hard to transition our workshops to a virtual environment. You can look forward as well to our earlier webinars being published online in the coming months.
Before signing off, I want to extend my deepest thanks to outgoing Past President Teresa Mora, whose contributions to SCA cannot be overstated; to Liz Phillips, our outgoing Treasurer, whose thoughtful guidance and fiscal responsibility ensures that SCA’s financial standing remains solid, despite the recent downturn; and for the commitment and dedication of Dee Dee Kramer as our outgoing Member At Large. I also would like to thank our outgoing committee members, as it is their heavy lifting that keeps SCA moving forward, as we enter our 50th year: Jennifer Martinez Wormser (Awards), Kate Dundon (Development), and Genevieve Preston (Government Affairs).
Finally, recognizing that many of you are struggling due to job loss and family needs, the Executive Board voted to contribute funds to the SAA Foundation’s Archival Workers Emergency Fund. If you can afford to, please contribute; if you are in need, please apply.
Wishing you all continued good health, safety, and security,Tanya Hollis
For other recent SCA news, see the Summer 2020 SCA Newsletter.