It is difficult to imagine a more dire situation for those of us living in California right now, with wildfires raging throughout the state in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and the increasing threat of unemployment as the State faces deep budget cuts that will affect the its ability to support institutions, universities and the communities they reside in. And yet, I am heartened and inspired by the activism and ongoing commitment to social justice that I have witnessed in the archives community, and the care and support you all have shown each other.
Amidst all the uncertainty of the current moment, it is with a heavy heart that once again the Board of SCA was compelled to decide that for the health and safety of our members, it will be best not to meet in person in 2021 in Palm Springs. Though we were all looking forward to being together in person again, there was little that led us to believe that the current pandemic would be resolved in time for us to safely meet. Fortunately, this early decision gives our Local Arrangements and Program Committees the lead time they need to plan for a virtual meeting for 2021. We are now planning to reconvene in 2022 in Palm Springs again; we’ll share more in 2021 as we finalize details and have a better idea of what type of meeting we can hold safely.
This cancellation was particularly painful, as we intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of SCA together in 2021. Started in 1971, SCA has aged into the robust organization it is today through the hard work of many dedicated leaders and committed member volunteers, aided by the support of an engaged membership, and we looked forward to celebrating their achievements. Despite the change in plans, the Golden Anniversary Committee has continued their planning to mark this momentous occasion. Work has already begun to solicit photographs and other media from the membership, and an oral history program will soon be underway. If you have a story to tell or memorabilia from years past, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will connect you with the Committee’s chair, Gabriele Carey or one of the committee’s other hard working members: Lynn Downey, James Eason, Sue Hodson, Jennifer Martinez-Wormser, David Uhlich, and Chuck Wilson.
To help maintain and strengthen our professional community while we are unable to meet in person, our new First Friday monthly meetings, led by Membership Director Alix Norton with the support of Steering Committee members Courtney Dean, Chris Marino, and Robin Schiff, have created a vital way for us to connect and engage with one another. Most recently, we met to discuss and share the actions our members have started to take to confront structural racism and bias in our descriptive practices. Using Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia’s Anti-Racist Description Resources as a guide, we’ve begun the work of critically examining our institutions’ archival description for racist language, be it language of erasure or explicit terms, in order to dismantle inherited practices and cultivate more accurate and just ones.
Acknowledging that the outstanding topic for many of our members continues to be working conditions in the archives profession and the precarity of many of our positions, we have also devoted time in these meetings to talk about our labor. Though it has not happened as of this writing, on September 4 our Labor Task Force, co-chaired by Courtney Dean (UCLA) and George Thompson (CSU, Chico), will have shared results from their recent survey on current labor issues in California archives and provided a space for open dialogue. This task force is charged with reviewing labor issues within the archival profession and suggesting ways in which SCA can better advocate for its membership, and the Board is looking forward to their final report. If you have a related topic, or another issue you’d like to discuss in a casual forum with your colleagues, I encourage all of you to join us, and if you have an idea for a meeting, to reach out to Alix or any of the Steering Committee.
Before signing off, I want to extend my deepest thanks to outgoing Western Archives Institute Administrator Sue Tyson. Her navigation through the current crisis has been admirable, and we owe her a debt of gratitude for her quick and deliberate decisions and planning for the ongoing success of WAI.
Once again, recognizing that many of you are struggling due to job loss and family needs, I want to encourage those that need assistance to apply to the SAA Foundation’s Archival Workers Emergency Fund. Those of you that can afford to, please consider contributing.
My best wishes to you all for good health, safety, and financial security for you and your loved ones.
Tanya Hollis, President, Society of California Archivists 2020-2021
For other recent SCA news, see the Fall 2020 SCA Newsletter.