The Society of California Archivists turned fifty in 2021, and it’s hard to imagine a professional life without the resources, support, education, and friendship that SCA means to us.

A half century ago there were few regional or state archival associations in the U.S. Although the Society of American Archivists had been founded in 1936, it took decades for regions and individual states to realize that they needed organizations to share resources and solve problems on a local level.

As the 1970s opened, California archivists had no groups to turn to other than the Society of American Archivists. Anyone who wanted education, networking, or a place to talk about issues had to go to the SAA yearly meetings. But these conferences were regularly held far away from California or even the West. Between 1950 and 1970, only two SAA meetings were held in western states: Austin, Texas in 1964, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1967. That was still quite a trek for anyone from California, and there were many archivists and archival organizations in the state at the time.

Everything changed in 1971. SAA chose San Francisco as the site for its annual meeting, to be held in mid-October. A group of archivists, centered mostly around UCLA and University Archivist and oral historian James V. Mink, had already been talking about the need for a statewide organization. Then, in July of 1971, at the prompting of Lynn (Donovan) Bonfield, an ad hoc steering committee met to talk about creating an archival association for Californians, a group which included Gary Kurutz (California Historical Society), Jim Kantor (UC Berkeley), and Pat Palmer (Stanford).

That October, archivists from all over the state converged at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco for the SAA meeting. In between sessions, forty-eight people sat down together and formally organized the Society of California Archivists.

The first annual meeting was held at UCLA in March of 1972. In April James V. Mink, was elected the first president, other officers were elected and the Bylaws were approved. In May Council established a dues structure ($5.00 a year!), and set up a newsletter. They also made plans for the first workshop, “Processing Manuscript and Archival Materials,” held jointly with the Conference of California Historical Societies in Bakersfield in November of 1972.

SCA was founded and nurtured in its early years by dynamic and forward-thinking archivists, historians, librarians, and records managers. We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneers who put into place the strong organization we benefit from today.

Here are some of the important moments from SCA history:


  • SCA was officially organized.


  • SCA published the first edition of the Directory of Archival and Manuscript Repositories in California.


  • The workshop format was adopted at the Annual General Meeting.


  • “Sessions” as we know them today were first introduced at the Annual General Meeting.


  • The “Committee for the 80s” convened to create a strategic plan and issued its report. SCA also celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Annual General Meeting at the Mansion Inn in Sacramento.


  • The first James V. Mink Scholarship was awarded.
  • The Western Archives Institute was first held in July, at UCLA (co-produced by SCA, the California State Archives, and UCLA).
  • Government Affairs and Automation Committees were established, joining other committees organized earlier in the decade: Education, Nominating, Publications, Conservation, Awareness and Outreach.


  • The Archival Award of Excellence (formerly the Archivist Award of Excellence) was established by the California Heritage Preservation Commission.


  • The first Membership Directory was printed, and sold for $10.00.


  • The Sustained Service Award was presented for the first time, at the 20th anniversary Annual General Meeting in Concord.


  • The Pasadena Annual General Meeting coincided with unrest due to the Rodney King verdict.


  • The 25th anniversary Annual Meeting was held at the Mission Inn in Riverside, and featured historian Patricia Nelson Limerick as guest speaker.


  • SCA was granted non-profit status, and the Annual General Meeting in Sacramento included a tour of the new State Archives building.


  • SCA introduced soca_list, a subscription email discussion list hosted by UC Berkeley, which became West_Arch later that year. SCA also established its own domain at


  • SCA and the California State Archives co-sponsored the first California Archives Week during the second week of October. This year’s Annual General Meeting was also the first Western Roundup, held jointly with Northwest Archivists, Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists, and Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists, in Las Vegas.


  • SCA established the new Walter P. Gray III Scholarship using funds from the Education Fund.


  • A new online environment was unveiled: a redesigned website that introduced electronic delivery of the newsletter and membership roster, allowed the board and committees to communicate directly with membership via email blasts, and enabled members to join and renew online.


  • A new, modernized logo was designed and adopted. A Task Force on Professional Ethics and Inclusion was also created this year.


  • The new Lynn A. Bonfield Professional Development Award was introduced, using funds from the education endowment.


  • The Task Force on Labor Issues Within the Profession began its work, and SCA also adopted a Code of Conduct. The 50th Anniversary special committee was established.


  • SCA launched a series of First Friday monthly meetings online and the 50th Anniversary Committee began its work. The Board also made the decision to hold the 2021 Annual General Meeting virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic (which also caused the cancellation of the 2020 Western Archivists Meeting in San Francisco). The business meeting that year took place via Zoom.


  • SCA held its 50th anniversary Annual General Meeting online, which was also SCA's first virtual AGM.

© Society of California Archivists
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software