The Society of California Archivists turns fifty this year, 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: