Hello! My name is Casey Shiflet, and I recently (virtually) attended ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2022 via a grant made available by DVAG. This was my first time attending the conference, after years of silently pining. I knew the experience wouldn’t be quite the same as it would have been if I had attended in person, but I was still excited to be able to participate in some of the sessions which were available virtually.
One of my favorite sessions that I attended was #IndigenizeSNAC: Perspectives from the 2021 Indigenous SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) Edit-a-thon, which I was excited to sit in on as they talked about the potential of using Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) as a “platform to increase accessibility for Native American and Indigenous communities to their own archival collections and cultural heritage materials across disparate institutions.” SNAC is a cooperatively maintained resource that gives users the ability to connect disparate and geographically separated records in a way that traditional archival description and authority records lack for Indigenous communities, thus enabling Indigenous peoples and their collections to be represented in ways of *their* choosing, rather than in the more top-down hierarchical approach that is seen a lot in archives and collections curated and described by White folks. The 2020 Edit-a-thon was an event that brought people together to work on ways to increase visibility and findability of Indigenous records, and was followed by a second session in 2021, which built upon the lessons learned during the first session. Outcomes from these sessions included the creation of a Style Guide/Editorial Guide which highlights best practices in the field as they apply to the SNAC platform and Indigenous records, an increased number of and (increased awareness) of Indigenous records and editors, and the spread of knowledge of cultural concerns regarding the description and preservation of Indigenous records.
The biggest reason that I decided to go into the Archival field was my desire to work to ensure the preservation of historical records and documents for future generations to utilize in their own research and learning. I admit that in my naivety, I wasn’t sure of how to approach the historical records of underrepresented and marginalized populations. For most of my education, I learned history through the lens that most of us did – mostly focused on White men in power, and the influences that they had. It wasn’t until my last year or so of undergrad that I was presented with the concept of historiography, which led me to challenge the traditional top-down approach, and led me to think more critically about what we choose to preserve, and why. I want as much of my work to focus on preserving the history and records of populations that have been more or less left to wither on the vine by large, predominantly White institutions. I wish that I had known about the SNAC Edit-a-thon prior to learning about it at this conference, as I would have jumped at the opportunity to work alongside and learn from Indigenous folks, especially when it comes to addressing the specific needs of their communities in the Archival field. We as Archivists have so much potential to do so much good in the spheres of underrepresented peoples, but we need to take the time to learn a) what needs exist and b) how to respectfully aid in meeting those needs, rather than approaching communities and their histories and essentially bulldoze our way through them using methods that are perhaps currently thought of as “best practices”, but don’t necessarily account for or address their specific needs.
I’m incredibly grateful to DVAG for sponsoring my virtual trip to the conference, as being able to hear from so many individuals and groups who clearly share my passion for the field was heartening, especially after facing the (ongoing) challenges that the last several years have presented to the profession in general. I look forward to next year’s, and hope that I will be able to attend in person, circumstances allowing!
Bibliographic Assistant at Charles Library, Temple University