In case Jason Speck didn’t speak in one of your classes this semester, MARAC is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (If you don’t know who Jason is, see our previous blog post). MARAC hosts two conferences each year, and this fall the conference was held a mere 30 minutes from College Park in Annapolis. I decided to go because:
- It wasn’t too far away
- It wasn’t too expensive
- Conferences are good for you (chances to network, meet cool people, learn about new resources, get a better view of the profession, etc.)
This was my first archives conference and I had so much fun! Honestly, I was there all day Friday and Saturday and I felt like I could have gone on for at least three more days of listening, learning, questioning, and talking.
Thursday of the conference was filled with tours of local historical sites and all-day workshops on things like BitCurator and Rare Books. I didn’t look too closely at these events since they cost extra, but this is definitely something I intend to participate in next time.
Friday and Saturday were filled with a variety of talks to attend on a wide range of subjects – it was awesome, but also hard to choose which ones to attend. Most talks involved short presentations by panels of 4-7 people on related subjects, issues, or projects, and then opened up for questions from the audience.
The keynote speaker Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din, a curator at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened the conference proceedings on Friday morning and she spoke about the process of collecting evidence of the Black Lives Matter movement in Baltimore. I found her presentation fascinating for the local history (I’m new to Maryland) and the new ways of collecting evidence of historical events. This same topic was presented again in a session on crowd archiving. This commonly takes the form of a website centered around an event where members of the public can upload records (usually photos and videos taken via ever-present and often-replaced smart phones), give basic information about the record, and submit it to the collection. This is still a new frontier of sorts because there are still many ongoing discussions about who keeps the copyright and allowing the option of non-public access to submissions, which I briefly discussed with Jessica Douglas from the Preserve the Baltimore Uprising archive project. She explained that there is a lot of give-and-take in the balance of archival principles, like access and privacy, but that these discussions are the foundation of future growth as archives continue to explore this deep involvement of the web and the everyday populous.
One of the most difficult things about this conference was deciding which sessions to attend since they all sounded interesting, four sessions occurred at once, and I, unfortunately, do not have a time turner. Including the crowd archiving session, I chose to attend the sessions on creating digital exhibits, the role of archives in public programs like re-enactments and historical houses, controversial issues involving university archive holdings, and growing archival education and outreach methods.
I was surprised at how many people I knew who attended the conference. I found colleagues from where I volunteer, from my work, and, of course, my fellow students and professors from UMD and SAM. I know this was probably related to the close proximity of the conference, but it was a real comfort to see so many familiar faces. Besides getting to know some of my classmates better, I also met two new friends – a recent archives graduate from Italy and a soon-to-be archives graduate from New Jersey. I loved getting to know them over the conference and sharing stories about our work, our studies, and our joys in archiving. Attending MARAC really inspired me with new ideas for future projects and papers, and I feel like I’ve really found a place in my local and regional archive community that I am eager to continue exploring. I hope to see you in Newark, NJ April 20th-22nd at the spring conference!
Joanna is the SAM secretary and a third semester MLIS student.