Conference Report: Society of Southwest Archivists

By Mary Heady 

Beautiful weather highlighted the 2017 conference of the Society of Southwest Archivists in Fayetteville, Arkansas, located in the scenic Ozark mountain range. The conference was held from May 24 to 27, 2017 in the recently remodeled Chancellor Hotel in downtown Fayetteville.

The Ozarks. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

The plenary address by Stacy Leeds, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law, discussed the importance of archives in establishing and maintaining the rule of law for the Cherokee tribe. Leeds is the only American Indian woman to serve as dean of a law school in the United States. 

The first session I attended was titled “Reaching Out to the Community: I Did it, So Can You.” The speakers gave lightning talks highlighting ten different projects promoting outreach on a specific aspect of their holdings. One speaker discussed leveraging a relationship with a local stamp collecting group, encouraging the group to hold meetings in the archives meeting room so that the members could look through the archives’ collection of covers.

The second session was “We Need to Talk: Creating and Implementing Digital Preservation Workflows in Small and Medium Sized Institutions.” One of the most significant takeaways from this presentation was the 3-2-1 rule: preserving electronic records by having 3 copies, 2 formats, and 1 offsite.

The third event for the day was repository tours.  I attended the tour of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas Collection is comprised of over 68,000 Arkansas-related print titles, rare books, photographs, and manuscript collections. The tour was led by Geoffrey Stark and other special collections staff.  The special collections staff donated their time throughout the conference, manning the registration desk, assisting with the repository tours, and managing the overall arrangements. 

Friday began with a session on “Film Identification and Preservation” by Alexis Peregoy of the Center for Creative Photography.  The session covered identifying cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate and polyester based materials. The best conditions for film preservation are cold and dry. If possible, refrigeration is a good option. Items in cold storage must have time to acclimate to warmer temperatures. Deteriorating film should be isolated from other film. 

The second session I attended was “Teaching with Archival Documents.”  Engaged learning was the theme of this session. One speaker demonstrated engaging students by asking questions about photographs and newspaper advertisements. For example, why was this image created? What surprises you about it? The materials were copied from archival originals. Another hands-on approach got students involved through researching the history of their home county or their favorite county in Arkansas. 

The third session was titled, “Digital Archiving DIY.”  This session described homegrown ways to create finding aids efficiently. The day ended with a magnificent reception in the beautiful Walton Room at the University of Arkansas Mullins Library

Saturday began with a business meeting and the raffle SLOTTO.  The final session I attended was titled “The James D. Bales Papers:  A Case Study of MPLP Applied to a Grant-funded Project.” The opportunity to network with my colleagues in the Society of Southwest Archivists was invaluable and the University of Arkansas Fayetteville Libraries provided a warm welcome and a beautiful site to have the conference.

Mary Heady is the Special Collections and Reference Librarian at the University of Arkansas at Monticello Taylor Library.  She is a Certified Archivist and holds the M. L. S. from the University of Missouri at Columbia.


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