Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ArchivesNext Movers and Shakers

Last week, Kate T. over at ArchivesNext announced the winners of the 2009 Movers and Shakers in Archives Awards. Kate invites archivists to nominate individuals and organizations whose creativity and innovative approaches are enriching the profession and inspiring their colleagues, and a panel of judges selects the winners. Congratulations to Lisa Cohen of the Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives, the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), Brenda Gunn of the University of Texas at Austin's Center for American History, and Mark Matienzo of the New York Public Library!

All of this year's winners are fantastic, but I'm particularly thrilled about Cohen and CoSA.

Cohen's desire to ensure that the lives of lesbians in her region are reflected in the historical record spurred her to enroll in a graduate-level archival education program and to build a community-based archives from the ground up. She's found a permanent home for its collections, and is steadily moving to expand its scope and reach.

Those of us who are active in SAA's Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable have always been keenly appreciative of the pioneering role of community-based archivists in documenting LGBT people and communities. Community-based archivists collected important materials long before academic and other research institutions exhibited any interest in doing so, and community-based archives are still the repositories of choice for many donors. It's good to see the broader archival community recognize the first-rate, visionary work that archivists such as Cohen are doing!

Margaret Mead once asserted: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." CoSA keeps proving her right. It may be the smallest of the national archival professional organizations, but it's also the most tightly knit and the most agile. Whether it's addressing the need for emergency preparedness and response training, pushing for the Partnership for the American Historical Record, assessing and addressing continuing archival education needs, or assessing state archives and records management programs, CoSA hits the ground running and gets stuff done.

I have the privilege of working for a state archives, and as a result I've gotten to see CoSA's work up close. It really is everything that Kate T. and its anonymous nominator say it is.

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