Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SAA 2009: LAGAR Annual Meeting

Jim Cartwright, my fellow co-chair, brought this beautiful lei made of orchids all the way from Hawaii and gave it to me immediately before the meeting started. I was and am deeply touched by this gesture, and for now I'm keeping the lei in the hotel room minibar. Does anyone have any advice on lei preservation?

The Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable met this afternoon. My tenure as co-chair ended when the business meeting concluded, and full details of the meeting will be reported in the official annual report that will go to SAA Council shortly. I'm just going to outline what I saw as the high points:
  • Heidi Marshall (Columbia College Chicago) was elected to serve as co-chair for the 2009-2011 term. Congratulations, Heidi!
  • LAGAR will convene a subcommittee to look at LAGAR's bylaws and leadership structure. Our current leadership structure, which involves having one male and one female co-chair serving staggered terms of office, made a lot of sense when LAGAR was created 21 years ago. However, it doesn't explicitly allow transpeople to serve as co-chairs, and it certainly freezes out genderqueer people who don't identify as either male or female. The committee will also look at ways LAGAR can make use of new technologies such as electronic voting. Any changes to the bylaws will be voted upon at the 2010 annual meeting.
  • Paula Jabloner is looking for people to write short statements on Privacy and Confidentiality and Arrangement and Description for the Information for Community Archives manual and for someone to assume responsibility for the manual's ongoing editing, which requires periodic updating (revising the Electronic Records section is my first post-co-chair assignment). We also discussed the possiblity of working in tandem with other SAA groups to produce a general guide for all kinds of community archives.
  • LAGAR is coming to Facebook! Keep your eyes peeled . . . .
After a brief break, we joined with the Women's Collections Roundtable for a panel discussion featuring Austin archivists and scholars who work with LGBT archival materials:
  • Nikki Lynn Thomas of the Women and Gender Project at the University of Texas at San Antonio discussed the history of the collection and her repository's efforts to document women, gender expression, and sexual identity in South Texas.
  • Lisa Moore of the University of Texas at Austin's Department of English discussed her search for evidence of queerness in the lives of 18th century English women and noted that the archival evidence can be fugitive: the only public records that document same-sex relationships during this era concern criminal prosecutions, and lovers and relatives often destroyed private papers after creators' deaths. Moreover, even today there is a presumption of heterosexuality; scholars who uncover evidence of queerness are often accused of reading too much into their sources. As a result, researchers interested in locating a usable past of queerness might want to to publicize their archival finds without offering any detailed analysis of them.
During the question-and-answer session that followed, an interesting discussion of the meaning of the word "archive" took place: for many scholars, an "archive" is something assembled through research, while for archivists the term often refers to a corpus of materials produced by an organization as it carries out its functions and duties. There wasn't any resolution to this discussion, but it certainly highlighted the fact that we archivists don't have a monopoly on the word "archive."

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