Head of Archives and sole Archivist Victoria Contreras attended the 2022 Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting in Boston back in August. She was asked to recap her conference experience on bloggERS, The Blog of SAA’s Electronic Records Section. Victoria has been at the Archives of the Big Bend for just under six months and has accomplished a lot in a short time — deliberately and thoughtfully. Read below for a snippet of her first day at the meeting, and click through to read the recap in full.
That sense of community and belonging continued into my first session of the day, “We Don’t Have a Checklist: Archival Labor(s) and Leadership of Minoritized Archivists.” Jojo Gabiola, Nancy Godoy, Jimmy Zavala, and Gracen Brilmyer did a fantastic job of addressing not only the added obstacles and strains that archivists of color and other minority groups face but also our added responsibilities and opportunities. We often forget the amount of power we hold and the longstanding effects our decisions can have as the gatekeepers of our community’s or institution’s historical record and intellectual heritage.
In the end, it all goes back to a single question, “how can I use my power to help and advocate for others?” As expressed by the panel, we need to learn to balance the urgency of our work with the patience and time needed to build trust with our communities. That can only be done by carefully building relationships based on agency and trust, avoiding the exploitative research practices of the past that only served to dehumanize communities for the sake of individual careers or collections. We also need to come to terms with the fact that such dehumanization often extends to ourselves as archivists and members of these communities. We often dehumanize ourselves by working much more than our forty hours, especially when we are personally invested in our collections and our goal of transforming 21st century archives.