“Archives, records, power: three words which now resonate across a range of academic disciplines and professional pursuits (Schwartz & Cook, 2002).”
Since our readings on the archival profession I have been curious to learn more about the various archiving organization within New York, and to better understand their methods and means of connectivity.
“Significance is related to cultural motion and public endorsement; significance processes are the basis for cultural inventions and collectivist traditions (Dalbello, 2009).”
Dalbello, Schwartz, and Cook all left me wanting to learn more about cultural and community influence on archives, and wanting to question that if “public endorsement” plays such a large roll in the archiving of information, then why are archives continual seen as inaccessible foreboding spaces?
I have been meeting with the folks at Pioneer Books to discuss course development within their bookstore surrounding archives, and the ways that we can educate the Red Hook community about archives and the importance of creating our own. Archives serve access of information to their communities, and we have been developing a curriculum that would educate our community about the archives they can gain access to. In all of our research it has surprised me how little information surrounding the “outreach” aspects of archives exists. There is very little that seems to be done to educate the public about the existence of certain archives or the ways that they can be accessed. The archival world is rather insular, and I have been curious to learn about how and if professionals in the field are working to change that.
When I heard that board members from The Archivist Roundtable were coming to have a discussion with Pratt’s chapter of the Society of American Archivists, I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with archivists in the field, learn more about their individual professions and places of work, and ask them some questions about archive accessibility.
The Archivist Round Table (ART) president, Kerri Anne Burke, programming director, Alex Lederman, membership director, Rebecca Chandler, outreach director, Lindsay Anderberg, and, mentorship chair, Melissa came to speak about their organization and the ways that they can help students who are entering into the archival profession.
ART was founded in 1979 as a non-profit organization that strives to connect the community of archivists, librarians, and various other information professionals within the New York metropolitan area. It is seen as an alternative or a supplementary organization to the Society of American Archivists.
The Archivist Round Table (ART) strives to…
“educate the public about the legal, historical and cultural value of public and private archives and manuscript collections.
provide a forum, through monthly meetings, where members of the archival community can discuss issues of professional concern.
promote professional development through continuing education workshops and professional education opportunities.
advocate the preservation and use of historical materials. (Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc.)”
The panelists made a strong argument for the benefits of joining ART versus joining the SAA as students. The first being that the SAA has a high membership fee. For students it is only $50 for the year, but continuing the membership beyond your studies is not always possible for everyone. They also said that a lot of archival positions will pay for your membership once you are hired. Membership for students to ART is just $10 for the year and gives you access to most events for free or a very low cost. It is also fairly easy to volunteer with ART, which gives you access to events for free.
The second argument being that ART focuses on the New York Metropolitan area which is where most of us are currently working and focusing our studies. Many of the board members expressed that they felt lost in the larger SAA community. Even at conferences or participating in panels, it seemed that the scope was too large, and they were not finding much value within SAA as students. With nearly 600 members in ART all located in New York, it is easier to make and build connections with a smaller collection of professionals who live in your city and work within your community.
Both ART and SAA offer a mentorship program for students, but the ART program connects students to professionals in New York, which allows for face to face meet ups, and the building of connections that could potentially lead to jobs. The SAA program pairs people across the country, which is valuable in many ways, but not as much for job searching if you are hoping to stay in New York.
ART events are held in the city at least eight times per year. Events are generally held in different locations, which gives greater access to the information that is being discussed. In essence, getting the archives out of the enclosed box that so many people associate with them. Holding the events in different locations also allows for people who might not be familiar with the organization or archives to listen in and learn more.
Event schedules can be found on their website, nycarchivists.org. You can also join their mailing list to receive updates.
After the presentation on the organization’s history, philosophy, and organization, the group opened the room up to questions and someone asked if each board member would talk about their background, where they went to school, and what their career path post graduate school has been.
This was incredibly interesting to me. Having come from a varied background, and entering grad school as an avenue towards a second career, I have felt somewhat self-concious about my indirect path to being an the information professional. I was surprised to find that I was not alone. Almost everyone on the panel had held other jobs before entering into archives, and nearly everyone on the panel did something completely different from each other. It was inspiring to see how many different kinds of jobs exist under the archival umbrella.
Although we ran out of time before I was able to ask any questions specific to archival outreach, I was able to connect with the programming director, Alex, after the discussion. We were able to talk for a bit about general archival struggles, and agreed to have coffee soon to discuss more of the ways that archives can strive to be inclusive.
To be continued…
Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (n.d.). Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York – About ART. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.nycarchivists.org/About
Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009.
Schwartz, J. M., & Cook, T. (2002). Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Archival Science, 2(1/2), 1-19.
On December 7, 2015, Donald Trump spoke to a crowd at the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina, “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet, and we have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people…about, maybe in certain areas, closing the internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech! Freedom of speech! These are foolish people…We’ve got to do something with the internet.” He insisted that ISIS recruitment of “impressionable youth” through the internet was severe enough to warrant limitations in access and availability (Vicens, 2016)
While his statements were not necessarily based on extensive research or even a rudimentary understanding of how the internet works, his flippant response towards the limitation and restricted access of information struck many information freedom activists and professionals as worrisome.
Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, was one of the first to speak out after Trump’s election in November. On November 29th he issued a statement on the Internet Archive blog stating that Trump’s election “was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change…[I]t means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.” Kahle explained that the Internet Archive had been working to create a partial backup in Canada (they currently have additional backups in Alexandria and Amsterdam), but after the election made the decision to make the Canadian archive a full backup of their database, essentially creating a second hub for the archive. This duplicate is often called a “mirror” and is a platform that many websites use to ensure a backup and evade censorship (Johnson, 2016).
Kahle’s response to the election and announcement of their move elicited responses from Rachel Maddow¹, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and nearly every major news outlet. A once obscure website became a hot button topic of discussion seemingly overnight.
I wanted to understand their reasoning behind the move, obviously it makes sense to continue the work that they had already been doing in Canada by advancing the project further, but why Canada?
Canadian laws regarding access to online information and access to the web are very similar to those in the United States. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was passed in 2001 under certain limitations, and more comprehensively in 2004 (Wilson). This act implements certain restrictions on the storing of personal information by large corporations and was originally developed to encourage consumer online shopping.
In 2015, Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, was passed in Canada which gave government greater access to citizens’ web based data, and allowed for that information to be used to target potential terrorists (Mendhelson, 2016). While the new president, Justin Trudeau, has promised to repeal a large portion of the more problematic elements of the bill, the restrictions and allowance for government access is very similar to the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 which was passed in the United States (NIST).
While Canada does offer fewer restrictions than the United States in some areas, it has greater limitations on content, and as recently as 2005 internet providers had the ability to block certain IP addresses without any legal ramifications or modifications to laws to prevent it happening again (CBC News, 2005).
The Freedom House non-profit published “Freedom on the Net 2016”, which discusses various countries’ current laws and standings on internet accessibility and freedom of web based information. It rates countries based on three attributes; obstacles to access, limitations on content, and violations of user rights. Canada rates 16 out of 100, and the United States rates 18 out of 100. Canada rated lower than the United States in “violation of user rights”, but higher on their “limitations of content”. Meaning that they are more apt to protect their citizens rights and information on the internet than the US, but that they in turn restrict more information than the US. Ultimately, both countries rate relatively low and similar. The countries that rate best (lowest) on their scale include Estonia and Iceland, both 6 out of 100 significantly lower than both the US and Canada(Mendhelson, 2016).
Ultimately, the regulations and laws surrounding internet and information accessibility do not differ greatly between the United States and Canada. Each have positives and negatives, each are constantly being modified and circumnavigated to appease whoever needs whatever information. The similarities still beg the question, why are they creating an additional copy there? Although it is reasonable to be cautious of storing information in the United States considering our current political climate, it is important to recognize that the same restriction and obliteration of information could rapidly occur in Canada if their political climate were to change. While I do agree that “lots of copies keep stuff safe”, I think it is important to consider where those copies are being stored, especially when taking into account the amount of time and funding that it takes to create those additional copies. It might be paying off for the Internet Archive to draw attention to work that they are currently doing by using it as a means t0 take a stand against the administration, but to praise their decision might be hasty. As purveyors of a world of digital born content, the Internet Archive now holds the weight of responsibility for that information, and in the long run it makes more sense to focus efforts on the creation of more stable copies in countries that are better known for their unrestrictive information laws.
CBC News. (2005, July 24). Telus cuts subscriber access to pro-union website. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/telus-cuts-subscriber-access-to-pro-union-website-1.531166
Johnson, A. (2016, November 29). Internet Archive, web’s warehouse, creating Trump-era copy in Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/internet-archive-web-s-warehouse-creating-trump-era-copy-canada-n689916
Kahle, B. (2016, November 29). Help Us Keep the Archive Free, Accessible, and Reader Private. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://blog.archive.org/2016/11/29/help-us-keep-the-archive-free-accessible-and-private/
Mendehlson, A., & Reed, L. (2016). Freedom on the Net 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2016
NIST. FISMA Background. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SMA/fisma/overview.html
Vicens, A. (2016, December 10). The coolest thing on the internet is moving to Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/internet-freedom-wayback-machine-moving-copy-to-canada-donald-trump
Wilson, P., & Fekete, M. (2011). Privacy Law in Canada. Doing Business in Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://www.osler.com/uploadedFiles/News_and_Resources/Publications/Guides/Doing_Business_in_Canada_-_2011/DBIC-Chapter12.pdf