The Archivist Round Table Visits Pratt SAA

By adifigl2

“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, 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

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.

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