Archivist group celebrates history with lecture series, discussion

October is American Archives Month, and the Society of American Archivists group on campus is commemorating the month by promoting the importance of archiving and studying history. SAA is celebrating with discussions, a lecture series and a social for those interested in archiving.

The SAA, founded in 1936, is a national organization promoting public interest in archiving on college campuses, businesses, libraries and institutions across the country.

Archiving is the preservation of printed materials, such as letters, budgets, newspapers, photographs or diaries. On the University’s campus, the Hoole Archive and Special Collections libraries house editions of the Corolla, The Crimson White and other documents from years past.

“There are always fun and unexpected artifacts in archives,” Becky Baltrusaitis, president of the University’s SAA and graduate student in library and information studies, said. “One such ‘found it in the archives’ moment happened to me when sorting through materials in the Plank Archive. I came across a signed photograph of Robert Frost.”

Baltrusaitis said archives are an important element of American society, and wants to spread the word about the importance and relevance of the archives on campus.

“Without open access, we are cut off from information on what our governing bodies are doing,” she said. “This goes against what Americans believe in and helps to keep superiors accountable to their public. There is really nothing like holding a 200-year-old letter in your hand and being able to read it and feel the history behind it.”

Stephen Deloney, vice president of SAA and graduate student in library and information studies, said archives are not just important for historians and archivists, but also for majors ranging from studio art to biology.

“Often, archives employ chemistry and biology majors to study issues of material preservation,” Deloney said. “Computer science majors increasingly need not only to preserve records of born-digital documents, but also provide access to print material through digitization.”

While archives focus on the past, Deloney said fresh perspectives are what keep archiving alive.

“While our archives may have very old material, there is nothing old about the archives profession,” he said. “We need young, creative and passionate students to get involved in the profession.”

The library and information studies program, celebrating its 40th year on campus, provides a varied course of study ranging from digital archiving to traditional methods. SAA provides networking and career opportunities to those within the program. The program gives students the chance to develop practical occupational skills that can be used in a variety of fields such as law, business and social media.

Bob Riter, faculty advisor for SAA, said archiving at the University is important in preserving our campus’s history and traditions.

“At The University of Alabama, there is a lot of great work being carried out that will help us to capture and preserve born-digital materials, as well as to use new technologies to provide wider access to analog materials through the use of online environments,” he said.

Students looking to get involved can visit the the University’s SAA Facebook page or online at lib.ua.edu.

 

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