Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Initial reflections on 'Archiving the future: mobilizing the past'

There was so much going on at the conference and around the conference that I've struggled to start writing about it, so I'll just start with a short post on my initial reflections on the conference. It was huge - I mean 1500 people at one conference - I've never been to anything like that before! The conference programme was so packed with interesting sounds panels that it was really difficult to choose what ones to go to. As I was there in my professional capacity as an archivist I had to put those panels discussing archives first - not that this was a hardship as I can honestly say that I found all the panels I went to to be interesting (and as regular readers will know, I do happen to love my job, just a bit!). In addition to all the archive-related panels I also managed to squeeze in a bit of personal interest in the form of a panel 'Celebrating Chick Strand through screenings and discussions'.

I stayed in the conference hotel, The Westin Bonaventure, which was a fantastic experience in itself. I'm sure there are lots of huge hotels like that in America but that was the first time I'd ever stayed in one. The map in the conference programme was pretty clear and most of the rooms were close together so I never got lost in the hotel, something that worried me on initial arrival!

Our panel on 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' went very well - even if I do say so myself. I'll talk more about all these things in later posts. However I just wanted to mention some of my lasting impressions. One thing that worried me a bit was the impression left from a few of the panels I attended that archivists were somehow in the way, that we wanted to block access to material. I know there is that stereotypical image of the 'dusty archive' but I really don't believe that to be applicable to the profession any more. However maybe the fact that this image still persists is something we need to think about. Are we really doing enough to encourage access? Do we worry too much about copyright, legalities etc? My answer to these would be Yes to the first (although of course that's not say it's ok to get complacenet about access) and No to the second (we do afterall, work for whichever institution is paying us and have a responsibility in this sense). However it still made me consider these issues - which can never be a bad thing.

So that's my one gripe/negative impression put to one side now. What about the positive? There were so many! The amazingly varied ways in which researchers use archival material as represented by all the hugely interesting papers I listened to. The sheer number of archives that are out there that I've never heard of - an exciting world of possibilities! The engagement between researchers/academics and archivists (as I said the image of archivists I referred to above seemed to be just that, an image, and not reflective of people's actual experiences, on the whole). The huge potential for crossover between archival work and academic research (this is me speaking in a personal capacity in terms of possibilities for PHD's, further study). The clear passion for their work that was evident in the academics, archivists and researchers at the conference.

I'll get back to more regular posting from now on, after my recent time off, and I'll write more about the various panels I attended, and other exciting things from our travels in America. Other highlights from Los Angeles include a visit to the Margaret Herrick Library and the screening of The Exiles at UCLA. One last thing I have to mention - the Nickel Diner (see business card below) is awesome for breakfast. It was really close to the hotel and did very tasty blueberry pancakes. I never did try the maple bacon donut though - maybe next time!