Archival History Section Chair’s Letter

Fall 2020

Dear Members of the Archival History Section,

I am honored to serve as the chair of our section for the year 2020-21. I first wish to thank last year’s chair Cory Nimer for steering us through a year that has been like no other. Thanks as well to last year’s steering committee members Michelle Ganz, Susan Tucker and Ingi House for all their hard work for our section. I am very much looking forward to continuing this important work with the members of the new steering committee. I would also like to thank Eric Stoykovich and Natalie Worsham for their excellent editorial work for the Archival History News. Since its launch in 2017, the Archival History News has established itself as a valued information hub on national and international archival history.

Looking back at this year’s annual meeting I would like to highlight the presentations of our two guest speakers, which, in a year of multiple crises, focused on archival responses to crisis and tragedy. Peter Alter (Chief Historian at the Chicago History Museum and Director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History) in his presentation titled  “Documenting Crisis” explored the ways in which the Chicago History Museum has documented and continues to document the city’s most calamitous and dramatic events,  reaching from the late 20th and early 21st century all the way back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In the meeting’s second lecture, titled “We Remember Them: Archival Tragedy Response,” Vanessa St. Oegger-Menn (Assistant University Archivist and Pan Am 103 Archivist at Syracuse University) reflected first about the mission and work of Syracuse University’s Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives, dedicated to the documentation of this terrorist attack and to the memory of its victims. Vanessa concluded her presentation with a highly informative overview of the work of SAA’s Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force (2018-2020), of which she was a member. During these presentations we were able to record a peak attendance of 68, a testament as much to the timeliness of this year’s section meeting theme as to a general interest in archival history.

The meeting also featured the announcement of the recipients of the 2020 Archival History Article Awards, which were given to Melanie Shell-Weiss for her article “Good Intentions: Grappling with Legacies of Conflict and Distrust Surrounding a Native American Oral History Project One Generation Later” (Oral History Review 46, no. 1 (2019): 104-133) and to Greg Weideman for “The Historical Hazards of Finding Aids” (American Archivist 82, no. 2 (2019): 381-420). Congratulations to both recipients!

In its first meeting in late September, the steering committee outlined its plans for the coming year. A new article award committee was formed, and the steering committee agreed to focus on the next stage of the Archival History News’ bibliography project as well as on the institutional histories project (an attempt to survey and document existing histories of archival repositories).

The Archival History News has become our section’s indispensable source of information for section proceedings as much as for archival history in general. I would like to encourage all of our section members to consider submitting contributions to AHN, from book reviews and project descriptions to conference coverage and article length original research.

Sebastian Modrow
Chair, Archival History Section

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