Hello to all, again! I can’t state enough how grateful and honored I have been to receive the Native American Collections Roundtable scholarship for the second year in a row. With the assistance of this scholarship, a colleague and I were able to attend, engage, and learn from fellow archivists within the region (and some a bit further away), revitalizing our passion for the work we do.
Last year was the first NWA conference for me, and it’s always somewhat intimidating to begin the journey. But with experience comes confidence, and this year definitely forced me to step outside the boundaries of my own professional comfort and participate more actively, particularly with the Native American Collections Roundtable during the presentation.
As heard and lived, the archives and cultural heritage preservation profession is isolated; we’re often working as “lone arrangers” or somehow tied into existing programs and departments that may not wholly understand the requirements, obligations, and sometimes, the overall importance of our work. Through attendance, networking, and presentations, I was comforted to not only hear similar sentiments, but to be inspired by those that have overcome these communication obstacles and successfully advocated for their programs. It truly revitalized me, and continues to inspire my actions in working diligently to remain relevant to the community of which I serve.
In addition, and recognizing that each of our institutions are unique in and of themselves, tribal organizations have added layers of complexity under which they function. In my experience, conferences and sessions don’t fully, if at all, navigate these complexities. With that said, I was thoroughly impressed with the inclusion of the panel, “Sustaining Native American Culture in the Digital Age: A Discussion of Digital Projects in the Northwest.” All of the presenters and the tribes they work under are handling their projects in ways that fit their institutions and follow standards, yet remain culturally sensitive to their respective tribal communities – something we all should work to achieve.
I was also excited to hear of the efforts taken by two UNLV archival staff to consider and apply tribal names and titles with accordance to tribal preferences during “Context is Everything: Archival Authority Records.” There are past and current initiatives by many tribes to reclaim traditional names, or reassert names that have gone previously unacknowledged by “institutions of power,” and in my opinion this is one starting point at which those within the archives profession can assist and advocate on behalf of tribes within the very institutions that maintain and share our valuable collections.
Lastly, during my Roundtable presentation I mentioned – nearly every thirty seconds – the value of professional development opportunities and staff capacity building, and I can’t stress enough the importance of including SAA certification courses within the conference. With common obstacles such as location, proximity, and financial resources, many of our training opportunities are limited to online webinars and independent research, as well as the occasional conferences that come through our area. However, taking into consideration the current professional landscape of archival work and the large movement to transition or incorporate digital records and repositories into our daily work, we all need to remain up to date on practices and standards as they apply to our institutions. This conference provides one of few opportunities for live trainings, with instructors available to aid our understanding of the daunting challenges ahead, and for this I’m grateful.
I hope the conference season has been exceptional for all those able to participate, and I look forward to continued participation with the Native American Collections Roundtable. Thank you, again, for this great opportunity.
Shannon Kravitz, NACR Scholarship Awardee 2017