This is a guest blog post by folklife specialist Catherine Hiebert Kerst. The photos are by Stephen Winick for AFC.
For anyone who missed the September, 2013 Cultural Heritage Archives: Networks, Innovation, & Collaboration Symposium hosted by the American Folklife Center, or anyone who wants to revisit it, the full webcast is online at the Library of Congress’ website:
The two-day event energized the discussion of ethnographic archival thought and practice by presenting fresh and dynamic strategies for contemporary archival realities. It also provided a forum for new and varied voices, both domestic and international, to present and discuss emerging archival initiatives as well as to introduce case studies focused on key topics for a public audience. The symposium combined two excellent keynote speeches by invited speakers, with numerous short focused papers (5-7 min.) on a range of topics presented in six sessions, which you can now access on our website.
Separate webcasts exist for each of the Symposium Sessions, listed on the Schedule page of the Cultural Heritage Archives Symposium site, including: I) Keynote One and “Users of Cultural Heritage Materials,” II) “Archival Description,” III) “Preservation and Digital Stewardship,” IV) Keynote Two and “Forging Archival Collaborations and Alliances,” V) “Sharing Resources,” and VI) “Education and Training.” Sixty-five presentations were given during the symposium, representing American speakers from across the country as well as those from India, Egypt, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, the UK, and Canada.
The topic of “cultural heritage archives” struck a chord, drawing interest and excitement from speakers from vastly different arenas who felt a kinship with the topics and approaches offered in the call for papers. At the event, there were wide-ranging presentations from those representing Native and other ethnic communities, librarians and archivists of many kinds, museum staff, historians and oral historians, educators, metadata librarians, journalists, community activists, media producers, and more.
Among other things, the symposium provided an opportunity to concentrate on ways in which archives and archivists can develop alliances with communities involved in cultural heritage documentation to address their shared concerns. One prominent thread that ran throughout the many topics and approaches considered at the symposium was that of the need and value of increased collaboration of many kinds. And further, that it is ever more essential that archives involve community participation in their decision-making and strategies, whether with local communities, communities of origin, or ethnic or cultural groups.
Based on informal feedback from participants and attendees of the symposium, plus an evaluation form filled out after the event, many encouraging comments were generated:
- This was a superb cross-section of research and disciplines, technological innovation and best practices. The international speakers were much appreciated.
- Short presentations from many speakers were fresh and kept things moving. An excellent format.
- Connecting with a rich group of colleagues. I liked that it wasn’t just academics who were invited to speak.
- The emphasis on collaboration was much appreciated and exceeded my expectations.
A follow-up questionnaire was sent to participants asked if the symposium had created an opportunity for new interactions, inspired follow-up communications, or generated any new collaborations. Some replies described grant proposals generated and discussed for the first time at the symposium, and others mentioned that they had met for follow-up meetings in their home locales with people they had met at the event. Additional results of the symposium included self-initiated blogs and online reports about the symposium posted on the American Folklife Center website and elsewhere. We look forward to continued archival collaborations, projects, and outreach opportunities with the larger field of cultural heritage archives.