Written by Andrew McMahan, Graduate Assistant
Last week, November 1-3, I had the privilege of attending the Society of Tennessee Archivists conference in Jonesborough. The conference’s theme this year was “Archives in Action.”
I was able to attend some impressive sessions. Jennifer Randles and Allison Griffey from the Tennessee State Library and Archives presented “Streamlining Digital Collections: Getting the Most Out of Your Microfilm” in which they discussed their work on the newly digitized and published Record of Ex-Soldiers in World War I, Tennessee Counties, 1917-1919 collection. They pointed out that these service abstracts are of high value to researchers and will help to fill in gaps in the record left by the National Personnel Records Center Fire in 1973. They also used their experience with this collection to suggest ways for archivists at other institutions to digitize their holdings. Likewise, Sarah Calise’s presentation, “Archives Inaction: Decades of Not Doing Enough,” was both informative and thought-provoking. She asserted that archivists are not doing enough to ensure that archives are an inclusive space. She pointed out that white archivists (the vast majority of professionals in the field) continue to uphold oppressive practices in the acquisition, description, and access of materials. She encouraged archivists to undertake more community engagement and intensive self-reflection in order make our repositories more inclusive of minority groups.
While at the STA conference, I was able to participate in a student-led round table in which we discussed internships. We talked about what we look for in an internship, how we find them, how to make the most of professional experience during graduate school, and the dilemma of paid and unpaid internships. We engaged in a lively and constructive discussion with the professionals that were able to attend our presentation, and felt that our views received fair consideration and positive feedback.
The city of Jonesborough provided excellent entertainment for us archivists in between sessions. The downtown historic district is beautiful. I highly recommend that visitors to the area stop in and make time to take a stroll down Main Street and admire the historic buildings of the oldest city in Tennessee. One of the highlights of the trip in my opinion was the tour of Tennessee Hills Distillery just off of Main Street. The building itself is historic and, most importantly, they give out samples!