New Mexico Archives & Archivists Group Organizes

In early 2020, fifteen New Mexico-based archivists planned to meet in Santa Fe to discuss organizing a “community of practice” within the state.[1]  Prompted by informal discussions held at the 2019 Society of Southwest Archivists (SSA) Annual Meeting in Tucson and that fall’s New Mexico Library Association (NMLA) Conference in Albuquerque, attendees hoped to organize a group to create network opportunities, collectively problem solve, and develop archival advocacy initiatives.  Records professionals from tribal governments and organizations, public and academic libraries, museums, and government repositories looked forward to sharing a meal at La Choza on March 16, however, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, effectively cancelling the meeting.

Chart showing breakdown of respondent’s workplace, 2020 New Mexico Archivist Survey

As the archival profession worked to adapt to operating in a COVID-19 world, the effort slowly regrouped.  Together, Jonathan Pringle of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Library and I created a short, 14-question survey to gauge needs and gather ideas from fellow archivists within the state to begin building the framework for future organizing.  The responses focused around the following points:

  • the desire to collectively organize archivists
  • growing concerns around budget and staffing levels
  • the distinct lack of networking opportunities
  • a dearth of collaborative projects
  • the unique and unmet archival needs within the state
  • and the desire to create more archival-specific training

With the aggregated survey data, we next researched state/regional professional associations that represented New Mexicans who care for records and archives.  To help ensure the group’s success, long-term viability, and access to resources, we felt it best to have a formal relationship with one of these associations.  In reviewing the websites of the identified library, archives, museum, and governmental clerk organizations, a list of pros and cons emerged.  Most of the regional associations had committees, taskforces, roundtables, etc., but few were geographically based.  The New Mexico associations were either too narrow in focus to be inclusive of archival diversity or not likely to provide our fledgling group a home.

Word cloud generated from survey responses, 2020 New Mexico Archivist Survey

On October 23, 2020, we presented the survey results and association research report during a session at the NMLA virtual conference.  A recording of the session is available through the NMLA YouTube channel. The challenge of organizing a group that represents archivists who work in very diverse settings became the first obstacle to clear.  With data in hand and discussion completed, the group of 22 archivists decided to request recognition as a Special Interest Group (SIG) within NMLA.  Thus, in mid-November the NMLA board received an application to approve the Archives & Archivists SIG.  Jonathan and I attended the February 12, 2021 board meeting to answer questions regarding the proposal, which passed unanimously, thus giving the efforts official backing. The new SIG will provide a home for those who identify as archivists or who are assigned archival and records management tasks in their work.  By archivists, we include anyone who self identifies as an archivist, librarian, records manager, curator, clerk, etc.

The Archives & Archivists SIG meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month at 3:00 p.m. MT via Zoom.  It is open to anyone who wishes to attend; membership in NMLA, although encouraged, is not required to attend the meetings.  The first meeting on March 10 included 33 attendees who began discussing ideas for collaborations and advocacy.  Projects now underway include creating an online listing of New Mexico archival repositories and their staff, planning for American Archives Month celebrations, and formalizing the group’s code of conduct.  To better facilitate group communication, a listserv was created and it currently reaches 60 archivists from across the Land of Enchantment.

For more information about the Archives & Archivists SIG and to join the monthly meetings, visit our website. To subscribe to the listserv, visit https://list.unm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=ARCHIVES-L.

[1] Loa, Berlin and Kruger, Pamela Nett (2021) “Community of Practice at the California State University Special Collections and University Archives,” Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 12: Iss. 1 , Article 1


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