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  • 2012 Archival Education and Research Institute
  • Snowden Becker (bio)
2012 Archival Education and Research Institute; July 9–13, 2012, Los Angeles

If the “Big One” had hit Los Angeles during one particular week in summer 2012, archival studies as we know it might have come to an abrupt end. During that week, over one hundred scholars from around the world—including some of the heaviest hitters in the archives community—gathered for the fourth annual Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), an intensive five-day program of research presentations, workshops, and plenary sessions focused on the grand challenges of training and educating our next generation of professional archivists. Rather than dwell on the remote risks of an earthquake or other cataclysm wiping out such a gathering, event organizers understandably focus on its potential and proven rewards as part of a coordinated effort “to nurture and promote state-of-the-art scholarship in Archival Studies, broadly conceived . . . [and] encourage curricular and pedagogical innovation in archival education . . . worldwide.”1 A coalition of eight U.S. universities with well-established degree programs in archival studies coordinates the yearly institutes, along with a series of generous fellowships aimed at luring promising scholars to the field as its modern founders begin to contemplate retirement. Major funding for the initiative comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and AERI meetings will continue through at least 2015.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, this year, students and faculty from the eight universities who partnered on the original IMLS proposal convened with colleagues from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Korea, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and a number of other archives and information studies graduate programs in the United States. Many of the students and untenured faculty who attend AERI receive fellowships to cover their travel costs; the organizers’ commitment to inclusiveness and financial support for attendees has ensured participation from both well-funded and struggling programs here and abroad, as well as balancing the ratios of senior and junior faculty and emerging scholars. The limited grant monies are stretched through the use of host institutions’ dormitory accommodations, which are typically empty (and available cheap or free for university programs) during the summer sessions when AERI occurs. Attendees also meet for most breakfasts and lunches in the college cafeterias. Full professors and doctoral students alike tend to be several years removed from their extra-long twin bed years, so griping about the thin sheets and shared bathroom facilities has become an AERI tradition; however, most would agree that the summer-camp feel these economies impart to the institutes contributes to a certain camaraderie among the attendees. Such bonding is harder to come by in professional meetings held at quietly anonymous conference hotels, and seeing tenured professors swipe their meal cards next to you in line at the cafeteria certainly has an equalizing effect. This in turn has fostered crucial mentoring for PhD students transitioning to the tenure track as well as genuine friendships and collaborations among a cohort of students who might otherwise have seen one another as competitors.

The AERI panel sessions and presentations related to audiovisual records will, of course, be of particular interest to this journal’s readers. Unfortunately, the four successive years of AERI programming have tended to reflect the larger archives community’s blind spots when it comes to integrating film, video, and audio documents along with the paper-based, photographic, and increasingly digital records that constitute the historical record. Out of eighteen panel sessions at AERI 2012, only two focused on projects or problems related to moving images as archival materials; the program was considerably heavier on sessions related to digital records management, archival metadata, and graduate-level pedagogy.2 That said, the five papers presented in the two sessions that did highlight moving images covered a rich range of topics, and they point to the continuing relevance of research on how motion pictures are created, collected, [End Page 245] preserved, and used. Lindsay Mattock and Tonia Sutherland, both doctoral students at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences, presented some recent findings related to digital and multimedia documentation of dance performances that have...


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