John Slate, 50th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee Chair
This is the third installment of a series of articles that commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Society of Southwest Archivists.
In the past 50 years, SSA has welcomed speakers whose presentations encompass a variety of subjects, but ultimately express the importance of archives in the field of Humanities. A.M. Gibson was the featured speaker at SSA’s first annual meeting in 1973. A George L. Cross Research Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, Gibson’s speech focused on how archives were used for his Oklahoma and New Mexico history research. The following year, the president of the Society of American Archivists, F. Gerald Ham, served as the keynote speaker.
Caption: SSA Annual Meeting 1988 at the University of Texas at Arlington. From left to right: university benefactor Jenkins Garrett; Archivist of the United States Don W. Wilson; University of Texas at Arlington Director of Libraries Charles B. Lowry; university benefactor Virginia Garrett; SAA Executive Director Donn C. Neal. Wilson and Neal were the featured speakers. (SSA Archives)
A few celebrity VIPs have attended the Annual Meetings, such as Lady Bird Johnson’s appearance at the Lyndon Johnson Library and Museum during the 1980 Austin meeting. Archives professionals joined the trend of invited speakers, such as the Archivist of the United States, Don W. Wilson, who discussed the National Archives’ future. Execute Director Donn Neal of the Society of American Archivists followed with a presentation about the future of the archival profession. The 2006 meeting invited L. Reynolds Cahoon, Senior Advisor on Electronic Records at the National Archives. His topic of discussion involved the challenges of email and electronic records preservation.
Caption: Dr. Matthew Whitaker, 2012 (photo by Jennifer Green)
Some keynote speakers discussed the impact of archival enterprise on regions part of SSA, such as SSA founding member Leon Metz speaking about the History of El Paso at the 1994 meeting. In 2006, historian and author David Dorado Romo presented “Exploring the Different Layers of Micro-History”, a speech about the use of archival resources to uncover El Paso and Juarez cultural history.
The trend of speakers has shifted to include a wider range of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Donald Harington, writer of “Ozark Surrealist”, spoke about how archives impacted his writing career at the 2000 meeting in Fayetteville. Brenda Toineeta Pipestem, chair of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Board of Trustees, talked about repatriation at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City. In 2018, Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, a renowned scholar of Latina/o arts and culture, was invited to present at the San Antonio meeting.
Caption: Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, 2018 (photo by Melissa Gonzales)
Dr. Andrew Torget’s (University of North Texas) 2015 keynote made a strong impact when lighting struck the hotel the meeting was held at. Despite the venue’s loss of electricity that prevented his use of a digital presentation, a fitting example of a modern peril, Torget persevered with his speech on the “Promise and Perils of Digital Archives”.
Caption: Michelle Light, 2019 (former), Director of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Nevada , Las Vegas (photo by SSA member)