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Society of
American Archivists

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Latest Issue of American Archivist Now Available


The fall 1999 American Archivist (62:2), edited by Philip B. Eppard, was mailed to SAA members and journal subscribers in February. This issue features a variety of thought-provoking articles:

  • "Literacy, Documents and Archives in the Ancient Athenian Democracy" by James Sickinger;
  • "The Impact of Grantsmaking: An Evaluation of Archival Records and Management Programs at the Local Level" by David M. Weinberg;
  • "Preserving Anthropology's Heritage: CoPAR, Anthropological Records and the Archival Community" by Nancy J. Parezo;
  • "Archives in Controversy: The Press, the Documentaries and the Byrd Archives" by Raimund Goerler; and
  • "Abstractions of Justice: The Library of Congress's Great Manuscripts Robbery, 1896-1897" by Aaron D. Purcell.

In addition, the issue includes Kathleen Feeney's "Retrieval of Archival Finding Aids Using World Wide Web Search Engines," which won SAA's 1999 Theodore Calvin Pease Award for the best student paper, as well as book reviews, Council meeting minutes, and the annual index.

Production on the spring 2000 issue of the American Archivist (63:1) will begin in March. Among the intriguing articles is one by Barbara L. Craig and James M. O'Toole, "Looking at Archives in Art," which examines a selection of British and American portraits and genre paintings, discussing their presentation of records as well as the contexts in which the paintings were created and the importance of the records depicted. This issue is slated for publication in June.

Authors are invited to direct inquiries and submissions to: Philip B. Eppard, Editor, American Archivist, University at Albany, State University of New York, School of Information Science and Policy, 135 Western Avenue, #113 Draper, Albany, New York 12222; 518/442-5115; pbe40@csc.albany.edu.


Update on the Adam's Mark Hotel from SAA President Hickerson

March 6, 2000


Dear SAA Members,

I am writing to you today on behalf of SAA's Council and officers to report further on issues relating to the site of the SAA 2000 Annual Meeting and allegations of racial discrimination against the Adam's Mark Hotels. First, I want to express our appreciation for the guidance provided by many of SAA members. Your comments have reflected broad understanding of the various factors germane to our deliberations and also acute sensitivity to the ethical issues facing our organization and its members. I want to express our particular appreciation to the leaders of the Archives and Archivists of Color Roundtable, Kathryn Neal and Thomas Battle, who are working closely with Council members, Wilda Willis and Karen Jefferson, to develop special programming enhancing our ability to address diversity issues in our profession. Also, SAA staff members have responded aggressively in developing new options for review and in negotiating our position with the Denver hotel. Thank you.

In reporting, Council has decided to focus only on those issues directly reflecting SAA actions and planning. At this point, many organizations are responding to issues generated by the suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Adam's Mark hotel chain, and conflicting reports and predictions are becoming increasingly common. I will not attempt to summarize or interpret the actions of others but will concentrate on SAA-specific information. At this point, I want to report on five areas of development: response to Council's initial proposals; the addition of a plenary speaker focusing on diversity issues in the workplace and in our organization; response by the General Manager of the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel to SAA's concerns; SAA's contract with the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel; and current developments.

Response to Council's initial proposals has been strongly supportive. While reflecting consternation, anger, and dismay, both individuals and groups presently agree that SAA should maintain its current plan to hold the 2000 annual meeting at the Denver Adam's Mark, recognizing that to do otherwise could endanger SAA's financial future. There has been enthusiastic support for plans to respond to these regrettable developments by developing additional emphasis on diversity issues, both within this meeting and in future planning. It is evident that some members are considering staying elsewhere during the meeting, and the location of alternative lodging will be broadly disseminated.

The original meeting agenda has been modified to incorporate an additional plenary session. This session is scheduled for mid-morning on Saturday, and Kathryn Neal, Wilda Willis, and Karen Jefferson are coordinating the selection of a speaker. They have concluded that an expert on workplace and professional issues will be a more valuable contributor to our proceedings than a speaker addressing societal issues broadly. They have identified several leaders in the field, and we hope that a final selection can be announced soon. Related developments include the scheduling of buses for a special tour of the Museum of the Black Cowboy. I am also pleased to report that Anne Thurston, executive director of the International Records Management Trust, based in London, has agreed to provide our closing plenary address. In the Millennium New Year's Honours List, Dr. Thurston, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for "Services to Public Administration in Africa". Her comments on the challenges of modern record-keeping in Africa and Asia will expand our understanding of the archival endeavor in developing countries.

Negotiations are being conducted with the general manager of the Denver Adam's Mark, Andre van Hall, by Susan Fox and Debbie Nolan, SAA's executive director and meeting planner. In recognition of the difficulties being faced by SAA and as a sign of good faith, Mr. van Hall has agreed to the following:

  • To donate the costs of lodging during the Annual Meeting for the winners of the Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award and the Oliver Wendell Holmes Travel Award for Overseas Archivists to Attend the SAA Annual Meeting;
  • To pay the cost of a mailing to all SAA members a letter from me explaining this situation and SAA's actions, accompanied by a letter from Mr. van Hall assuring fair and equal treatment to all guests;
  • To sponsor the SAA tour of The Black American West Museum and Heritage Center.

Negotiations are continuing.

Members have requested knowledge of the financial details of SAA's contract with the Denver Adam's Mark Hotel and potential penalties. SAA typically picks up approximately 3,000 room nights at an annual meeting. If we do so, there is no charge for the use of meeting spaces throughout the meeting. Following are the meeting room rental fees if we do not make our room block:

  • If we pick up 2,194 room nights or more the meeting space is complimentary;
  • If we pick up 1,901 - 2,195 room nights, the rental is $13,000;
  • If we pick up 1,609 - 1,900 room nights, the rental is $18,000;
  • If we pick up 1,315 - 1,608 room nights, the rental is $23,000; and
  • If we pick up 1,315 room nights or less, the rental is $41,000;

This is a lenient attrition penalty clause. If SAA cancels the meeting, however, we are liable for 3000 room nights times the average rate, $100, which would mean an approximate penalty of $300,000.

In conclusion, I will report on two recent developments of significant import. The NAACP has called for a national boycott of the Adam's Mark Hotel, requesting that its members and other organizations withhold business from the Adam's Mark Hotel & Resorts chain amid allegations of racial discrimination. It has also been reported this past week that the HBE Corp., the owner of the Adam's Mark Hotels & Resorts, is seeking a settlement in the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and that it had submitted a proposed agreement. SAA Council is actively monitoring these developments and many others. SAA's leadership and members care greatly about these issues, and our actions will be significantly influenced by the judgements and actions of others, but we must also strive to focus our attention on the answers that are right for SAA and its membership.

 

Sincerely,

H. Thomas Hickerson
SAA President


Report Brings Archival Perspective to Problems in Managing Digital Information


The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has published Enduring Paradigm, New Opportunities: The value of the Archival Perspective in the Digital Environment, by Anne J. Gilliland-Swetland. This report examines how the archival perspective can be useful in addressing problems faced by those who design, manage, disseminate, and preserve digital information. The author notes that because archives focus on records, archivists are keenly aware of how societal, institutional, and individual memory is constructed, and the implications of how that memory is represented and transmitted over time. This is especially important as more of the world's collections are reformatted and represented online, where information is subject not only to corruption or outright loss, but also to loss of context. The archival community has been active in exploiting the roles of context and hierarchy in information retrieval. This report is $15 prepaid. To order, contact CLIR at info@clir.org or visit www.clir.org.


"Public Domain" Meeting Report


The National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH) has recently published a report on "Public Domain: A Conference," a day-long Town Meeting which was held at the Chicago Historical Society last January. Visit www.ninch.org/copyright/townmeetings/chicagoreport.html to view this report.


President H. Thomas Hickerson Re: Adam's Mark Hotel Chain

February 7, 2000


As you know, SAA's 64th Annual Meeting will be held in Denver this coming August at the Adam's Mark hotel. The Program and Host Committees have been working hard to make this an outstanding meeting. SAA Council, however, has recently became aware of a controversy that could mar the meeting's success. The Adam's Mark hotel chain has been charged with discrimination against African Americans during the Black College Reunion, an event held in Daytona Beach, Florida. On further investigation, Council learned that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed suit against the chain for engaging in a pattern of discrimination against minorities in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Several organizations, including the Episcopal Church and the Human Rights Campaign, which had planned meetings at the Denver Adam's Mark, have decided to move those events to other properties. Those organizations' decisions to cancel contracts with the hotel will require the organizations to pay substantial cancellations fees. Other organizations meeting at Adam's Mark hotels, including the Organization of American Historians, felt that they could not afford the cancellation fees and will have their meetings as scheduled.

This past weekend, Council spent almost half of its two-day meeting considering appropriate responses to these allegations. Council desires to deal with this issue in a fair, responsible, and sensitive manner, recognizing that there are significant financial and professional ramifications to this situation.

In their deliberations, Council members considered the following:

1. The Society has an existing policy regarding equal opportunity and non-discrimination. "Because discrimination and unequal treatment are inimical to the Society's goals, SAA hereby declares that discrimination on the grounds of race, color, creed, gender, national origin, age, marital status, family relationship, individual life style, and disability is prohibited within the Society. SAA will vigorously pursue a policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity through its programs, activities, services, operations, employment, and business contracts." (Approved by Council, January 1992)

Notwithstanding this policy, discriminatory practices remain a part of American culture. The charges against the Adam's Mark have brought forth testimony from SAA members who have experienced discrimination at other SAA meetings and in daily life. It is important, therefore, that SAA not only address the specific issues surrounding the Adam's Mark, but to take this opportunity for self-reflection and to seek ways that the Society can at all times be more inclusive and respectful of diverse cultures.

2. The Adam's Mark has not yet been found guilty of criminal conduct in this suit and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. SAA, however, recently learned that the company was found guilty of employment discrimination in a 1996 decision in Federal Court, and their actions and public statements denying the current charges have caused Council to question the hotel's sincerity and their willingness to deal with the issue in an open and responsible manner.

3. Council reluctantly concluded that pulling out of the contract with the hotel would actually reward the hotel while at the same time cause irreparable financial harm to the Society. The Society's contract with the hotel includes a standard clause requiring it to pay a cancellation penalty of $300,000, roughly equivalent to the revenue expected by the hotel from our meeting. This penalty would, in effect, mean that the Adam's Mark would suffer no financial harm if the Society canceled its meeting, while SAA would be penalized an amount roughly equal to one-quarter of its annual budget or $100 per member.

At its meeting last weekend, Council took several immediate actions to begin addressing the issue:

1. It passed a resolution reaffirming its 1992 policy on equal opportunity and non-discrimination. Council also resolved that if the Adam's Mark chain is found culpable of violating individuals' civil rights or fails to reach a settlement with the Justice Department, the Society will hold no future functions at any Adam's Mark property.

2. It added a special session to the Denver meeting and will ask the Archives and Archivists of Color Roundtable to help develop a program focused on issues of diversity and archives. Council will support recruiting a major speaker for this event.

3. It assured that, as usual, the Society will provide those attending the meeting a list of other hotels in the vicinity.

Council was unanimous in seeking to consult broadly (though speedily) with the larger Society leadership about additional specific actions. Council considered a range of actions to address concerns relating to the Adam's Mark hotel and to ensure that all members of the Society feel they can attend the annual meeting and that they will be treated with respect at the annual meeting. Council seeks comment from those in positions of leadership in the Society on those proposed actions or on additional or alternative actions.

1. The Executive Director and Meeting Planner will consult with other organizations to discover contract language that will help the Society enforce its equal opportunity/non-discrimination policy.

2. SAA President Thomas Hickerson will write a letter to all members and to affiliated organizations informing them of SAA's concerns and its policies regarding diversity.

3. Any member who feels that he or she has suffered discriminatory treatment at the annual meeting in Denver will be asked to contact a member of Council for the record. Further, those individuals will be encouraged to file a complaint with the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

4. The Society will investigate the possibility of a fund-raising event or campaign benefiting SAA's Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award or benefiting one or more archives/museums of color in the Denver area.

Council asks the leadership to comment on these suggestions and to add others. Low attendance at the Denver meeting will hurt SAA far more than it will hurt the Adam's Mark. We would like to combat the alleged discrimination of the hotel chain with a positive commitment to diversity in our profession.

 

Sincerely,

H. Thomas Hickerson
President, Society of American Archivists


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