“When in doubt, throw it out.” No, this is not the motto of The Texas Collection, but it was the slogan of a spoof newsletter for the Society of Southwest Archivists. Other jokes in the newsletter, called “The Missed Archivist,” describe a new collection called the Militant Blatherhood of Impenitent Ignorance, which purportedly contained baptism, confirmation, and inquisition records, as well as 163 barrels of blood. (That would be a preservation problem!) The Society obviously knew how to enjoy a joke while going about their more serious work of educating their members.
The Society of Southwest Archivists, or SSA, is a professional organization for archivists in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. SSA was formed to promote best practices in the archival profession, educate members, and work with other groups on preserving historical manuscripts of interest. Currently, the association serves more than five hundred archivists, special collections librarians, preservationists, conservators, records managers, and others interested in the preservation of our documentary heritage.
A group of interested information professionals formed the Society, wrote a constitution, and elected officers in May 1972. One year later, in 1973, SSA held its first annual meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, starting a tradition of holding an annual meeting in a different city each year. Governed by a president and other officers meeting as the Executive Board, the society added various committees over time to choose annual meeting sites, create programs for the meeting, produce a newsletter, and organize various other group functions. The society has also developed several awards and scholarships that have been awarded to members and non-members through the years.
We have about 21 linear feet worth of Society of Southwest Archivists records here at The Texas Collection. Retired Texas Collection archivist Ellen Kuniyuki Brown was a founding SSA member and helped bring the collection to Baylor. The collection preserves the history of the society, including a wide variety of materials from annual meetings, various committees, and early presidents.
The association has long enjoyed writing humorous articles and reading them at annual meetings. Every year someone would write a tongue-in-cheek article thanking the city and committee that hosted the last annual meeting. In 1983 the society was in Galveston for their meeting, and they thanked the chairman of the host committee by writing:
She [the Committee Chairman] has received…us on the pure, clean waters of pristine and sparkling Galveston Bay, has given us intensive care at the University of Texas hospital, has stranded us on the city’s celebrated waterfront, and has galvanized us into exploring the mysteries of the city’s geography, from P and a half street to Q and a quarter.
In 1986 the society thanked the host committee chairman by claiming that “she entertained us with an extravaganza called ‘Archivists on Ice’ celebrating the theme of hiring freezes,” and in 1990 the society was impressed with the city of Austin, Texas, which is “the only location in the Universe where the supposed nightly emergence of 700,000 flying, furry, friendly rodents could be considered a tourist attraction.”
While reflecting the Society’s important work of facilitating archival research, education, and best practices, the Society of Southwest Archivists Records also document the camaraderie and fun to be had when archivists gather. SSA is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week at its Annual Meeting, a joint gathering with the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists, in Mesa, Arizona. What happens in Arizona, stays in Arizona…unless it goes into the archives, that is!
P.S. to you SSA members—if you’ve been active in SSA and have records from any leadership positions, committee service, etc., should they be in the SSA archives? We especially need post-1995 records. Check out the finding aid and if you have something we don’t (but should), let us know!
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist