In April this year, I was delighted to find out I had been selected as one of eight bursary holders from across the globe to work on behalf of the ICA (International Council on Archives) New Professionals Programme and to attend the ICA Congress in September held in Seoul, South Korea. The ICA holds a conference annually and every four years they hold a larger Congress, lasting for five days instead of three. The Congress consists of workshops, governance meetings and presentations from academics and practitioners working in archives, records management and conservation. South Korea was an amazing backdrop for this event with a wonderfully rich documentary history from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897), in which records of each king’s term were kept and subject to careful preservation traditions, providing an invaluable resource for political and social history.
In the months leading up to the Congress the New Professionals worked on a joint project to survey the global new professionals to find out their backgrounds and needs concerning employment and professional development, alongside their knowledge and expectations of professional bodies both nationally and globally. The initial results from our survey were then presented by us at the Congress and recommendations made to the ICA to improve engagement with new professionals and to help encourage new professionals to get involved in the ICA.
Attending the conference allowed me to hear an address from President Park Guen-hye and a reading prepared by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, alongside numerous keynote speakers including Barbara Reed and Eric Ketelaar. The conference presentations were split across 8 themes:
- Recordkeeping in the Digital Age
- Use of records and archives in justice, advocacy and reconciliation work
- Harmony and friendship in the global archives world
- Diversity and harmony among archival cultures and societies
- Korean Archives and Records Management
- New Professionals
- Celebration of Achievements of the ICA Network since 2012
The number of speakers and diversity of presentations at a conference this size can feel somewhat overwhelming, especially as a new professional. However, with a little planning (and some running) I was able to attend a variety of presentations and learn a great deal about the current state of progress within archives globally. It left me with numerous ideas about the challenges we are facing and what can be done to combat some of the ever pressing issues we all share – from issues relating to digital preservation, the application of new technologies, and the management of Big Data, to thought provoking ideas on how to collaborate with libraries, museums and communities. The conference also gave me the chance to network with professionals from all over the world, including at the ICA New Professionals lunch which was open to all new professionals attending the Congress.
The New Professionals were each assigned a mentor for the conference, and I was paired with a very enthusiastic and inspiring archivist. My mentor invited me to audit the Branch Presidents meeting on the first day. Whilst initially this seemed a daunting prospect I was thankful that I had attended as it gave me a great insight into how the branches were governed and awareness of the concerns facing each global region. I came out with a better idea of how the ICA supported information professionals and feeling confident that I could maybe one day put myself forward for a similar role (be it within the ICA or more locally within the ARA).
The Congress was thought-provoking and inspiring. It enabled me to see the archives and records management profession as a truly global one, in which we share the same challenges and can work together to share knowledge and expertise.
Following the Congress, the New Professionals will continue to work on the New Professional Online Network to deliver content. We all also volunteered to help out within the wider ICA, which is always on the look-out for editors, article writers, and translators. Working as part of the New Professionals Programme was a rewarding experience. I was able to learn new skills (using collaborative online documents and new software), practice other skills I was less confident in (presenting in the New Professional session and at the Closing Ceremony!), and make (what I hope will be) lasting friendships.
For those interesting in learning more about the ICA New Professionals Programme or who want to add skills to their CV by contributing to content, please do get in touch via Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter. The next ICA Conference will be held in Mexico City and I encourage all new professionals to apply!
Archives Assistant, Queen Mary University of London
MA Archives and Records Management, University College London