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The origins of the Society of American Archivists

National Archives History – As the Society for American Archivists (SAA) meets for the 82nd annual meeting here in Washington, DC, we’re taking a look back at the origins of the organization. SAA was founded just two years after Congress created the National Archives and came to be, in part, because the efforts of National Archives staff. “The nation’s first association of archivists was the Public Archives Commission of the American Historical Association (AHA). It was established 1899 and held its first conference in 1909 in conjunction with AHA’s annual meeting. But, by the time the National Archives was created in 1934, the commission had largely disbanded. The following year, first Archivist of the United States R.D.W. Connor, with the help of the National Archives Director of Publications, Solon Buck, organized a program on the need for an archival organization for AHA’s 1935 annual meeting. The group met in Chattanooga, TN, in December 1935. The discussion began with a presentation by Theodore C. Blegen, Superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, on “Problems of American Archivists.”  Problems included the lack of public records laws at both the state and Federal level; a lack of archival educational resources and opportunities; a lack of classification, cataloging, and description guidelines; and a lack of housing, care, and repair standards for records, among others. At the end, he recommended a professional association of American archivists be established to help mitigate the problems. The group then discussed establishing such an association and formed a committee of ten, with an executive committee of three, to write a constitution and organize a meeting…”

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