SSA at 50: Snapshots From Five Decades

John H. Slate, Chair, 50th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee. This is the first installment of a series of articles that commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Society of Southwest Archivists.

Let’s begin at the beginning! On May 5, 1972 thirty-five archivists, librarians, and historians met at the University of Texas at Arlington to form the Society. The group drafted a constitution and bylaws. According to Charles Schultz’ institutional history of SSA, attendees sought most of all to foster and promote cooperation within the archival profession as well as among the several professions interested in archives and manuscripts as creators, collectors, preservers, and users. Next they sought to provide opportunities for educational development, not only for archivists, but also for users of archives. They also wanted to advance what today would be called “best practices.”

Photo of the first meeting of the Society of Southwestern Archivists held at the University of Texas at Austin.

Clipping from the Arlington Daily News, Monday, May 8, 1972, courtesy of the SSA archives, Baylor University. “Historical Meeting – The first meeting of the Southwestern Archives Society was held recently at the University of Texas at Arlington. Among those in attendance were, left to right, Dr. Edwin A. Davis, Managing Editor of the “Louisiana Historian” at Louisiana State University; John M .Kinney, Director of the Texas State Archives; Samuel A. Sizer, Curator of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas; Robert L. Clark, Jr., Archivist for the State of Oklahoma, and Ivan D. Eyler, Regional Director of the National Archives and Records Service in Fort Worth.”

The first roster of elected officers of the Society reads like a who’s who of the archives and history community of the Southwest. A. Otis Hebert, Jr., director of the Louisiana Department of Archives and Records was named president. Dr. Sandra Swickard Myres, associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, was elected vice president. C. George Younkin, chief of the branch archives at the National Archives and Records Center at Fort Worth, was elected secretary – treasurer.

The first board was composed of a number of legendary heavy hitters in the archives community. Sister M. Claude Lane, archivist of the Catholic Archives of Texas, and Chester V. Kielman, university archivist of the University of Texas at Austin were elected to two-year terms on the executive board. Leon Metz, local historian, author, and archivist at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Bob Clark, state archivist of Oklahoma were elected to one-year terms. SSA sponsors and funds the Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P., Memorial Award, presented annually since1974 by the Society of American Archivists. It is the only SAA award sponsored by a regional organization. SSA has also sponsored and awarded the A. Otis Hebert, Jr. Continuing Education Scholarship since 1977. This led up to our first annual meeting, which was held at the University of Oklahoma in Norman on June 7th and 8th, 1973. At that first meeting, presentations and discussion revolved around copyright law, preservation and conservation, arrangement and description, reference topics, microfilming, and photographic collections preservation and access.
 

Let Us Hear From You – Celebrate SSA’s 50th Anniversary
What can you do to help? Send in your most memorable moments of SSA! Whether it took place this year, fifteen years ago, or fifty years ago, we want to know what memorable moments stand out when you think back over your  SSA membership. Was there a particular session or workshop that changed the way you practiced Archives?
Did something memorable happen at the annual meeting? How did you meet your best SSA friend? Whether it’s funny or sad, poignant or boring; we want to know your most memorable moments in SSA. Send memorable moments to John Slate john.slate@dallascityhall.com.

Submit photographs of past SSA events on our Photo Submission Form page