Joy BanksPhoto by: Joe Gentili

Society of Florida Archivists 2023 Annual Meeting

Author: Joe Gentili

The Society of Florida Archivists is an organization dedicated to maintaining a record of Florida history by preserving manuscripts, photographs, newspaper articles, artifacts, and much more. The Society also fosters cooperation among individuals and institutions, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and is a source of information on research materials and archival methodology. Most universities, government institutions, and many other entities have archivists who oversee hundreds of different collections covering a wide variety of subjects. Archivists share the desire and professional ability to preserve our collective memory for future generations of Floridians. Once per year, member archivists from around Florida meet to discuss issues within the profession, various topics, and the direction of archives.

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Society and the meeting was held in Tallahassee from May 10th-12th. Nearly one hundred archivists gathered to listen to presentations on issues including damage from hurricanes and water leaks, lack of funding sources, and reopening to the public after the pandemic. The theme this year was ‘Where have we been? Where are we going?’. The feature presentation discussed how archives and the storage of information have changed in the digital era. Keynote Speaker Joy Banks, the Executive Director at Council of State Archivists, spoke about the challenges facing archives as records transition from physical paper items to digital data points. According to Banks, humans create 44 Zettabytes of data globally every single day (That is 44 billion Terabytes). The sheer volume of information is overwhelming, and archivists are at the forefront of what is being saved, how the information is being stored, and making this data available to interested parties. Banks also addressed what is termed ‘sunshining’ of materials. For instance, Netflix began as a mail-order service, which mailed DVDs to customers, though now, it is a digital content provider. What happens to all those DVDs and what happens to movies never popular enough to save as digital files, and now only exist as DVDs or even VHS cassettes?

Archivists come up with solutions to issues like these in the digital era. How to save materials, which ones deserve the most time and attention, and what methods work best for preservation. As information moves away from physical formats towards digital ones, inevitably some things will be lost forever. As Banks noted, “Society has been forgetting things since the beginning of time.” It is the job of entities like the Society of Florida Archivists to ensure that as little as possible is forgotten, and the past is preserved for posterity.

Archbold Librarian and archivist Joe Gentili attended this year’s meeting. “As chair of the Society’s Judith Beale Scholarship Committee, it is my privilege to help interested graduate students and early career archival professionals earn a scholarship to attend the annual meeting. The opportunity to meet with professionals in your field, and see what techniques and technologies are at the forefront of the archive’s profession is an invaluable experience that awardees will benefit from throughout their careers.”

Archbold has three special collections archives, The Richard Archbold Archives, The Dr. James N. Layne Collection, and The Red Hill Collection; in addition to a general archive which has accumulated materials yearly since our founding in 1941. The Richard Archbold Archives contain material mostly from the 1920’s and 1930’s, including personal correspondence, books, photos, and artifacts from Richard Archbold’s expeditions and travels. Dr. James N. Layne was hired as the first Archbold Director of Research and later became the Executive Director of the Station. With generous help from his family, Dr. Layne’s research materials, correspondence, and more have been archived at the Station. The Red Hill Collection contains material from when the Roeblings owned the property. The Archbold Library and archives are open to researchers by appointment.

Photo caption: Joy Banks, the Executive Director at Council of State Archivists, presenting at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Florida Archivists. Photo by Joe Gentili.