Designing the Archive: Reflections on the ICA Conference

by Caroline Brown

This year’s International Council on Archives Conference was a memorable affair. There was a real buzz in the air from the 700 or so delegates attending either as ICA / PARBICA members or as members of the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) and the Archives and Records Association of New Zealand Te Huinga Mahara. Located in the impressive Adelaide Oval, everything seemed to work like clockwork thanks to conference and Oval staff. The food was plentiful and tasty and even us vegans had plenty of choice. Adelaide itself is a beautiful, friendly city and the temperatures (in the mid 30s on some days) a pleasant change from the Scottish autumn I had left.


I attended the ASA University Archives special interest group where there were some really interesting discussions about a range of issues. Some attendees focussed mainly on records and information while others were embedded in special collections and GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museum) environments. A number of projects relating to digitisation, oral history and anniversaries were discussed while those working with more current records reported on updates to business classification schemes and information management policies. A key issue seemed to be systems with a few archivists trying out AtoM while others talked about DAMS systems for collections management, the challenge of Sharepoint and systems for email and contract management.

Gavan McCarthy has talked about the conference itself in a previous blog; I found as ever that there was too much choice – I wanted to go to too many sessions! The keynotes were all interesting and generated a lot of discussion; across all the conference papers the theme of designing and re-designing what we do dominated. This could be through re-visiting our structures, systems and processes, advocating to new audiences in innovative ways, or reviewing our fundamental assumptions about what archives are, who they belong to, who they represent and who should manage them.

I was very lucky to be in a position to visit Australia and attend the conference and I know that many archivists are not in such a fortunate position. If you want to know more, you can review the Tweets at #DTAAdelaide2019 or catch up via the ICA Facebook page @ICAInternationalCouncilonArchives

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