I was fortunate and grateful to receive a Paul H. Mattingly Award through the NYU History Department to help attend the 2013 Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting this August in New Orleans. The conference was a great experience.
I would strongly encourage all archives students to try to attend SAA (or regional conferences, if that seems more feasible). Attendance provides an opportunity to understand how people are applying themes discussed in class to practice. It also gives a chance to hear about interesting new strategies that may not yet have made their way to the classroom. Additionally, it gives insight into how issues are debated in the community. Different institutions and individuals have different priorities, and it is very informative to see how archivists discuss challenges, both formally through sessions, sections, roundtables, and addresses and informally pretty much everywhere else.
Plus, it’s just plain fun to connect with people who share similar interests and goals! This is a week where you can talk about your work in great detail and go crazy with the jargon without fear of boring or losing those around you. While by the end of this whirlwind you will likely be exhausted, overall it is a very rewarding experience.