Thanks to a generous grant from the George and Louise Demakis Fund, I was able to attend the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The theme of the “Friends Meeting” was Art and Advocacy along the Delaware, which was undoubtedly inspired by the great variety of cultural institutions all located in and around the historic city. An advertisement in the conference program, which drew a clever parallel between Philadelphia and the archival profession, enticed me when I first signed up. While I certainly looked forward to attending the meeting’s sessions and workshops, I was just as excited to explore Philadelphia—despite the impending rain I encountered for the entirety of my drive to the city.
The meeting, though, did not disappoint. As a graduate student just about to begin my career as an archival professional, I found the hands-on workshops the most helpful events in the three-day schedule. Joyce Conyer’s presentation in Working Outside the Walls was particularly interesting. It explored the challenges that archivists face in the modern world’s culture of instant connectivity. The entire session was an exercise in becoming more comfortable with face-to-face interaction despite social media and networking tools, a lesson that Conyers highlighted as essential to guiding patrons to the physical archives and to becoming a successful advocate for your repository.
The most rewarding moments I experienced at MARAC, however, were spent among the assembled group of archivists, records managers, curators, and other professionals at the meeting. Their personal stories about tackling new technologies, pursuing professional development opportunities, and collaborating with others encouraged me to really think about the skills I know I will need to cultivate in my professional future. Networking—a sometimes awkward but often-unavoidable conference activity—was both enlightening and enjoyable at MARAC. I learned so much at the meeting’s sessions and I had a great time informally discovering more about the archival community from the archivists that I was able to meet.