ALA-ICA Conference

Kate Eminhizer

When given the opportunity to participate in a major international conference, you take it. That is exactly what I and fellow student Pam Lutzker did in November 2017 when we travelled to Mexico City to attend the ALA-ICA Conference. Student participation was promoted by Dr. Ian Wilson, former Director of the Library and Archives of Canada, former Vice-President of the ICA and current advisor to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates. The trip also had the support of Dr. Sandy Hirsch of the SJSU iSchool. In addition to participating in Conference Logoconference sessions, Pam and I were extended an invitation to observe the annual meeting of the Forum of National Archivists (FAN). The overall intent of the trip was to grant students who had worked on the International Directory of National Archives the opportunity to converse and network with some of the archivists of those archives.

ALA Conference 2
From left to right: Pam Lutzker, Dr. Ian Wilson, Kate Eminhizer

The theme of the conference was “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism.” It marked the first time that the ICA conference was hosted by a Latin American city. The Latin American Association of Archives provided a culturally rich atmosphere for professionals from around the world to discuss achievements and challenges within the archival community. Both ALA President Mercedes de Vega and ICA President David Fricker felt that it was imperative to provide an opportunity for professionals in the field to reflect upon the challenges facing the archival community. Sessions at the conference focused on the following topics: interculturalism and native cultures, human rights, illicit trafficking of documentary heritage, archives and artistic creation, archives and academic projects, access to information in relation to personal data protection, natural disasters, regional cooperation, copyright and intellectual property, information systems and digital preservation, big data, and information governance.

As someone who has attended conferences in other disciplines, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of inclusion I experienced. It did not matter to a single person that I was “only” a student. Whether I was speaking with another student or the director of a National Archive, I was treated with respect. There was not a sense of intimidation so commonly found in a room full of established professionals. I felt completely at ease participating in sessions and working with the United Arab Emirates delegation to advertise and promote the 2020 ICA conference in Abu Dhabi. The experiences I have had due to my participation on the IDNA project have far exceeded my expectations.

ALA-ICA Conference 2017


Pam Lutzker, 2017 MARA Graduate

I’ve worked on the IDNA project since the Fall of 2016.  Last November, Kate Eminhizer (another student who worked on the project) and I attended the meeting of the Forum of National Archivists (FAN), and the ALA-ICA Annual Conference 2017, in Mexico City.  FAN is a special group associated with the ICA that consists of the national archives from around the world. The meeting took place at the National Archives of Mexico (Archivo Generales de la Nacion de Mexico (AGN)).


I visited AGN a couple of days before the meeting. It is housed in a huge facility that was once a prison and is considered a National Historic Monument.  You can still see the cells in the side hallways where the records are now kept. The staff there were very friendly and helpful and allowed me to look around—after we broke through the language barrier.

The FAN meeting began with the President of ICA, David Fricker, introducing the interim President of FAN, Jeffrey James. Kate and I later had the opportunity to interview each of them. There were about fifty or sixty attending the FAN meeting, and we met and talked with a number of them, including the head archivists (directors) of Fiji, Cameroon (where the next ICA meeting takes place in 2018), Benin, Mali, Australia, Canada, Jamaica and The United Arab Emirates (the location of the 2020 ICA Congress). There were many more—too many to mention. The one thing I noticed was that each and every one was enthusiastic about their own archives.

A special thank you to Dr. Ian Wilson, former National Archivist of Canada (1999-2004) and current advisor to the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, for facilitating all interviews and for helping us make arrangements to attend both the FAN meeting and the Annual Conference.