Museum Archives Symposium

Cosponsored by the Society of American Archivists’ Museum Archives Section and the Yale Center for British Art

Watch the livestream

In 2022, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) published Museum Archives: Practice, Issues, Advocacy (ed. Rachel Chatalbash, Susan Hernandez, and Megan Schwenke). This publication built on Museum Archives: An Introduction (William A. Deiss, 1984), which was significantly revised and expanded in a second edition by Deborah Wythe in 2004. It drew contributions from twenty-seven museum archivists to provide guidance and share best practices in advocating for the central role and value of the archives within the museum.

Collectively, these three SAA publications trace the growth and formalization of the museum archives field as a specialist subset of the archival profession while shedding light on the developments and challenges central to the field at the time of publication. Speaking to their contemporary moments, the books reflect the significant rise in the number of museum archives being established, the adoption of archival standards by museum archives, and the shift from paper-based to born-digital records in museums. In addition, the 2022 publication focuses significantly on advocacy work—both for museum archives staff and for museum archives collections—in developing a reciprocal relationship between museum object and archives holdings to position the archives as an indispensable hub of knowledge that complements other institutional collections.

Prompted by the new SAA publication, the Yale Center for British Art and SAA’s Museum Archives Section are hosting a one-day symposium to examine the current position and future directions of the museum archives field. The symposium will be held in person at the Yale University Art Gallery and livestreamed

Assistive-listening devices will be available upon request. Guests with mobility needs may enter the Yale University Art Gallery on York Street. 


Download a PDF of the schedule here.


10:15–10:20 am


Tara Laver, Senior Archivist, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


10:20–10:40 am


Rachel Chatalbash, Deputy Director for Academic Affairs, Education, and Research, Yale Center for British Art


10:40 am – 12 pm 

Session 1 — Engaging Communities: New Approaches in Museum Archives

Chair: Megan Schwenke, Senior Archivist/Records Manager, Harvard Art Museums

This session will explore unique engagement projects that bring museum archives collections directly to a variety of users via interactive storytelling and educational partnerships. Together the talks will demonstrate ways to expand collection access and connect a range of audiences to history and will provide insight and ideas to museum archivists seeking to do the same.

Brewing History: Integrating Museum Archives into Community Outreach at Southington's Barnes Museum
Christina Volpe, Curator, Barnes Museum, Southington, CT

Whose Power?: Participatory Action Research with Young People in Museum Archives 
Abigail Harrison, Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, University of Leeds

History in Their Hands: K–12 Education in the Archives
Marietta Carr, Librarian and Archivist, Schenectady County Historical Society

12–1:30 pm



1:30–2:45 pm

Session 2 — Studies in Museum Archives

Chair: Susan Hernandez, Museum Archivist, Cleveland Museum of Art

This session will examine how museum archivists can creatively and strategically pull back the curtain and bring transparency to their collection holdings for both internal and external audiences. Speakers will detail examples of exhibitions and tours, records management programs, and integrated description to consider how historical documentation of a museum’s history and object collection can bring museum archives to life.

Archives Speak
Marie Penny, Michael D. Coe Archivist, Planting Fields Foundation

Operationalizing Records Management at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Meg Ocampo, Archivist/Records Manager, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Wicked Fragmentation: Archival Dissociation as a Tool for Reparation and Inclusivity
Sarah R. Demb, Deputy Director, Records and Information Management, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority


2:45–2:55 pm 

Comfort break


2:55–4:10 pm

Session 3 — Access and Appraisal 

Chair: Jessica Quagliaroli, Chief Archivist, Yale Center for British Art

This session will examine how museum archivists can work within the structures of their museums to successfully reassess appraisal practices and advocate for revised access policies. Drawing upon their own experiences, speakers will share how their work in these two areas directly contributed to new access policies for materials with Personally Identifiable Information, archival material related to sensitive content, and the elimination of barriers such as use fees.

Permissions and Fees in the Cenozoic: Dissolving Access Barriers at a Nature and Science Museum Archives
Laura Uglean Jackson, Digital Archivist, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Reappraisal and Reassessment in Museum Archives at the Smithsonian Institution
Erin Kinhart, Head of Collections Processing and Digitization, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Marguerite Roby, Photograph Archivist, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives; and Celia Emmelhainz, Supervisory Anthropologist, National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution


Please register for this symposium here. Join the livestream for this event here. Remote participants may email questions to


For more information, please email

Top image
A selection of materials from the Yale Center for British Art Archives, documented in the Study Room, YCBA, photo by Richard Caspole

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