Note: This is a guest post by SAA-SC member Tamara Martinez.
When I first heard about the AHA conference in Kaua‘i, I thought to myself, it probably would be nice but I can’t afford to go. After a lot of encouragement by Kapena Shim, SAA Student Chapter President and overall champion of archives, did I realize that I should make the trip. I was thrilled to hear that many other students from the LIS program decided to also attend.
The conference was not in the typical style I am accustomed to, i.e., starting in a large banquet hall for opening speakers then moving to a smaller discussion room for a break-out session then back to the banquet hall for a keynote lunchtime speaker then back to the smaller discussion rooms for intimate lectures on specific topics. The AHA conference instead was held at four distinct sites around the east and south shores of Kaua’i: Grove Farm Museum and Locomotive and Kaua’i Historical Society in Līhu’e and the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) and the Allerton Garden in Kalāheo.
For me, the most moving part of the conference happened on the second day when our group was shuttled deep into the gated NTBG. As we drove into Lāwa`i Valley, we all witnessed stunning views of the south shore and listened to our guide as he shared recent efforts to expand the gardens while continuing to preserve the largest collection of native Hawaiian plants. We toured the state-of-the-art NTBG Herbarium and excitedly snapped photos of the gorgeous floor-to-ceiling glass walled library room, which has “the largest botanical/horticultural collection in Hawai‘i, with more than 44,000 books, prints, and images.”
In addition to being awed by the grounds and facilities, I was impressed by NTBG’s Dr. Ragone’s work to help address global hunger by cultivating breadfruit in other tropical countries and by reinvesting in Pacific Island nations, like Samoa, to sustain their existing diversity of breadfruit (see The Breadfruit Institute). This was an important concept to see implemented, as indigenous knowledge is often vulnerable for exploitation. It is quite clear that the work of archivists and librarians is intermingled in intellectual property rights and that we have a duty to understand and exercise the most respectful ways to disseminate and represent indigenous knowledge.
This conference opened my eyes to beautiful scenery, the value of establishing international partnerships and the importance of sharing resources in the most righteous way. The dynamic itinerary of the conference also made it possible for participants to learn from one another as we all have diverse upbringings and points of view. My consciousness was raised by my fellow students who have more background knowledge of the places we visited and my experiences were enhanced by the seasoned professionals who have many years of practical knowledge working with archives.
Small tour groups presented us with opportunities to ask professionally relevant questions, tinted shuttles gave us the chance to sit side by side, and eating together with the warm breeze on our backs allowed us to start new and strengthen old friendships. I will forever cherish the intimate moments when we shared our work, interests and interpretations of the conference. The 2012 AHA conference gave us the space and time to bond, eat, converse, share, laugh, and explore.