The Stories We Tell focuses on storytelling as practice and metaphor in the mission and daily work of special collections. From writing traditional scholarly monographs to encoding digital humanities landscapes, from building deep and inclusive collections to designing new curricula, the ability to craft a compelling narrative is at the heart of cultural heritage work. Donors honor us with the stories of their lives and passions. In discourse about the role of the humanities in education and policy, we speak for the significance and relevance of the past in shaping the present and future. At this conference, we will share our community’s stories, while imagining future narratives for special collections in a rapidly evolving cultural and technological landscape.

We invite you to join the conversation June 20-23, 2017 in Iowa City, IA, a UNESCO City of Literature with a vibrant literary and book arts community. This easy-going and open-minded Midwestern town provides an ideal environment for an intimate and productive inquiry into the role and nature of storytelling in Special Collections.

Plenary I: Narrative

Sponsored by Sotheby's.

Narrative allows us to structure our experience of the world, developing connections between often disparate pieces of information to create coherent and meaningful stories. Narrative also shapes our relationships with the past, with each other, and with our environment. In this opening plenary, we explore the value and power of narrative in a variety of contexts and consider ways in which stories have the potential to both construct and preserve cultural behavior and identity.

Plenary II: Representation

Sponsored by Bonham's.

Archives and special collections preserve cultural artifacts that illuminate the lives and societies of those who created them. However, our ability to understand and interpret these materials is inherently limited by our own knowledge and experience, as well as the fragmented and biased documentary record, often de-contextualized by the removal of cultural heritage from its place of origin. In this plenary, we examine evidence and absence in the historical record, and interrogate the limits of representation. We will also explore strategies to better represent historical and cultural perspectives that have been lost, silenced, or misrepresented.

Plenary III: Memory

Sponsored by Houghton Library.

The act of remembering at both the individual and collective level can have far-reaching implications. Remembering -- and forgetting -- comes to signify the relative importance of any particular combination of information and experience. In this closing plenary, we build on programming from throughout the conference to further explore the ways that memories and narratives interact, shaping what we as individuals and communities choose to remember. We will also examine the role of cultural heritage institutions in providing and interpreting primary sources for exploring our collective past.

RBMS Statement on Diversity

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL/ALA is committed to diversity in its membership, in rare books and special collections librarianship, and among users of rare books, manuscripts and special collections. RBMS encourages participation in the section by people of any race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability; it supports its members in serving the broadest possible population; and it seeks to represent the concerns and interests of rare books and special collections librarians at a variety of institutions, including academic libraries, public libraries, research libraries, special libraries, and historical societies. Some of the specific ways by which RBMS encourages diversity include: offering a scholarship program for first-time attendees at its annual conference; pairing new members with more experienced members of the section at conferences; and conducting surveys of its members and non-members, the results of which inform the section’s membership initiatives and program planning. RBMS fully supports diversity, which is identified as a Core Value in ACRL’s Strategic Plan 2005, and which is also one of the five ALA Key Action Areas defined in the ALAction 2005 planning document.