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Saving Our Stuff

13 Feb 2021 8:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Many of us are excellent archivists of our own intercultural materials. Whether we are trainers, consultants, college professors, or administrators, we want to pull a relevant Bennett passage, Trompenaars’ thesis, or Thiagi exercise at a moment’s notice. Some of us consult heavy tomes from our bookcase while others bring up their extensive list of bookmarked tweets, PDF files, or websites.

As interculturalists move through their career, these collections gain historical value as the past fifty years show the significant growth and changes, and evolving methods of our discipline. Many decades of accumulated papers, articles, notes, letters, photos, audio recordings, and video tapes certainly become our own personal treasure troves. But at SIETAR USA we asked the question: what happens to these treasures when skilled interculturalists retire?

Neal Goodman, president and founder of Global Dynamics Inc., and a cherished member of the organization, is one such accomplished individual with a treasure trove of materials under his roof in Florida. Having taught and trained thousands across educational institutions and global organizations, he has turned one room into a library of sorts filled with cabinets full of books and original materials. “I’d love to have that somewhere that it can be used and referenced,” Neal says. “And - if nothing else – digitized, so that you do not need all that space.”

What do we stand to lose if we do not appropriately curate collections like his? Neal: “This is a field that allows humanity to build bridges of understanding, so not just a peaceful world to live in but one in which we can all benefit from the very best of humanity. Our intercultural work and materials are the tools for that.”

“The old saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I can’t tell you how many times we have encountered a client or company making the same intercultural mistakes that were being made 25 or 30 years ago. And so, you need to have that history of what works, what doesn’t work and why it worked or did not work.”

To preserve our collective memory, work, and advancements, it is clear to see the need for a repository with appropriate curation. Even our outgoing president Sandy Fowler is in possession of a valuable collection donated to her by retired colleagues. As such, the pursuit of a solution to this challenge has begun with the objective of finding organizations, institutions, or other places where the longevity of intercultural collections can be assured.

This article serves as a starting point for a larger discussion on how SIETAR USA as an organization can store, cherish, and make use of donated collections that otherwise may be lost or forgotten. Do you have ideas, suggestions, or solutions? Please contact the editorial team at editor@sietarusa.org to be part of the discussion.

Dr. Neal Goodman’s own journey as an interculturalist and DEI specialist can be found here as he shares his lessons learned with the SIETAR USA community.


  • 17 Mar 2021 9:05 PM | Anonymous member
    This can be a painful question / decision. As someone who loves a physical book or paper, I also realize that others, mostly younger generations, find books / papers to be a burden. And space can be an issue whether for an individual or an organization. Twice I have divested of collections: my linguistics and communication materials to a teachers' college in Wuhan when I left there in 1983 and my EFL / culture in language training library to the Ministry of Education when departing Costa Rica in 1992. Later I "inherited" intercultural books, some the earliest materials, and sent those off to the ICI library. In all cases I have learned that once out of my hands, I have to let go. For the materials that I have now and continue to add to, to learn from and to enjoy, I have no idea when I will release them and how.
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