Become An Archivist to Preserve Past Materials For Future Generations
Published on: August 02, 2023
There’s a lot that can be learned from records and archives of the past, but doing so without the help of archivists can be challenging. These information professionals are not only skilled in preserving and maintaining records but also in determining which ones have long-term value. Archivists typically experience a high degree of professional and personal satisfaction within their careers, but it is not a field that is suitable for everyone. If you feel like the archival profession could be a good match for your skills and talents, then read on to discover what you’ll need to succeed and why this field is so important.
What Do Archivists Do?
Most people know that archivist careers involve cataloging documents and organizing electronic repositories. However, there are a range of other tasks and responsibilities that are involved. Some archivists also provide students, historians, and other members of the public with reference services. In addition, they may be required to evaluate the authenticity and significance of documents or artifacts as well as recommend methods for long-term safekeeping. Some archivists are responsible for creating and administering electronic databases and records or organizing and classifying materials.
What Are Good Skills To Have As An Archivist?
Due to the nature of this career path, most archivists possess very detail-oriented thinking. Archivists also love to stay up to date with new technologies and trends as they work in a career field that is constantly evolving. Strong research skills are a must, and many archivists are also proficient in foreign languages as it allows them to work with international collections. Collaboration is often important in this career field, and archivists must have good communication skills as well as customer service skills. The ability to work independently is just as important, along with good liaison and negotiation skills.
What Are The Typical Work Environments For Archivists?
Most archivists work in an office setting where they spend their days conducting research to appraise the value of collected materials before storing them. Typical employees may include government agencies, museums, corporations, and universities, as well as research facilities, historical sites, hospitals, and religious institutions. While it is not a very physical job, there might still be a need to carry stacks of documents or climb ladders to reach materials stored on top shelves.
What Types of Materials Are Preserved By Archivists?
Archivists tend to preserve a large variety of records, but the most common materials include photographs, letters, diaries, logs, documents, artwork, manuscripts, maps, as well as audio recordings and films.
What Are the Differences Between Archivists and Conservators?
While both archivists and conservators can deal with historically significant materials, there is a difference between these two careers. Archivists mainly focus on preserving the contents of important materials, while conservators deal with preserving the physical integrity of the materials. This means that conservators tend to work more with physical objects such as specimens, art, and artifacts and seek to reduce the deterioration of these items.
Is There A Way To Gain Experience In The Field?
The National Archives and Records Administration offers numerous volunteer opportunities for those who want to gain experience in the field. Volunteering involves assisting the staff in meeting its obligation to preserve and protect the records as well as supporting initiatives to provide greater access to the records. The NARA provides comprehensive training to all volunteers but expects a minimum of 100 hours of volunteer work a year for at least two years in return. Volunteers can work at their historic building in Washington DC, in presidential libraries, as well as online (https://www.archives.gov/careers/volunteering).
What Degrees Are Useful For Becoming An Archivist?
Degrees in archival science are available, but those employed in the field typically also have degrees in areas such as history and library science.
Master of Arts in History & Archival Studies
The Master of Arts in History & Archival Studies is a two-year degree program that provides students with a theoretical and practical framework for creating and understanding archival collections. The completion of a research paper and thesis is typically required for the completion of this degree. This degree features history courses as well as archival studies courses, and students can choose history elective courses too.
Master of Library and Information Science
The Master of Library and Information Science degree is an archives-focused program that can be completed entirely online. Completion of this degree can prepare students to provide long-term stewardship for archival materials in analog as well as digital formats. Courses may include Principles of Cataloging and Classification, Archival Practice, Appraisal and Archival Sytems, Data & Records Management, and Emerging Technologies in Libraries. Students may also be able to choose electives in consultation with an advisor.
What Types of Certification Are Available For Archivists?
Certification is generally not a requirement to find employment as an archivist, but some people choose to earn voluntary certification to demonstrate their expertise. A Certified Archivist credential is available from The Academy of Certified Archivists and requires candidates to have a master’s degree, professional archival experience, and pass an exam. This certification must be renewed periodically.
Online graduate certificates in archival studies are also available as a post-master’s certificate or as part of a graduate degree. Completing this certificate program can make students eligible to take the Academy of Certified Archivists Certification Exam for full or provisional certification. The Society of American Archivists also provides a Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate Program (https://www2.archivists.org/prof-education/das) as well as Arrangement & Description (A&D) Certificate Program (https://www2.archivists.org/prof-education/a-d).
Becoming a professional archivist is a rich and rewarding career path for people with a love for history and collecting things. The work done by archivists is also varied and valued across industries. Archivists enjoy learning about topics within the collections that they process, and for many, it is a thrill to explore museums and research centers from the inside out.