What Does An Archivist Do?

The archivist handles historically significant and permanent records or objects within a collection. Archivists work to preserve, edit, and appraise the permanent records of a museum collection, library, corporation, or university. Archivists choose records or objects in order to understand the process and overall historical context, in which the objects or records were created, correlation to other records or objects, and the intention of their use.

Typically, an archivist coordinates lectures, workshops, and tours pertaining to archival science of the collection. The archivist can be found in a variety of settings, including museums, libraries, universities, government, and corporations. Within an archival setting, archivists typically work with specific types of historical or essential records.

The records may include photographs, film reels, sound recordings, electronic records, letters, books, maps, and manuscripts. As an archivist, you will be using your knowledge and expertise to archive the documents and records within the collection, so they will be available for future generations. Without the archivist’s preservation of history, we would not be able to see, hear, or understand the history of our past and how it has shaped our present world.

Archivists are also responsible for maintaining and creating digital, computer-based archives in addition to digital databases for objects and records. When creating digital databases or computer-based archives systems, it is important for the archivist to classify and organize each record for easy access. Furthermore, an archivist may appraise and authenticate historical objects, documents, and records. Archivists may travel to acquire new objects or records for the collection. It is the archivist’s crucial responsibility to safely protect the records or objects by administering policy guidelines in regards to the public’s access to the objects or records.

Additional facets of an archivist’s career are to inform and educate the public about the objects within the collection or cultural institution. Archivists typically work with many other individuals, if they are placed within a cultural or museum institution setting. An archivist may work with curators, assistant curators, conservationists, and museum technicians. Many archivists may create and coordinate educational or public outreach programs to learn about an archival collection. Public or private tours, workshops, and lectures are also a part of the archivist’s responsibilities. Time management, a strong work ethic, and a positive attitude are vital when coordinating with other team members.

When you are studying to become an archivist, it may be in your best interest to think of a specialization. For example, many large museums or cultural institutions have countless collections of records and documents that specialize in a specific time period of history. Many of these institutions have separate archivists for each area of specialization. Separation of archivists may be performed in order to precisely understand which records or objects from a specific time period should be a part of the collection’s archives.

Archivists often take the time to research records and objects within their collection, while understanding how to properly and safely preserve archive records for future generations. Archivists treat both records and objects as a memory or a link to our past; archives show individuals the various facets of history, culture, and their historical significance to communities. Additionally, the preservation of archives by archivists allows for individuals and organizations to understand various perspectives and how the records will shape the future.

Career Spotlight: Archivist

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